One of the greatest things about British television AND one of the most maddening for viewers is the fact that the number of episodes in a series is limited. Unlike their American television counterparts, most British drama and/or comedy series are anywhere between 6-10 episodes max. In some cases like Sherlock or DCI Banks there are only three episodes each season. Three brilliant films but still only three. On the upside, this allows viewers to see their favorite actors in other roles, many times crossing over from drama to comedy or vice versa. I”m guessing there are very few folks that haven’t enjoyed seeing Miranda Hart jump from her hit comedy series, Miranda, to the role of Chummy Browne on Call the Midwife. Or, being able to see Sherlock‘s Martin Freeman in the recently completed greatness that is Fargo on FX.
Early on, it seemed like you had to leave Downton Abbey to break out and get other roles as was the case with Jessica Brown-Findlay (Lady Sybil) in Jamaica Inn and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley) in The Fifth Estate and Night at the Museum both of whom found that there was life after Downton Abbey. In recent months, however, current actors who remain employed both upstairs and downstairs at Downton are finding their down time between series filming to be fairly lucrative also. Hugh Bonneville has probably never seen a day off what with the filming in recent years of Twenty Twelve, Mr. Stink and W1A. Then it was Lily James (Lady Rose) who used her ‘free’ time to star in Kenneth Branagh’s live-action Cinderella. More recently, Kevin Doyle (Mr. Molesley) actually got to ‘give orders’ rather than be on the receiving end of Mr. Carson’s firm hand as Colonel Roland Brett in the BBC World War I drama, Crimson Field.
Now, following in their footsteps is Brendan Coyle, who plays Mr. Bates in Downton Abbey. The English-born Irish actor has joined the cast of Spotless, a 10-part drama from French channel Canal Plus that starts filming in London next month. With filming of the fifth series of Downton Abbey winding down at some point later in the summer, Coyle will join Silk actress Miranda Raison, Marc-Andre Grondin and Denis Menochet in what is being billed as an “irreverent, dark, funny, sexy and dangerous” drama, which will follows brothers Jean and Martin as they become entangled in the “deadly dynamics of organized crime.”
Coyle should be ready to step in to his new found role given his prison stint early on in the series. Remember, it was Mr. Bates, the valet turned prison inmate turned valet, who said with a smile, “It’s amazing what you can learn in prison“.