It’s been a long road for young Matthew Crawley who started out as a middle-class Manchester solicitor and heir apparent of Downton Abbey. For the upcoming second series of the critically acclaimed, audience mega-hit, he now finds himself deep in the trenches of the First World War.
“It was miserably cold and wet and muddy,” recalls actor Dan Stevens, who portrays Crawley. “The whole experience of filming in the trenches was extraordinary and overwhelming and very, very difficult. Until we got there I found it impossible even to conceive what life could have been like, then we got on set and the atmosphere… the horrific conditions…”.
According to the production, the trench sequences were filmed over the course of five days in a field just outside Ipswich that, for some time, has existed as a reconstruction of a British trench during the First World War. It was built following directions that were found in a British Trench Building Manual of 1916.
At the other end of the ‘battlefield’, just beyond a re-created no-man’s-land, is another perfectly replicated trench, but one that is German. Taff Gillingham, who hires out his battlefield to film units and advises them on military accuracy, said the two were quite different, with the German trenches built for comfort and permanence.
Series producer, Liz Trubridge, added: “These battlefield scenes were shot on a special set with ready-made trenches in Suffolk. The cameramen even built a contraption called a wobulator to get the effect of the ground shaking from explosions.”
While Stevens was not able to reveal any of the series 2 storylines (which just concluded filming a couple of weeks ago), he did say that he has been signed for the Downton Abbey Christmas Special which leads you to believe he survives the war at least to Christmas, anyway.
Quick reminder that Downton Abbey 2 will transmit beginning this coming September in the UK and will premiere January 8 on PBS in the United States.