‘Everyone who’s missed a Downton Christmas tree will be sated, because there’s a huge one!’

TV Times sits down with Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern to talk about the Downton Abbey Christmas Special (ITV, Christmas Day)…

What can we expect from Downton Abbey this Christmas?
Hugh: “It is sumptuous and I don’t think people will be disappointed, it has a lovely tone to it. We cover four or five months and it begins with Rose (Lily James) and Atticus (Matt Barber) back from their honeymoon. The Sinderbys are great characters so there is fun and games with them.”

The last couple of Christmas specials haven’t been particularly Christmassy. Will this year prove to be more festive?
Elizabeth: “It is very Christmassy and people will be warmed by it. We are making up for the horror of Matthew’s death on Christmas Day 2012 by bringing a loving, wonderful Christmas scene for everybody and it will be beautiful to look at. Everyone who missed seeing a Downton Christmas tree over the past couple of years will be sated, because there is a huge one!”

A lot of the action takes place away from Downton this year. What was it like filming on location at Alnwick Castle?
Hugh: “It was the highlight of our year. Because we spend most of our time at Highclere Castle and Ealing Studios, to go somewhere as exotic as Northumberland is great! Highclere is stunning, but Alnwick makes it look like a portakabin! It is splendid.

“Harry Potter filmed exteriors there, but I believe this is the first time cameras have been allowed to film inside and the works of art they have are crazy; we filmed with Canalettos and Titians just over our shoulders. We were well looked after by the owners, the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, who are fans of the show and it’s incredible what they have done with the estate. It gave me ideas for Downton!”

Elizabeth, you have also been very busy recording Christmas songs with your folk group, Sadie and Hotheads, but also singing on the album ‘Christmas at Downton Abbey’, including a duet with Julian Ovenden (Charles Blake). What was that like?
Elizabeth: “I’ve been well into the Christmas spirit so I’ll probably be sick of it by the time the real day dawns! I was excited and nervous to do the albums, because it’s not the kind of thing I’ve done before, but it was thrilling. I love a good Christmas carol with those simple melodies and I love Julian’s singing too. There’s a lot of talent in the Downton cast. We often have jamming sessions and everyone tries to steal my guitar because I’m the only one who hauls one everywhere!”


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