The phenomenally successful series Downton Abbey comes to an end this season. The period drama spanned from the sinking of the Titanic in 1812, through World War I, the Spanish influenza pandemic, the Teapot Dome scandal, the general election of 1923 and into 1925.
Now viewers will find out what happens to the Crawley family, upstairs, and the servants who love and serve them, downstairs.
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary Crawley and Laura Carmichael, her younger sister, Lady Edith Crawley, who have had their share of heartache in the five seasons of the show, Mary losing her husband Matthew (Dan Stevens) in a car accident, and Edith having an illegitimate baby by the man she loved, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), who disappears in Germany and is presumed dead.
Michelle and Laura spoke at the TV Critics tour about their final season, their characters’ journeys and what they’ll miss about the show.
The final season will premiere in Britain next month and on U.S. TV on January 3, 2016.
Of all the journeys the characters have, Edith has gone on the most transformational. Has it astonished you?
Laura: I love the journey that Edith has gone on because I think to begin with she could have been the most conventional of the daughters.
I think she wanted a life much like her parents and grandparents, but because of the knocks, because of the heartache, she’s had to find a different path for herself. And that was surprising.
I am always delighted by the direction the journey has moved with her, because I think she’s incredibly resilient, and I believe that’s the thing that she has proved, and Julian always says she wants something for herself.
In this era, because of the time that we are showing, there are these windows of change. So after the war, she has found the enjoyment of work. I think it has been a really interesting journey, and one that is so specific to this time as well.
Is Gregson coming back?
Laura: (she smiles) I can’t tell you.
One of the pivotal moments in the series was when Matthew died. Can you talk about playing the trauma of Mary losing her husband?
Michelle: You strive to be as truthful as possible.
And for me, the whole grieving period in Series 4, it was in the writing, actually, and the relationships, particularly with Mary and Carson, and how eventually he brings her out of the grief in the end.
Can you talk about the complexity of playing sisters in the series?
Michelle: First of all, we love playing those scenes.
When I look back, from the start it’s been one of the constant storylines that’s always been fraught from the beginning.
If at any point Julian writes them being nice to each other, even if it’s a tiny bit, we go, ‘ah.’
Michelle: We like reading those great scenes between the two of them. And it’s an interesting journey as well in this series between two sisters.
Will you miss the clothes?
Michelle: Yes, that’s something I’ll miss.
Laura: Yeah. The clothes have been wonderful and having things made and designed with you in mind and for the storylines, for these occasions, it’s been really special.
Now that it’s coming to a close, what will you miss the most?
Michelle: Each other and our crew. It’s been their life, as much as it has been ours for the last six years. I’ll miss the people.
Have you been able to turn the popularity of this show into a cause that you want to spotlight?
Laura: I’ve become A World at School ambassador which we’re encouraging people to sign a petition to draw a leader’s attention to the fact that there’s 58 million children out of school
Michelle: I’m an ambassador for Oxfam and also a charity called Changing Faces which supports people with disfigurements.
I’ve been part of that charity for a long time.