Downton Abbey: A New Era has hit cinemas, marking a nostalgic return to the lives of beloved characters of the original period drama.
The highly anticipated sequel to the Downton Abbey film was delayed by several weeks, and was originally planned for a Christmas 2021 cinematic release.
However, the star-studded cast have finally returned, including Dame Maggie Smith and Michelle Dockery reprising their roles as the Crawley family, and the servants of Downton face two escapades: a trip to the French Riviera and the enchantment of a cinematic experience taking place at Downton.
This film, like the last, continues with the theme of the Crawley’s embracing change – from Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) being encouraged to continue her work as a journalist along with being a mother, to the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) learning about cinematic experiences.
Throughout A New Era, we’re reminded of all the changes occurring, from a wedding to a funeral to the birth of a new heir, and everything in between, all while the converging storylines of the ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ continue to bring back memories from the original series.
Whilst all good things must come to an end, and with a final scene showing a preview of a few months ahead, fans will of course be wishing for more, and hoping for the potential of a third film in the future.
Although it may be without a few of the beloved characters (no spoilers here!), Metro.co.uk spoke to some of the cast members about where they would wish their characters’ storylines to go.
Michelle, who plays leading Lady Mary, inheriting the role of matriarch of Downton Abbey, revealed that the final scene offering a preview into months ahead at Downton wasn’t actually in the original script.
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘When you get to the end of the movie, that’s when the New Era begins, and it’s brilliant what they did, adding in the last moment which I don’t think was in the original script where you see everybody a few months on.
‘It’s a lovely positive ending, but you can see where it’s going in a way, moving into this new era.’
Newcomer Hugh Dancy, who plays Jack Barber and offers a potential romance to the married Lady Mary, added: ‘It’s a funny old decade they’re going into… with the crash, eventually you’ve got the Nazis knocking on the door. Talk about a new era, it’s going to be deeply depressing.’
This film is set in the late 1920s, picking up right where the original 2019 Downton Abbey movie left us.
By bringing the Crawley family into the cusp of the 1930s, Downton Abbey will be set to enter its third decade, a time of change for the whole country with the start of the Great Depression and war later on.
When asked about what could happen to Isobel Gray in the coming decade if there were to be a third film, Penelope Wilton said: ‘That is a very difficult question because we don’t have any say, and I don’t know what would happen.
‘It’s 1928 so we’re coming up to the 30s, and it can’t go too far ahead because I’d be too old, so I’m hoping we stay pretty much in the next couple of years, so it would be up to Julian [Fellowes] to find some other story that could lead us on.’
Speaking about future storylines occurring at Downton, she said: ‘And also hanging onto the house, things are getting harder and harder, we’ve had the film crew this time which pays for the roof, but actually it’s a constant battle for Lord and Lady Grantham to hang onto this house because it gets more expensive.
‘Also I think there’s a bit of a theme, which there has been throughout of servants not wanting to be servants anymore, and finding a better, less servile way of living.’
Michael Fox, who plays footman Andy Parker, had a similar idea about the survival of the house, as he shared: ‘The house is evolving with each year that goes by and it has to, otherwise it won’t survive, so I’d love to see it slightly dwindle, really at risk of falling apart, and then something really needs to shift.’
While the servants are ready to shift towards a new life, newly wedded couple Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton) and Tom Branson (Allen Leech) end the film with a baby, which Allen labelled as a moment of ‘flux’.
‘That’s constantly the dynamic at Downton,’ he said, continuing: ‘The changing world, we leave it at a point where it’s in flux, and if there was another movie that would be key.’
Tuppence added: ‘I think for Tom and Lucy to have inherited this villa in France is so huge and very unexpected, who are sort of struggling to find their place in either the upstairs or downstairs societies, so I think that brings up a lot of big decisions for them and how they are going to move forward and create this new generation of estate owners that are a bit more progressive.’
Meanwhile, sharing her thoughts on this film, which had an ‘iconic scene’ with the funeral of a character, Michelle finished: ‘It was brilliant. I loved this script, and I was really surprised by it and Julian has a way of just surprising us all with his stories.
‘It’s never what you expect it’s going to be, and I think partly why it’s called ‘A New Era’ is the outside world coming into Downton and I think a lot of it is about the characters embracing modernity and moving into the 1930s so I thought that was a great way of telling that story that there’s a lot of change about to happen and therefore everybody has to roll with the changes.
‘It’s always really funny watching certain characters adjust like Carson and Lord Grantham, they really need a bit of pushing to change and it’s quite funny seeing all of that.’
Downton Abbey: A New Era is in cinemas now.