Lady Mary might be down in the dumps, but her sister, Edith, couldn’t be happier as the fourth series of Downton Abbey continues on ITV on Sunday.
We caught up with Laura Carmichael – who plays the long suffering Lady Edith – to talk about her character’s new romance and a dress so glamorous that it has its own name!
Edith seems like a different woman in the new series of Downton Abbey – what’s happened!
“We’ve tried to show that she’s grown up a bit and is slightly more confident in herself. In the first episode we saw her reunited with magazine editor Michael Gregson and she stepped out on a date with him unchaperoned and they kissed, which was a big thing back then!”
They haven’t seen each other for six months, is their romance still as strong as ever?
“Yes it is and it’s a relationship that feels more modern. Gregson has a bohemian lifestyle and he opens Edith’s eyes to all of that. London is a world away from Downton at this time. He throws her a party where she meets lots of interesting people. You sort of get to feel a little bit of that thrill of rebellion that Edith is going through. The family don’t notice that she’s socialising a lot, which is great for her – everyone’s so concerned about Mary.”
How does it feel for her when she returns to Downton?
“I think it just feels a bit anticlimactic for her to come back to this kind of house in morning and back to the same old, same old. All her energy is hoping that Michael can divorce his wife and they can get married, live in London, hang around with artists and write and how fabulous would that be as opposed to the house, which is living under a pall and has nothing there for her.”
Gregson has a plan to divorce his wife, but he may need to go to Germany – is Edith going to be dragged off there as well?
“I couldn’t possibly say!”
You’ve certainly got some fabulous outfits this year..
“Yes I’ve done very well indeed! I get the same excitement as Edith would from having the chance to see things a little differently. Even the smallest things, like I didn’t wear gloves in a scene where we were eating in London. It sounds like nothing, but that was really just thrilling because we never do that at Highclere. Suddenly you feel slightly more on show.”
Do you have a favourite outfit?
“There’s a brilliant dress I wore in The Criterion which the costume girls were calling ‘Beadith’ because it’s covered in beads. It has it’s own theme tune on set as well – ‘Beat It’ by Michael Jackson! Her costumes feel so risqué this year! They’re beautiful and sexy. There are some things that people would wear to award ceremonies now – they’re stunning. It’s all no corsets and very revealing even for now, with some low cuts and things, but then also the one in the hotel had a big split up the leg. This was a time when we weren’t showing uncovered ankles a few seasons ago. So it’s a big change.”
There’s always been a bit of rivalry between Mary and Edith, are we going to see them burying the hatchet after the loss of Matthew?
“As much as I think Edith genuinely does feel awful and misses Matthew herself – they were close and he supported her – I don’t think Edith is suddenly going to be Mary’s confidente and shoulder to cry on. The impression you get is that Edith almost can’t bear to be around Mary and Mary’s grief. Her escaping to London is the freedom to get out of the doom and gloom. She really doesn’t know what to say at Downton, she doesn’t know how to comfort her. And she’s having a great time!”
How do you think Lady Edith has changed since the show began?
“In the beginning Edith was youthful and naive – she didn’t see that she wasn’t going to bag Matthew Crawley, that of course he would have ended up with Mary. But in the war she evolved and realised that she could go out and make something of herself. The relationship with Michael Gregson comes out of a passion for writing and for work and being good at something – really good at something – that is artistic and sexy and glamorous. We’ll see how that still manages to get her into trouble, but at least she’s embraced all of that change and really, really grown up!”