According to the BBC, Dame Eileen Atkins will not return when filming commences on Upstairs Downstairs 2 in Cardiff in October. Atkins, who created the series with fellow actress, Jean Marsh, did not appear in the original 1970’s ITV series, but was cast in last years revival of the series as the free-thinking mother-in-law Maud, Lady Holland, according to some, as a condition of its’ return. Unhappy with the direction the scripts were taking, Atkins has decided to bow out after the BBC was unable to accommodate suggestions of script changes.
Having lived in the constant shadow of its’ ITV rival, the critically acclaimed and audience mega-hit, Downton Abbey, since both premiered last year, I can’t help but think that this will be a bit of a blow to the BBC series given the integral part Atkins’ character played.Then there’s the added hurdle to overcome of replacing Dame Eileen who won rave reviews for her role and was then nominated for an Emmy award after a very successful broadcast on PBS in America.
Viewers of the first series will, no doubt, wonder how producers will begin to write around a character that was part of the central theme of the drama with her ongoing power struggle with diplomat son Sir Hallam Holland (Ed Stoppard) and his ambitious wife Lady Agnes (Keeley Hawes).
For the foreseeable future, there will be the inevitable comparisons between Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey and the same with Lady Holland and the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by Dame Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey. While Jean Marsh, Keeley Hawes, Ed Stoppard and Claire Foy are set to return for series 2, it looks like, at this point, we won’t have to worry any longer about the second comparison.