Trivia / Downton Abbey


  • Actor Allusion: In Episode 2, Lady Mary tells the story of Perseus and Andromeda at dinner, with the Dowager Countess trying to shush her. Maggie Smith previously starred in Clash of the Titans, which adapted the story. What's more is that the Dowager Countess reacts with shock that Andromeda was chained naked to a rock; in the movie, to placate the censors, she is wearing clothes.
  • Actor-Shared Background:
    • Mrs. Hughes wasn't originally written as Scottish, but that changed after Phyllis Logan auditioned.
    • Also, Branson was originally envisioned as being from Yorkshire, but after Allen Leech's audition, Julian Fellowes realized making the character Irish opened up a whole new list of storytelling opportunities, and made Branson Irish instead.
    • Cora is an American who married an Englishman, moved to England with him, and spent the next several decades with him there raising their daughters. The same is also true of her actress, Elizabeth McGovern.
    • Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, and Jessica Brown Findlay all grew up in households where they had multiple siblings who were all girls. Laura Carmichael was even the middle child in a family with three daughters.
  • Big Name Fan: Queen Elizabeth II, though it didn't stop her from pointing out a WWI soldier incorrectly wearing a WWII medal. She's also been a guest at Highclere Castle, where it is filmed.
  • Creator Backlash:
    • Maggie Smith has been quite vocal on how glad the show is ending as she finds its immense popularity annoying since she can no longer go around in public without being approached by fans.
    • Elizabeth McGovern revealed shortly after filming finished that she was quite dissatisfied with the show for most of its run, feeling like she was "strangled" as Cora had hardly anything to do.
    • Everyone in the cast hated shooting the dinner scenes, which often took far longer to film than they should have, with the food quickly starting to stink.
  • Dawson Casting: The series starts out by doing this; for example, Lady Sybil is 16 at the time the show begins, but played by the 21-year-old Jessica Brown Findlay. Since the show's time progresses considerably faster than real time, this doesn't last; by the end of season 2, Sybil has actually passed Findlay's real age.
  • Dueling Shows: With the revival of Upstairs Downstairs. Downton came out the clear winner as an international mega-hit for all six series, while Upstairs was cancelled after its second series.
  • Fake American: Gary Carr is English — and unfortunately his rather stage-school attempt at a generic American accent makes this obvious.
  • Fan Community Nicknames: Downtonians.
  • Fan Nickname: In some circles, Thomas is now referred to as the "Edwardian Sex Pest."
    • Also, "Hound's Bum" for the whole series. Watch the opening and you'll understand.
  • Hey, It's That Place!: Highclere Castle. Among other works, it was used fairly prominently in Jeeves and Wooster, set in the interwar period... so does this mean that Bertie and his valet will visit in Series 3? Highclere Castle was also the set of Misselthwaite Manor in the 1987 version of The Secret Garden.
  • Irony as She Is Cast: A slight variant: Rose Leslie, who played the housemaid Gwen who dreams of being a secretary, is possibly the single most aristocratic member of the cast, being the daughter of the chieftain of Clan Leslie of Aberdeenshire and the descendant of earls and Lords of Parliament—and of Charles II (through one of his many illegitimate children)—in other words, ancestry-wise, she has more in common with Lady Rose (another child of Scottish aristocrats) than with Gwen. Her full name is Rose Eleanor Arbuthnot-Leslie. She was literally raised in a castle, and her parents own another one. (It's especially stark when you consider that Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary, is the daughter an Irish van driver-turned-surveyor and the great-granddaughter of, er, a housemaid.)
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:
    • Sharon Small (Marigold Shore), who guest-starred in the Christmas special, had previously starred together with Iain Glen (Sir Richard Carlisle) in Glasgow Kiss and also with Phyllis Logan, who guest-starred on The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.
    • This is not the first time Hugh Bonneville (Robert) and Elizabeth McGovern (Cora) have played husband and wife. In fact, it's the third.
  • McLeaned:
    • Sybil was killed off because Jessica Brown-Findlay wanted to leave to pursue her film career.
    • Matthew had an even more obvious case than Sybil's, because there had been buzz for months before his character's death about Dan Stevens possibly leaving the show. The writers have since admitted that they would have preferred not to kill off Matthew.
  • Name's the Same: By timely coincidence, young Master George Crawley shares his name with another recently born, much anticipated young British heir.
  • One of Us: In the Behind the Drama interview videos, Jessica Brown-Findlay and Allen Leech talk about scanning scripts of their scenes together and wondering when Sybil and Branson are finally going to kiss.
  • The Other Darrin: Fifi Hart replaces Ava Mann as Sybbie for Series 5.
    • Attempted, but ultimately subverted. The original dog had to be replaced (he was male and got into a few fights with the dogs of Highclere's real-life owners.) They were going to initially merely replace him with a female dog, but that was shot down by Hugh Bonneville, who said that fans would be able to tell right away. So, on the spot, the story was changed to say that Pharaoh had died and was replaced by Isis.
  • Playing Gertrude: An odd time-displaced version, as Rade Serbedzija was 67 when Series 5 was filmed, meaning he would have only been 17 during Kuragin's affair with Violet 50 years earlier.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Isobel Crawley went to France in series 2 because Penelope Wilton was busy starring in A Delicate Balance at the Almeida Theatre.
    • During series 3, Dan Stevens revealed that he wanted to leave the show, putting Fellowes in the quite awkward position of having to write Matthew out after he and Mary were married. Ultimately the only way out was to kill him.
    • Charles Edwards wasn't able to commit to the show once Fellowes decided to make Gregson a more prominent character, hence the awkward storyline where his status is up in the air for a couple years before Fellowes finally decided to just kill him off.
    • Samantha Bond was busy doing stage work during filming of Series 3, hence Rosamund's mysterious absence from Mary and Edith's weddings.
  • Reality Subtext: In Season 2, Downton is turned into a recovery house for troops from World War I. Highclere Castle, where the show is filmed, was opened as a hospital during the war.
  • Recycled Premise: A rich young woman named Rose falls in love with a lower-class man named Jack, of whom her parents would disapprove.
  • Real-Life Relative: Kevin R. McNally, who played Mr Horace Bryant, is married to Phyllis Logan, who plays Mrs Hughes.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Romance on the Set: Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith) is dating Andy (Michael Fox) who played one of the footmen on the show are dating.
  • Shown Their Work: They've paid attention to some very small details about the Edwardian Era that might be overlooked. In one interview, Hugh Bonneville said that he was about to sit down in a suit and tails. He flipped the tails out behind him to avoid sitting on them and wrinkling them. Someone jumped in and said "No. You're rich, you have someone to iron your tails for you, you wouldn't think to do that."
    • For the cricket match, they got a coach to teach the actors in period correct techniques, which are quite different from modern ones.
  • Stunt Casting: The casting of Shirley MacLaine as the Grande Dame Martha Levinson is done for all the right reasons — what other American actress could possibly go head-to-head with Dame Maggie Smith in the battle of the matriarchs?
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Gillian Anderson was offered the part of Cora Crawley but turned it down.
    • Steven Waddington auditioned for the role of Bates.
    • The show was originally thought up as a spin-off to Gosford Park, also written by Fellowes. It later became a separate entity set a couple of decades earlier.
    • A wild rumour circulated that Season 6 would end with the Crawleys leaving Downton Abbey and settling into Downton Place. The scenes that suggested this later turned out to be the Crawleys attending an auction at another house.
    • Fellowes has stated that even if the elderly Maggie Smith ever became unable to continue with the show for any reason, he would not have killed Violet off and would have come up with some reason for her not appearing onscreen, likely going on a long trip. Luckily, she remained with the show for its entire run.
    • Allen Leech has revealed that Matthew was originally going to end up with Sybil, until both actors tired of the show.

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