A quick chat with Downton Abbey’s Ed Speleers

Ed Speleers is at the centre of the action this Sunday in the explosive feature-length finale of ITV1’s Downton Abbey, as footman Jimmy is embroiled in the fall-out from Thomas’s attempt to seduce him.

TV&Satellite Week magazine caught up with him to find out more…

Tell us about what’s in store in the finale…

“I think Jimmy is torn about what to do because he is worldly and probably liberal, but there are outside influences in the form of Miss O’Brien, who tells him that this is not going to reflect well on him. It unravels into quite a heated debate in the finale where everyone in the house is trying to get their 10 pence in. I think there will be empathy for Thomas, but I hope that there isn’t hatred for Jimmy.”

What has it been like working with the cast?

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly working with Rob James-Collier and Siobhan Finneran, who play Thomas and O’Brien. I never went to drama school, but this was like it for me. In the upstairs scenes I do a lot of standing and serving, so I get to watch people like Maggie Smith, who plays Violet. I love being a downstairs person because I am playing against type.”

What else do you like about playing Jimmy?

“I like the fact that he is a mystery man, I don’t think, even by the end of this year, we know what he is really all about, but there are inklings. He can be charming, but also prickly and there is a lot of depth to him. If he could have it his way he would be butler now.”

What research did you have to do to play him?

“Our historical advisor Alistair Bruce is the oracle, he knows his history inside out and we talked about lots of things such as how to walk and etiquette. We also looked at how Jimmy would have been in the First World War and how that is bubbling under the surface, because he has been on the battlefield, Jimmy knows that there is more to life than impressing Carson.”

Did you enjoy filming the cricket match for the finale?

“I am rubbish at cricket, unlike some of the others, but it was fun shooting on a pitch round the back of Highclere Castle where we film. It felt like a huge movie set because we had cranes and loads of extras. We even had a Kiwi ex-pro teaching us how they played cricket in the 1920s with the different ways of holding the bat and bowling.”

How has your life changed so far?

“Nothing has changed for me yet, but my family and friends are talking to me now! Downton is a different league for me because there is such a force of enthusiasm from the viewers, but on your first day on set you have to block that out of your mind and concentrate on the work.”

Do people tend to pronounce your surname (‘Spuh-leers’) incorrectly?

“Yes! It’s Belgian and I’m very proud of it, but it has been the bane of my life. Ever since I was a kid people have not been able to spell or pronounce it properly, even the ITV announcer didn’t get it right the other week, but it’s just part and parcel of having a funny surname.”

Downton Abbey concludes on ITV1 on Sunday, November 4 at 9pm

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