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For six seasons, the world came together each week to soak in the opulence and grace that
was PBS Masterpiece Theater's Downton Abbey.
The highly decorated show was a massive success with critics and audiences alike, but even
the most ardent Downton fans might not know the finer details of its making.
Here's the untold truth of Downton Abbey.
True homefront
Want to pay a visit to the real-life location featured in the show?
You're in luck.
Most of the series was filmed at Highclere Castle, an estate in Hampshire, England that's
home to a real life family headed by the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.
The stately mansion has even welcomed Queen Elizabeth from time to time for — what else?
— a game of cricket.
While most of the servant quarters scenes were filmed in a London studio, shots of the
estate's beautiful exterior and lavish interiors were the real deal.
In addition to being open to the public, Highclere Castle can be rented for weddings and parties.
Pricey production
Depicting all the glamor of the 1920s British aristocracy didn't come cheap.
From the period costumes — some of them original pieces — to the exquisite sets,
to the stellar cast of characters, the show cost a pretty penny to produce.
"How much money are we talking about?"
"A lot."
The show reportedly cost upwards of $1 million an episode.
“But that's absurd!"
Indeed.
American influence
Believe it or not, the structure for the Britain-set show was actually inspired by several American
television series, including The West Wing, NYPD Blue, and E.R.
And you probably never imagined those shows had anything in common, did you?
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes told The New York Times that he admired those series'
"tremendous energy" and that he followed in the American tradition of stuffing so many
simultaneous narratives into his period piece.
Unlike traditional British shows, the multi-narrative structure of the American TV scene had a heavy
influence on the way that Downton played out.
Tasty treats
While a lot of shows tend to use prop food items for their scenes, mealtimes were especially
important on Downton.
In fact, all those lavish dinners were so exquisite that the food became a character
in and of itself on the series.
Audiences loved to watch Mrs. Patmore, Daisy, and their merry band of cooks concoct their
scrumptious dishes for the Crawleys and their guests.
And since genuine presentation was key to the series, the production crew worked tirelessly
to make sure that the show's edibles actually were as delicious as they looked.
Unfortunately for the actors and crew, some of the dishes, particularly culinary delights
like lobster and crab, had a less-than-appealing stench by the end of a long day on set.
"God in heaven."
Eyes off
Dame Maggie Smith, who received five Emmy nominations for her role as Dowager Countess
of Grantham, has confessed that she has never watched an episode of Downton Abbey.
The octogenarian actress said she couldn't bear to see the show because she would have
been obsessed with thoughts of how she could have improved her performance.
Even watching it after the fact, she said, would be difficult because she'd probably
just harp on the things she could've done differently in her performance.
"It seems a pity to miss such a good pudding."
Dancing shoes
Before Jessica Brown Findlay stole the hearts of fans as Lady Sybil Grantham, the actress
was an accomplished ballet dancer.
Her love for dance began when she was three years old, and she went on to perform with
professional ballet circuits until an ankle injury ended her career as a dancer.
Heartbroken, Findlay continued to pursue her love of performing arts by taking acting classes
and began a career as an actress, which is how she ended up on the show.
Of course, that history of movement still has an impact on her current line of work
as well.
Findlay told The Telegraph, "I do still have a dancer's mentality, which may be to do with
the training.
It gives you a kind of determination."
Sourcing a scandal
One storyline from season one that would come to haunt Lady Mary through every season afterward
was the character's romantic interlude with Mr. Pamuk, the Turkish diplomat, which was
followed by his death in her bed.
It became almost comical as the women of the house returned his body to his own bed in
the middle of the night.
The most interesting thing about that storyline is that the plot was actually inspired by
a diary entry written by the great aunt of one of the show’s creator's friends, which
chronicled a similar story of a diplomat secretly entering the room of a single lady for a romantic
tryst , only to die in the middle of the night and have to be carried back into his room
by the women of the house.
Like they say, truth is stranger than fiction.
“A young woman of good family who finds herself in the bed of a man who is not her
husband has invariably been seduced.”
Unfortunate naming
It was a sad day when Isis, the faithful companion of Lord Grantham, passed away in season five.
Interestingly, some fans speculated that the dog was killed off because of its name, which
it unfortunately shared with the extreme terrorist group.
But that rumor was put to rest when Hugh Bonneville, who portrayed Lord Grantham, set the record
straight on that matter, saying, "Anyone who genuinely believes the series five storyline
involving the animal was a reaction to recent world news is a complete berk."
"That is all I have to say on the subject."
Major miss
X-Files alum Gillian Anderson was originally offered the role of Cora, the Countess of
Grantham, but turned it down due to the fact that she had small children and didn't want
to film on location for long periods at a time.
It wasn't the only hit show she'd say no to for the same reason — Anderson also passed
on the chance to appear in Game of Thrones.
Her loss was certainly Elizabeth McGovern's gain.
Queenly critique
Some members of the royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, were huge
fans of Downton Abbey.
Even Queen Elizabeth confessed to being a loyal viewer of the show, but there was a
catch.
Her highness reportedly prided herself on picking out some of the show's more subtle
mistakes.
Despite the fact that Downton Abbey had a historical consultant to accurately portray
the way of life for the 1920s British aristocracy, Her Majesty noticed certain historical errors,
like when a young British officer was pictured wearing World War II regalia during the First
World War era.
Talk about a royal mishap.
Something tells us the sassy Dowager Countess may have been her favorite.
"I take that as a compliment."
"I must've said it wrong."
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The Untold Truth Of Downton Abbey

373 Folder Collection
Peikan Geng published on December 7, 2017    Vera translated    Evangeline reviewed
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