Film & Television

The Daughters of ‘Downton Abbey’ Pursue New Projects

Of course, the person who always overshadowed Lady Edith back in Yorkshire was her elder sister, the coldly beautiful (and often cruel) Lady Mary. If Michelle Dockery, like onscreen sibling Findlay, had reservations about being typecast, she put them to rest immediately by choosing to star in TNT’s Good Behavior. Her character in the series, Letty Raines, most definitely is not “to the manor born.” A not-quite recovering addict and ex-convict, Letty longs for life’s finer things. She’s an impressive con woman, a devoted (if usually absent) mother, and the reluctant girlfriend of a smoldering Latin hit man (played by smoldering Latin actor Juan Diego Botto). Imagine today’s edgiest “for mature audiences only” television: sex, nudity, drugs, violence – essentially all of the elements you wont find on Downton Abbey — and you’ll agree that Dockery is demonstrating breadth with her departure. Her performance is sharp, raw and fearless. While I eventually found the series too dark for my taste, you have to admire the actress’ courage and willingness to take a risk. Critics have called it, “legitimately suspenseful and sexy.” A second season is in the works, and you can rent the first season on Amazon, Hulu, or watch episodes on

If Good Behavior is a little too fast for you, you may prefer the pace of The Sense of an Ending, a current theatrical release featuring Dockery along with older stars Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling and Harriet Walter (whom you may recognize as Downton’s Lady Shackleton). A quiet, retired man (Broadbent) is haunted by memories from his youth and by a mysterious inheritance. As his story unravels, he realizes the full consequences of assumptions he made and actions he took decades before. Walter is marvelous as his ex-wife; Rampling is inscrutable as his ex-girlfriend; and Dockery is a refreshing reminder of his contemporary life. Her “Susie” is a deliberate unwed mother, and Broadbent is particularly awkward as her partner in a birthing class. (He’s rather useless but quite curious about all of the artificially inseminated lesbians.) The movie is beautifully acted and rich in subtlety. And, it’s an intelligent and quiet alternative to this season’s cartoons, giant apes, Power Rangers and cyborg heroines.
No matter how good it feels to see these talented actresses in new works, nothing would make me happier than a Downton sequel, prequel, feature film, or all of the above. (Remember, the Dowager Countess once observed that “nothing succeeds like excess.”) Rumors abound, of course, and the series’ devoted fans aren’t the only ones engaging in wishful thinking.

In October, Carmichael told a reporter, “I believe a script exists,” and added, “It’s so funny how we are the last to know.” Last month, Dockery was quoted saying, “I’m hopeful something will happen at some point,” but warned that “These things take time. It seems to be a challenge getting 18 actors together at the same time in the same country.”

Other castmates have expressed their interest too, from actress Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes), who is willing but equates it to “herding cats,” to actor Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), who recently teased, “We’ve been asked to keep ourselves available for dates in the future.” Meanwhile, on Good Morning Britain, Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates) sounded confident, “I am 98% per cent sure it will happen.” Creator Julian Fellowes is rumored to be onboard as well.

Until the happy day when we return to “the Abbey,” we can enjoy the work of Findlay, Carmichael, Dockery and many of the other actors who were fortunate enough to be a part of the most successful period drama in television history. And, of course, thanks to Amazon, DVDs and PBS pledge drives. . .we’ll always have Downton.

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