Can you keep track of all the drama at Downton?
As you no doubt already know from cordial invitations, the Emmy-winning British TV series Downton Abbey is being capped off with a feature film starring much of the show’s original principal cast, including Rob James-Collier as villainous gay butler Thomas Barrow.
The period drama followed the lives of the fictional Crawley family and their servants in an Edwardian English country home at the turn of the 20th century. The ITV series, which subsequently aired on PBS in the U.S., ran for six seasons from 2010 to 2015.
“A royal visit from the King and Queen of England will unleash scandal, romance and intrigue that will leave the future of Downton hanging in the balance,” reads an official synopsis of the film, which is set in 1927. Series creator Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay with Michael Engler directing. “Julian’s script charms, thrills, and entertains,” said co-producer Gareth Neame in a previous statement.
— Downton Abbey (@DowntonAbbey) March 27, 2019
Haven’t gotten around to watching the series? Or does your memory just suck? Enter Downton stars Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan, who play downstairs denizens Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, with a 10-minute refresher.
Carter and Logan recap all six seasons in the new video while saying things like “joy and sadness go together like tea and crumpets.” It’s adorable.
“When he comes to Downton, he’s a most despicable, lying piece of—I’m sorry,” Logan says of footman Barrow. “But in his defense, as a gay man living in 1920s England, having to keep that secret to avoid arrest would, I think, make anyone a bit uptight, don’t you?”
“Of all the characters at Downton, Barrow’s had one of the greatest transformations,” she adds. “Second chances indeed. Somewhere he found a soul.”
— Downton Abbey (@DowntonAbbey) September 14, 2019
Barrow’s sexuality might’ve been the worst kept secret at Downton. Over the course of the series, the scheming manservant, who had a habit of falling for straight guys, underwent gay conversion treatment and attempted suicide. In the series finale, which aired March 2016 in the U.S., he was recommended to take over from Mr. Carson as head butler of the estate.
“You see Thomas discover a whole new world, and that is closer to who he is and there is a joy there, but then that joy may get taken away but it’s a very emotional, Thomas’s journey,” James-Collier tells the Press Association about Barrow’s storyline in the film. “It also hammers home what it was like to be a gay man in those times, it was horrific and it’s brought back and it just shows how different it was. It must have been so hard for him and that is why the people warm to him and root for Thomas now, and they certainly will in the film if you watch it.”
James-Collier made headlines in 2017 when he claimed that playing Barrow hurt his Hollywood career.
“I think audiences in the U.S. can identify quite easily with the quintessential English gent and English lady, whereas a neurotic, dark, gay character like Thomas is a hard thing to put into the American market,” he told Radio Times. It can lead to typecasting.”
“Because Thomas Barrow is gay and is, essentially, the bad guy for much of the show, a lot of people within the industry can only see you as that,” he continued, adding that he had turned down gay stage roles. “They might not be in a rush to see you as a heterosexual love interest. That takes time.”
Since Downton, James-Collier has most notably starred in the British crime series The Level and the horror film The Ritual.
Downton Abbey is in theaters September 20.
Watch the new Downton Abbey recap and revisit the film’s official trailer below.