As the final season of “Downton Abbey” nears, the show’s creator and writer, Julian Fellowes, is speaking out about why the series is ending after six seasons, how far along he is in writing the series finale and why he makes an effort to depict the emotional lives of older characters.
“Every human being has an emotional life going on, on some level or another,” Fellowes said on Jun. 6, during a panel at the Writers Guild
“In movies, everyone stops being a sexual being at about 32, at least for women,” Fellowes said. “[Yet] the men are allowed to go on until they’re 78. I’ve never worked that out. In my world, on the whole, older people have emotions like anyone else, and I think the show demonstrates that.”
Fellowes was joined by “Downton Abbey” executive producer Gareth Neame and cast members Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham), Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham) and Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith Crawley).
When Season 5 ended, Lady Edith had decided to adopt little Marigold, her secret love child fathered by the late Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards).
“Last series [season] was incredible,” Carmichael told the audience about Lady Edith’s progression. “I felt very lucky reading those initial scripts to see where Julian was taking her, and to play this woman separated from her daughter in such a heart-rending way. It was a privilege to play that and a joy to end the series with her father accepting her secret.”
As cast filmed episodes 7 and 8 of the final season, Bonneville said. “We’re 11 weeks from finishing… So we’re coming into that final stretch. It being the last one hasn’t really sunk in,” he explained.
The panelists also discussed the impact that Dan Stevens‘ sudden exit had on the writing, and what it’s like working with legendary actress Maggie Smith
“It’s a joy. She is so kind and so funny and full of all these stories that she’s so generous to share with us, which I’ve loved,” Carmichael said.
In true English fashion, the gathering included a high-tea reception, sponsored by Ahmad Tea of London and finger sandwiches. A one-minute teaser of the upcoming season was also screened, and showed Lady Edith pondering her future. “The fact is, I’d like a life,” she tells her aunt, Lady Rosamund Painswick (Samantha Bond).
Despite being a fan favorite in the U.K. and consistently breaking public television viewing records stateside, producers announced in March that it would soon end.
Nielsen L 7 data showed Season 5, which concluded on March 1, had a weekly average of 12.9 million viewers on PBS’ “Masterpiece,” only slightly down from the 13.3 million average of the previous season.
On Saturday, Fellowes said the show’s creative team never expected it to go on for more than a few years.
“Originally we had thought in terms of five years, and then we thought we just didn’t have enough space to kind of wrap everyone up. So, it seemed a good idea to do one more,” he said. “We didn’t ever think we were going to go on until 11 years.”
McGovern added, “The story isn’t over, but we’ve told our bit of it.” Which raises the question, are they already working on a “Downton Abbey” movie?
Season 6 premieres on Sunday, January 3, 2016 at 9/8c on PBS.