It’s hard to grasp that UK audiences are within days of the return of Downton Abbey for its sixth and final series. Yes, PBS audiences in America are still several months removed from Downton opening its’ doors in January 2016 but, hey, we can live vicariously, can’t we? That said, we all know that based on the previous series, the times they are a-changing. The aristocracy is in decline and the future of the Crawleys’ stately home is once again in question. “The writing’s on the wall for Downton – if it doesn’t adapt it will die, says Hugh Bonneville, who has played the Earl of Grantham from day one.
It does appear that the British period drama we have come to know and love wouldn’t have lasted for much longer so, as much as we hate to admit it, Julian Fellowes’ decision to call it a day makes perfect sense. Both Lady Rose and Branson have left for America, Carson and Mrs. Hughes have yet to tie the knot and who knows what lies ahead for the ever-suffering Bates couple. As Joanna Froggatt, who plays Anna Bates, said recently, “Anna and Bates carefree? Are we talking about the same show?”.
What’s in store for Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary? Well, according to Lady Mary herself, “Mary is just trying to find happiness within herself – it’s not just about finding the right man. She goes through quite an interesting time in her life in this series. She just wants to be content, I think, and happy. She’s always just chasing the happy.”
For series 6, art will definitely imitate life as one of the central themes. The Downton Abbey plot twists mirror reality for Highclere Castle, which is the grand country house that has played host to the show for the past six years. “The family will decide to open the house to the public,” says executive producer, Gareth Neame, quickly adding: “This isn’t the National Trust! Or a 365 day a year revenue initiative; no, this is a one-off and very informal and impromptu.”
While fictional Downton Abbey won’t be permanently installing a ticket office, Highclere Castle, which the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon call home, is currently open to the public. In fact, fans of the show can wander around the familiar grounds, pause in the dining room, and even walk down Downton’s grand staircase, from just £5 a ticket.
While cast and crew are remaining vigilantly silent under the threat of being put on double-secret probation by series creator/writer, Julian Fellowes, we can share one important fact that will satisfy longtime fans. Elizabeth McGovern, who has played Lady Cora since the show’s first episode back in 2010, assures fans that even though Fellowes has been presented with a monumental challenge, he manages to find a way to end it to the satisfaction of people that have been loyal to the show from the beginning. “He’s managed to give every character a chance to say goodbye to their fans,” she recently told RadioTimes. “People will be able to have a moment with their favorite character and see a little bit about where they’re headed.”
Fellowes chimed in also hoping to reassure fans. “We’ve got household items like hairdryers being introduced, but this time we’re more involved with our running characters,” writer Julian Fellowes reveals. “We do have the odd guest character popping in, but the important stories are all about our main characters.”
Get out the Kleenex…
Downton Abbey returns to ITV on Sunday 20th September and January 3, 2016 on PBS.