As Season 4 of Downton Abbey begins in the US, Laura Carmichael continues her role as Lady Edith Crawley – jealous sister, wartime nurse, jilted bride – but as the Roaring Twenties begin, will it be new beginning for her character? Will she finally find happiness with newspaper editor Michael Gregson?
Laura came to the TV Critics tour last summer to discuss Lady Edith, who hopefully finds some happiness this year.
It sometimes seems like Lady Edith is ill-treated by men. Is there any hope that she’ll find happiness?
I know. It’s a tricky thing. Julian has this take that some people in life are lucky, and some people aren’t. And Edith is definitely one of those unlucky people.
But I love the Gregson/Edith relationship because he’s so different from any of the other men in Downton. He’s a working, modern man, a self-made man, and exists in a different universe, in London.
So their relationship is interesting and different to any of the others.
It seems the more confident you get as the character, the more beautiful you become. Can you talk about the transformation coming from within?
Well, that’s very nice. I don’t really know how to comment. I guess that’s true. I know whenever they got me dressed in the first series, they always said, ‘You look lovely.’ I always trusted them.
But it definitely feels like she’s gone on a real journey, she’s definitely going to London more and seeing the new trends. So Caroline McCall has really gone to town with Edith. In the last series a bit, but really this one, it’s some really great costumes.
Is Lady Edith still working as a journalist this season of Downton Abbey, or just dating the editor?
The death of Matthew really affects the whole family. So when we start, she hasn’t seen Michael Gregson for some time, due to the fact that the family is in mourning. So when we come back to the house, she’s seeing Michael for the first time, which is a lovely scene that’s in the first episode.
She’s still turning in some articles. And we know that she’s been writing about the cause of the soldiers, but it’s kind of a modern-woman thing. I like to think of her as the Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City) of the ’20s.
What is your reaction when you get a script for the new season and find out it’s two years or six months later?
I like to think of that time in between and how it would have moved on in a way that we haven’t witnessed, which is always really important in the relationships.
How you would be naturally closer if you’d known someone [for some time]. I’m particularly thinking about the relationship with Gregson, how long I’ve known him.
I think that’s part of your job to hold on to that and work on it. And then it means that we are able to show the era change in the way that we did it, that we were able to do the prewar and the war.
Certainly for Edith, the war was so a part of her moving from bratty child, middle sister, to someone finding a voice. So it has given us the opportunity to show those changes, which is great, and really show those relationships and characters develop.
I know this season deals with grief and recovery, but what other themes are explored?
Edith goes to London a lot, and we see the streets of London. Lily James’ character, Rose, is another bright young thing character who is having a lot of fun at Downton.
So, in amongst the mourning, there are these escape scenes for a couple of the characters. And they do feel like these moments of escape from the mourning work beautifully. It will feel [like] a different era.