‘George Clooney is upstairs not downstairs and plays a lord, of sorts, in Downton’

TV Times gets the scoop on George Clooney’s guest appearance on Downton Abbey for Text Santa (ITV, Friday, December 19), chatting to Text Santa executive producer Katie Rawcliffe and Downton star Hugh Bonneville…

So Katie, what can you tell us about George’s role in the sketch?
“George is upstairs not downstairs and he looks fabulous. He is suited and booted and he is playing a lord of sorts, but I can’t tell you exactly who. It’s all set at Christmas time at Downton and Robert (Hugh Bonneville) seems to be facing financial ruin once again and he wonders whether his family may be better off without him. But there is a divine intervention in the form of a very special heavenly body, a guiding spirit.”

In the sketch George’s character is seen kissing both Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and Violet (Maggie Smith). How did that go down?
“The scene with Maggie is a really funny moment and I was with Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael and Lily James, who play Mary, Edith and Rose, when the scene with Elizabeth was being filmed. After George kissed her, the girls really made me laugh because they said, ‘Oh my goodness, it is like watching your mother being kissed by George Clooney!”’

What was he like to work with?
“He was so down to earth. He was exchanging stories about being on set and reminiscing about his ER days. There were no airs and graces and he was so professional, warm and relaxed. There was no one with him, no assistants, no special make up, he just fitted into the Downton cast.”

Hugh, we’ve heard that you were the one who got George on set, having worked with him on the film Monuments Men. How did you manage that?
“The Downton producer said to me, ‘What are the chances of getting George to play with us?’ I said, ‘Minimal’, because he’s a busy man but bless him, he said he had one afternoon free when he was in England and he came straight from the airport and played with us in this very jolly sketch. He is ridiculously gorgeous, but he was a very good sport.”

How did everyone react?
“It’s very interesting how, after five years of filming and begging certain executives to come on set, they all turned up on the day, particularly the lady ones, and suddenly they needed to be right near the camera!”


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