Speaking about his role Rob revealed troubled, gay under butler Thomas Barrow is in for another tough year before the series finally draws to a close with a Christmas Special.
The former Coronation Street star said: “It’s another big epic [for Thomas]. At the start he sees Andy distance himself from him, and at the same time they’re cutting back the staff of these great houses… So he alienates himself, not just from Andy… Thomas is so paranoid this year. He separates himself from the house and it’s quite tragic.”
Michael, a relative newbie to the series as footman Andy Parker, hinted friendship between their two characters may be thwarted by Thomas’s nasty reputation: “Andy owes a lot to Thomas. He looks after him when nasty Denker (Sue Johnston) was trying to manipulate him. He’s wary of Thomas because everyone else in the house is telling Andy lots of different things about Thomas… he wants to be friends… but not wanting lead him on in any way.”
Rob added he’s doubtful Thomas will get a happy-ever-after once the final credits roll: “With Thomas we’ve seen a lot of false dawns. You get this guy who’s nasty. You find out why he’s nasty – it’s his sexuality and how society treats him – and then he goes on a path to redemption and he thinks he’s a better person. But what we’ve realised with these false dawns is that Thomas has never been truly happy with himself… We find out this year that he really is not…. And it continues in that vein until the bitter end.”
It’s easy to see in real life, however, Rob and Michael are firm friends, which made for a lively interview. It went something like this…
Rob: I’m the peer. I’ve been in Downton for six years…
Michael: I’ve been in the game a lot longer, twenty-six years.
Rob, pinching Michael’s cheek: I’m mentoring him on Downton. I look after him. It’s a youth training scheme!
Interviewer: Is this your relationship on and off screen?
Rob: It’s abusive, yes.
Michael: Did you see how I shook uncontrollably when he nearly touched me then?
Michael: I like to think I look after Rob at lot more than he looks after me, to be fair.
Rob: I’m like the embarrassing uncle!
For the full exchange video watch the video above