Downton Abbey - profile of Brendan Coyle in 2nd season

BRENDAN COYLE [Bates, Lord Grantham’s valet]
"He has that mixture of cuddly and dangerous."
~ described by Julian Fellowes

From the start Fellowes knew Coyle was the actor to play Bates. “I wrote John Bates for Brendan,” says writer Julian Fellowes. “I knew he had the capacity to suggest a character's bitter and painful past without doing much to indicate it. Above all, he never asks for sympathy as an actor, and consequently he gets it. Emma [Kitchener, his wife] had the idea of Bates being lame and I saw at once that this would enhance the character because it would make him more vulnerable and yet give him even more reason to reject sympathy.” [article 2010]

Bates, Fellowes proposes, became the show's secret weapon because of the actor playing him. ''You need interesting actors...I wrote that part for Brendan because I saw him in an adaptation of North and South. He just stood out. He has that mixture of cuddly and dangerous. I knew, I said, if we can get him to play Bates, Bates will work.'' [Sunday Times Culture, thanks to Judy!]

[Spoiler alert]
In the last series, a scandal erupted that threatened his position and his burgeoning love affair with the head housemaid Anna (played by Joanne Froggatt). At the start of this second series, life seems a lot more promising for Bates. Brendan explains, “On the face of it, things couldn’t be rosier for him. From his mother, Bates has inherited a house and a sum of money, which is quite unusual for a man of his background.

“His relationship with Anna is also in full bloom, and they are planning to get married. He’s back to be valet to Lord Grantham. The path seems very smooth. What could possibly go wrong?” But, adds Brendan, “Very quickly Bates’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of his wife Vera (brilliantly played by Maria Doyle Kennedy.) Suddenly, all obstacles are in his way. “The arrival of his wife is catastrophic. Bates is prepared to do everything and anything to throw off the chains of a very unhappy marriage. He spends all his inheritance in trying to free himself, but still she will not let him go.”

Brendan, who has starred in such hit dramas as Lark Rise to Candleford, and North & South, outlines the very tricky relationship between Bates and his wife. "Vera is not a pantomime villain, but she has this tremendous power and a stranglehold over him and who does not want to see him happy.” “Of course, the marriage breakdown is not all her fault – it takes two people to cause an unhappy marriage. It is a very interesting, very layered relationship. It makes for a really powerful storyline.”

Fans of the first series latched onto the relationship between Bates and Anna. Brendan reckons that is because, “It really took time to develop. Because of the social mores of the time, it had to build very slowly. Viewers took great pleasure in watching that. They liked waiting for the satisfaction rather than rushing it as people do nowadays.

It was Brendan who goes on to detail the impact of Vera’s return on the beleaguered Anna. “Poor Anna! She reacts with her characteristic dignity and grace. She has terrific grace. That is a very hard quality to convey, but Joanne brings that to the part beautifully. Anna has a steely determination and is absolutely determined not to let go of Bates.

Source: Milk Publicity
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  1. I love that Julian Fellowes wrote the part for him because he had seen him as Nicholas Higgins in North and South. He was brilliant in that!

    I can't believe we have to wait until January!!!!

    P.S. Thanks for the clips below. Intriguing.

  2. @Jenny Allworthy
    I was surprised and pleased to find that out too! Nice to know that Fellowes watched N&S!
    You're welcome :)

  3. So sweet, I love Bates and Anna! They're my favorite part of the show :) I can't wait to see what happens!!

  4. This is not Downton-related, but, I just saw this and thought to share - although you may have seen it already:) - cast announced for The Mystery of Edwin Drood:


  5. @Anonymous
    Thanks LRK!
    Someone did mention that on the post for Edwin Drood.



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