Downton Abbey - Phyllis Logan

One of Phyllis' previous roles was playing Mrs. Austen
to Gillian Kearney's Jane in The Real Jane Austen

Phyllis Logan comes from a small town outside Paisley in Scotland but now lives in London with her husband, actor Kevin McNally, and young family. Upon finishing filming on Downton Abbey Phyllis wasn’t rushing home to update her personal admin or do the gardening…instead she was packing a bag and heading off to Hawaii where husband Kevin was in the middle of filming the latest Pirates of the Carribean film. “He’s done the first, second, and third so he thought he may as well do the fourth one as well,” she laughs. “I’m looking forward to seeing Kevin and getting off to Hawaii, but I can’t complain because I’ve had plenty of days off on this job…we all have, which isn’t the norm.”

When filming began at Highclere Castle every month, the artists playing the servants would get up to a week - sometimes two weeks off at a time. And the same was true for the actors playing the family when the film unit moved to Ealing Studios. “It’s been an amazing job to work on,’ she says, ‘and we’ve all loved coming to work because as soon as Ealing becomes claustrophobic we up sticks and move to Highclere and just when the travelling begins to wear you down, you are back at Ealing or have a few days off – I’m having a whale of a time.”

As housekeeper of Downton Abbey, Mrs Hughes is responsible for the smooth running of the house and its appearance. She is also in charge of all the female servants and regularly rubs Mrs Patmore the Cook, up the wrong way but she has a kind heart and a great deal of compassion that comes through in later episodes. “She can appear austere and firm but she has a bit of a heart,’ she hints, ‘she’s not a complete old bag!”

“I suppose the pecking order within the staff would be Mr Carson, at the top, then Mrs Hughes. She’s the keeper of the keys; she’s allowed to go anywhere around the house although she has no reason to go in the dining room when they are having their meals. She’s never in an apron or a cap, she’s quite smartly dressed.

“Mrs Hughes and Mr Carson have a regular evening routine and none of the servants can go to bed until they say their duties are complete. They tend to check in with one another at the end of the day – to see that they’ve done everything they should and remind each other of things for the next day,” she explains. Like Mr Carson, Mrs Hughes has been at Downton Abbey for years, and may even have come up through the ranks from a lady’s maid to housekeeper. She has a huge staff to look after, up to 25 maids and numerous kitchen staff - not to mention organise rooms for guests, who appeared to drop in quite often and stay for days on end.

“Unlike Carson who watched the Crawley girls grow from babies to young ladies, Mrs Hughes has a past which unfolds later on…not fully, but a little at a time,” she hints. “Because she only arrived at Downton ten years ago she doesn’t have the same attachment to the family that Carson does and when Carson says ‘they’re all the family I’ve got,’ Mrs Hughes is quite astounded at that admission.”

If a woman wasn’t married and in service, after a certain amount of time they would automatically become ‘Mrs’ by reference.“It was sort of the norm in those days apparently, that everybody over a certain age got called Mrs, whether they were or not. But Mrs Hughes was very nearly married, as we discover in a later episode. It kind of makes her more sympathetic,” says, Phyllis. ‘When her old love interest turns up out of the blue Mrs Hughes is faced with a dilemma that could see her move away from Downton Abbey but I’m not telling you what happens,’ she laughs. ‘You’ll have to watch it for yourself.”

For Phyllis, one of the joys on working on Downton Abbey is to see so many young artists coming through and getting a chance to work with established actors like Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton and Jim Carter. “It’s wonderful to see so many first-time and young actors getting a chance to perform in a show like this; Laura, Thomas, Rose, Sophie and Jessica. It is a rare thing in television to get a script and a broadcaster that can afford to give so many chances to so many new actors. I think it’s great because they are all’s really wonderful.”

1 comment:

  1. a page entirely dedicated to Phyllis Logan:



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