Interview with Laura Carmichael for Downton Abbey

Laura Carmichael plays Lady Edith Crawley, the daughter of Robert and Cora, who is always feuding with her sister Mary. In the second series, Edith throws itself into the war effort by helping out on a local farm and at Downton Abbey when it is turned into a convalescent home.

Laura starts by sharing an anecdote from the scene she has just completed - driving a vintage car through the village of Bampton. So how was it? “I think my heart rate is starting to go back to normal,” she laughs. “Allen Leech kept saying, ‘That’s only half a million pounds worth of car there, Laura, just one of a few left in the world.’ No pressure, then!” She proceeds to observe that this series shows the sense of liberation that many women feel during the First World War. “People are suddenly aware of jobs becoming available and men’s roles becoming vacant. For example, Edith thinks she can help out with the car.

“Beforehand they just accepted the boredom in their lives; but now no-one is stopping them from doing anything. They can seize those opportunities. Edith feels liberated now. I think it happens to a lot of them, to Sybil and the girls downstairs as well to a certain extent.” Laura explains how the war also helps everyone keep things in proportion. “I think the characters have to soften because of what they are living through. Friends and family coming back, or news that they’ve been blown to pieces on the front – it puts everything in perspective, you know.”

The actress reveals that she embarked on her own research into the jobs women did during the First World War. “My Nan was in the Land Army in the Second World War, and I didn’t realise how long the Land Army had been going. I also went to the Imperial War Museum and had a look through all the things there. “I found out I’d be doing some farming, so I was interested in that. I found this amazing website on PathĂ© Films, old vintage films of these women laughing and hoeing fields, saddling the horses. It’s unbelievable; there’s something so moving about watching films with no sound, and they’re still giggling!”

One element which viewers really enjoyed in the first series of Downton Abbey was the constant bitching between Edith and her sister Mary. Laura, who is also appearing in the forthcoming movie, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, reveals, “It’s still very much there. It is still very painful between them. “But Julian has exposed another side of the relationship, which I do think this hatred is tied to: an absolute bond of love that is so much more intense. I think you see that when things start to go very badly for the family. There’s a moment of sisterly love – it does show itself.”

One of the chief pleasures of this job for Laura has been working with the great Maggie Smith. She says, “It’s such fun working with Maggie, she’s incredible to watch. I destroyed a rehearsal the other day by laughing the whole way through it because I couldn’t look at her - she was being too brilliant. “She also has a great sense of humour and enjoys telling stories. So if there’s a moment at the dining table where we’re waiting for stuff to happen or we’re outside having a cup of tea, it’s a joy to get her talking and telling stories. It’s mad, I do pinch myself.”

Laura, for whom this was her first professional job, cannot conceal her delight at being back on the set of Downton Abbey. “It is just a great thing to be a part of, to be honest. I was so excited to be able to hang out with the same people again. “It’s just a joy to work on, we’re laughing all day long. The storylines are great and really exciting. I was turning every page, really excited to find out what was going to happen next.”

Source: Milk Publicity for ITV

Press release for season 2 of DOWNTON ABBEY

Thank you ITV for creating such an awesome series and providing us with this preview of the next season!! (September 18, 2011 in the UK, January 8, 2012 in USA)

Downton Abbey will resume 2 years from where we left off: It will take place from 1916 to 1918 and the 2-hour Christmas special will be New Year’s Eve 1919. "Julian Fellowes is already storylining scripts for a third series, which will take Downton Abbey into the devil-may-care, swinging 1920s."

Here are some images of the Crawley family and the other beloved characters from Downton Abbey as they live through the reality of English life during World War I.

More links for season 2 (including cast interviews, other news in press)

New cast members
Amy Nuttall (housemaid Edith)
Zoe Boyle (Lavinia Swire, Matthew's love interest)
Iain Glen (Sir Richard Carlisle, ruthless newspaper owner, suitor for Mary)

Cal Macaninch (Andrew Lang, valet)
Maria Doyle Kennedy (Vera Bates, wife of John)

And here are some familiar faces!

Downton Abbey: Interviews with Allen Leech and Jessica Brown Findlay

Allen Leech plays Branson, chauffeur at Downton Abbey, who falls for Lady Sybil. It would be the sort of cross-class relationship that at the time was strictly taboo. To make matters worse, Branson is politically motivated, and his views frequently bring him into conflict with his employers.

Allen explains where his character is at the start of the second series. “At the end of the first series, we saw that Branson was clearly infatuated with Sybil. The war is now starting, but he is in an upbeat mood, as it seems as if things might be progressing with her. Last year, there was a slight gesture where they held hands, and that was huge for Branson. At that time, physical contact was not allowed between the people upstairs and the staff. In fact, Mrs Hughes warned him, ‘You’ll be left with no job and a broken heart.’ But Branson is so headstrong, that’s not much of an issue for him.”

The Irish actor, who has also appeared in Rome and The Tudors, goes on to outline what attracts Branson to Sybil. “There is a fire and a spirit in Sybil which appeals to him. She also has a real interest in politics, and he stokes that. He sees it in her and gives her pamphlets and tries to educate her about the suffragette movement. He is quite well educated. He is always reading the papers and lecturing the staff about what’s happening in the world. Then eventually, he falls in love with her.”

The onset of the First World War, ironically enough, offers Branson a glimmer of hope that this romance might, against all odds, actually work. According to Allen, “Once the war starts, the class system changes. Everyone is in it together. They are all aiming for the same thing and trying to win the war. Everyone has to muck in. Sybil becomes a nurse. At the time very few women of her class were doing that but it was accepted because everyone wanted to do their bit.”

In the middle of the Great War Downton Abbey is requisitioned by the military authorities as a convalescent home. “Branson sees that as a signal that by the end of the war things will be different,” comments Allen. “The way people view the aristocracy and the working classes begins to change. That gives Branson hope,’ he says, ‘Things won’t be the same after the war.’’

Allen proceeds to speculate about where the burgeoning relationship between Branson and Sybil might go. “He is as crazy about her as ever. In the first episode, he decides he has his one chance before she goes to train to be a nurse, and so he takes the opportunity to tell her exactly how he feels. She says, ‘Maybe it could happen in the future, but not now.’ “He gets slightly knocked back by that, but being Branson he doesn’t give up. Throughout the series we see him constantly questioning her but Sybil is full of hesitation.”

Jessica Brown Findlay describes Lady Sybil's role in Season 2 “We meet Sybil at a point where she has clearly been affected by the war. She’s known plenty of people who have gone away to fight, and she is now at breaking point. She’s frustrated because she feels useless and thinks it’s not right just to stand by. She’s angry about what’s happening to her generation and heartbroken that she has nothing to offer.

“It has always been preached to her that being an aristocrat gives her the ability to do anything she wants, but now she is sitting in this great house unable to do anything and can’t make a difference. She has reached a wall and been worn down by the war. So she goes about changing that.” Jessica explains how Sybil becomes involved by training to be a nurse. “Suddenly she is able to pour all her energy into that. She makes it happen and is determined to do it. In the course of her job as a nurse, she sees things that any normal 21-year-old would be shocked about now, but she is even more horrified because she’s led such a sheltered life.

“Even though 90% of the population at that time lived in appalling conditions, Sybil had previously never been exposed to any hardship. Suddenly she sees men coming back from the war with horrendous injuries, and she realises that is why she has to do that job. It’s a great challenge, but she has to become involved.” The experience of nursing and the horrors that she witnesses deeply affect Sybil. “It really changes her,” says Jessica. “She starts to feel what it is like to be tired at the end of the day for a good reason. She has the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile. She knows she can work and attend to these men, and that sense of liberation is so important for Sybil. It also puts the fear of God into her – she thinks, ‘If the war ends, what am I going to do?’”

The second series also expands on the nascent relationship between Sybil and the family chauffeur, Branson. According to the actress, “He has been thinking about it a lot more than she has. When he suggests advancing their relationship, she replies, ‘Are you serious? You’re doing this now? I’m training as a nurse!’
“Sybil is mostly led by her heart but she does have a sensible head on her. She knows they are living in a time where a relationship between a lady and her chauffeur cannot happen. If it did, she would never see her family again. She is very aware that despite her feelings, it is a very scary thing to consider an affair.”
So all in all Jessica observes, “She has gone from having nothing to think about to suddenly being burdened with the responsibility for her own heart, someone else’s heart and the lives of all these wounded soldiers. The combination is baffling for her. The series feels very contemporary. A young girl struggling with war, career, love, and family – the parallels with today are incredibly close.”

The actress says that before the first series of Downton Abbey went out, none of the cast had any idea the show would be such a hit. “It took me completely by surprise. It felt great when we were making it. But these days nobody expects a period drama to have such huge impact. You do a job because you love the material, and when you’re making it, you almost forget that anyone will watch it. Then suddenly 13 million people tune in and you think, that’s insane!” “People adore watching these lives that are so intertwined. There are moments where the audience are let in on a story that the characters don’t know about. That’s fun. It’s a great pleasure to watch this tight world slowly unravel in some places and knot up in others.
“It is terrific for an audience to have the time to watch the stories unfold and be able to indulge in this sumptuous world. When we watched the first series, we thought, ‘Oh my goodness, it looks so pretty!’ I loved watching it, even though I was in it!”

Thanks to ITV (Milk Publicity) for press pack!
More on Season 2 of Downton Abbey

Interview with Iain Glen for DOWNTON ABBEY

Find out more about the man who courts Lady Mary Crawley...
Iain Glen plays Sir Richard Carlisle, a wealthy newspaper tycoon.

A wonderfully versatile actor who has previously starred in such diverse dramas as Wives and Daughters, Spooks, Doctor Who and The Diary of Anne Frank, Iain starts by describing his character: “He is an inordinately wealthy newspaper proprietor with the power to make or break reputations. He finds himself in the enviable position of being the latest suitor to Mary. Mary’s family are initially wary of his new money. But he is determined to belong there and do what he needs to become part of that family. She represents a world that he feels he should be part of.”

So does he really love Mary, one of the most popular characters from the first series? “Yes,” replies Iain. “He nurses a genuine love for Mary. In her, he sees an independent woman with great spark and intelligence, rucking up against the expectations of women from her class. He is willing to give Mary her head.”

“The third person” in the relationship between Richard and Mary is, of course, her ex, Matthew. He represents a potential spanner in the works for Richard. Iain says that, “It’s complicated, because Mary harbours an unfulfilled passion for Matthew which will never go away. Richard gets to know about that and feels threatened and wants to exorcise it from her. That is one of the threads of this series, and it comes between them.”

Iain continues that in many ways Richard and Mary are very well suited. “At this point, we don’t know whether they will get together, but any future marriage would have genuine passion. Richard cannot be dismissed. They’re both independent, forceful, tough people. Their relationship is hot, not sexless. They are suited to each other, but also fiery. There would be many an argument along the way. It could go either way!”

The actor has relished working with Michelle Dockery who plays Mary. “She’s a wonderful person. She’s great fun. We have a real laugh together – were both great gigglers. It sounds like a paradox, but when the writing is very good, you become really dependent on the other actors to realise a scene. “Michelle and I talked a lot about our screen relationship – I really value her opinion. She’s a marvellous actress. You might think that she is tailor-made for the role of Mary, but she isn’t. She’s just made it seem that way.” The actor believes that viewers have been so drawn to Downton Abbey because of its marvellous subtlety. “The first series struck such a chord because we live in a world where so much of public life is revealed. Everything in modern life is so stated, not hidden.

“We now live in a much more morally compromised world with far fewer absolutes. Period drama such as Downton Abbey investigates a subtler world where people’s moral dilemmas seem so much more nuanced than now. In that world people wrestled with quieter issues. We look back on it and think that it was a better, often kinder place to be.” He adds, “In those days, characters struggled with whether they could express their love for someone. Nowadays we live in a world where you don’t think twice before jumping into bed with someone. We’re bombarded with images and everything is on display. So we like to go back to a world where things were not shown. Period drama is about what is not said and what is under the surface. Viewers have to work harder but they like that responsibility. Period drama like Downton Abbey really satisfies audiences.”

Thanks to ITV (and Milk Publicity) for press pack!
More on Season 2 of Downton Abbey

Interview with Zoe Boyle for DOWNTON ABBEY

We find out more information about the lady who becomes engaged to Matthew, after his split with Mary... Zoe Boyle plays Lavinia Swire.

Zoe explains that the relationship between Lavinia and Matthew is very difficult because he is away fighting in the war. “It’s really hard – war intensifies everything. They see each other in short sharp bursts whenever he is on leave. She is constantly thinking, ‘I’m about to lose you.’

“There is no permanence to the relationship – they’re trying to grab onto anything permanent. That’s why they get engaged so quickly. She is tormented by the war just as much as he is. Family and friends are affected as much as the soldiers are. That anxiety permeates everything.”

The actress, who has also starred in Lewis, Poirot and Grey’s Anatomy, underlines the intensity of the relationship between Lavinia and Matthew. “They write each other letters all the time. Matthew is a very good letter writer – he is extremely eloquent. You can bare your soul in a letter. That brings them closer together and makes their relationship more special.”
Underlying everything in their relationship is Matthew’s history with Mary. Lavinia is intelligent enough to realise that she cannot simply ignore that. Zoe explains that, “Lavinia’s relationship with Mary is very complicated. She is aware of how close Matthew and Mary still are. “That might pose a threat, but the war overshadows everything else. As the war comes to an end, that threat re-emerges. But it is not your typical rivalry because Lavinia and Mary quickly grow to like each other. That is typical of Julian’s writing – it’s so nuanced.”

Zoe believes that the First World War is a great setting for this series because it still has such a powerful hold on the popular consciousness. “It is so potent in our imagination. It affected such a huge section of the youth in this country. As a woman in my 20s, I cannot imagine my male friends going off to the front. It is too hard to grasp. It is unthinkable, and yet it happened to so many people and is still happening now. “If I think about that and put myself in those shoes, it’s a horrible concept. It sounds corny, but when I was playing Lavinia, I thought about my relationships with family and friends and how I would feel if they were taken away. The boyfriend of a friend of mine is in the Army. She’s very nervous when he goes to Afghanistan. That shows this problem is still ongoing and bears a huge relation to what is happening today.”

Zoe reveals that her family and friends are delighted that she is joining the cast for this series of Downton Abbey. “My granny is thrilled. She loves Downton Abbey. She told me, ‘It’s about time you were in a period drama!’”

Thanks to ITV (and Milk Publicity) for press pack!
More on Season 2 of Downton Abbey

Red Tails (2012)

Upcoming World War II film about the Tuskegee Airmen, the legendary group of African-American combat pilots as produced by George Lucas and directed by Anthony Hemingway.

Starring: Terrence Howard, NeYo, Andre Royo, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Bryan Cranston, Method Man, Tristan Wilds, Kevin Phillips, Rick Otto, Lee Tergesen, Elijah Kelley, Marcus T. Paulk, Leslie Odom Jr., Michael B. Jordan, Jazmine Sullivan, Edwina Finley, Daniela Ruah and Stacie Davis

Release date: January 20, 2012.

"1944. World War II rages and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance. Meanwhile the black pilots of the experimental Tuskegee training program are courageously waging two wars at once -- one against enemies overseas, and the other against discrimination within the military and back home. Racial prejudices have long held ace airman Martin "Easy" Julian (Nate Parker) and his black pilots back at base -- leaving them with little to do but further hone their flying skills -- while their white counterparts are shipped out to combat after a mere three months of training. Mistakenly deemed inferior and assigned only second-rate planes and missions, the pilots of Tuskegee have mastered the skies with ease but have not been granted the opportunity to truly spread their wings. Until now.

As the war in Europe continues to take its dire toll on Allied forces, Pentagon brass has no recourse but to reconsider these under-utilized pilots for combat duty. Just as the young Tuskegee men are on the brink of being shut down and shipped back home, Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) awards them the ultimate chance to prove their mettle high above. Undaunted by the prospect of providing safe escort to bombers in broad daylight -- a mission so dangerous that the RAF has refused it and the white fighter groups have sustained substantial losses -- Easy's pilots at last join the fiery aerial fray. Against all the odds, with something to prove and everything to lose, these intrepid young airmen take to the skies in a heroic endeavor to combat the enemy -- and the discrimination that has kept them down for so long

Watch Trailer

Sources: Playlist

Video: Quick peek at season 2 of Downton

Many of us were left hanging at the end of episode 7, with Lord Grantham's announcement of England being at war with Germany. Here is a glimpse of mere seconds of season 2 with our beloved characters being in the midst of the war. (Season 2 will begin in 1916, 2 years later than where we left off.)

The Awakening (2011)

Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Lucy Cohu, Shaun Dooley
, and 2 actors from upcoming season of Downton Abbey - Daniel Pirrie and Cal Macaninch

The Awakening is set in 1921, in a post-war world of loss where the bereaved seek solace in spiritualism. Haunted by the death of her fiance, Florence spends her time debunking supernatural claims, using methodical and rational explanations to disprove the notion that the dead can still haunt us. So she feels compelled to accept a request to go to Rookwood, a boarding school in the countryside where a boy has recently been found dead and rumours about a ghostly boy haunting the school are causing panic amongst pupils and parents alike. Florence sets to work immediately, laying traps and gathering scientific evidence. Gradually little secrets begin to unravel and the mystery surrounding the ghost seems to be nothing more than a schoolboy prank. As Florence is about to leave, though, she has a chilling spectral encounter which defies all of her rational beliefs and sets her on a journey toward a heartbreaking climax.

BBCFilms: official site

Thanks to Brian for mentioning film!

Albert Nobbs (2011)

Glenn Close co-wrote and stars in this adaptation of the play about a nineteenth-century Irishwoman who disguises herself as a man and works as a butler for twenty years.

Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Brenda Fricker, Pauline Collins, Janet McTeer, and Brendan Gleeson

19th century Ireland: a woman with no husband or family and without work would face a bleak life of poverty and loneliness. Albert, a shy butler who keeps himself to himself, has been hiding a deep secret for years – ‘he’ is a woman who has had to dress and behave as a man all her life in order to escape this fate. When handsome painter Hubert Page arrives at the hotel, Albert is inspired to try and escape the false life she has created for herself. She gathers her nerves to court beautiful, saucy young maid Helen in whom she thinks she’s found a soul-mate – but Helen’s eye is on a new arrival: handsome, bad-boy Joe, the new handy-man…

As Albert dares to hope that she might one day live a normal life, we catch a glimpse of a free-spirited woman who is caught in the wrong time… This humorous but ultimately poignant ensemble story about life ‘below-stairs’ is nothing less than Gosford Park meets Boys Don’t Cry.

Based on The Singular Life Of Albert Nobbs written by Simone Benmussa.
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives)
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Film will premiere September in Toronto at tiff

Bollywood 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'

Trishna stars Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) and Riz Ahmed (Centurion) and is based on Thomas Hardy's novel "Tess of the d'Urbervilles." The film is set in contemporary India and tells the tragic love story between the son of a wealthy property developer and the daughter of a rickshaw driver.

Directed by Michael Winterbottom who has previously taken on other adaptations of Thomas Hardy - Jude and The Claim (based on Mayor of Casterbridge).

The film will debut at tiff in Toronto this fall.

Hindenburg (2011)

Loosely based on history, Hindenburg previously aired on German television in 2 parts and soon to be released on DVD.

"Discover the shocking secret behind one of the greatest disasters of the 20th century in this powerful, exhilarating, world war two thriller. When a chance encounter throws a young engineer into the depths of a deadly plot he begins a race against time to uncover a secret that could throw the world into shock. But when money, politics and the girl he loves all enter the picture too, the game starts to get even more complicated...

What ensues will test his strength, resolve and bravery to the limits in a white-knuckle roller-coaster of epic proportions. "

Featuring: Maximilian Simonischek, Lauren Lee Smith, Stacy Keach and Greta Scacchi

Snow White and the Huntsman - character images

Our first look at the other Snow White film about to begin production soon. Snow White and the Huntsman has Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin in the leading roles...

Colleen Atwood is the costume designer.

Kristen Stewart, speaking of playing Snow White, said: "I'm most excited about the obvious thing... this girl has this amazing ability to channel fear into this really focused, charged, driving energy. She's also the people's lead and doesn't let her heart cloud her mind."

Snapshot of the dwarves taken at Comic-con: (shown not in order) Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsdan, and Brendan Gleeson. There are 8 dwarves, due to copyright issues apparently but eventually there will be 7

Description from film's presentation at Comic-con:
"A voice-over emphasizes that the theme of the movie is about being confronted with death. Slightly disturbing fantasy images include a white fairy being born out of the body of a crow, giant wooden demons emerging from trees, knights hitting each other with swords and shattering into black stone, the crowned queen bathing in milk, castles on the edges of cliffs, and Snow White petting a giant wolf. This isn't actual movie footage, and features unknown actors, but gives a sense of the look of the film."


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