Julian Fellowes Explains How ‘Belgravia’ Definitely Isn’t ‘Downton Abbey’

TCA 2020: “Well, I think there are bound to be some similarities because they’re written by the same guy”

Julian Fellowes admits that his new Epix historical period limited series “Belgravia” bears a lot in common with “Downton Abbey,” but they are not, in fact, the same show.

“Well, I think there are bound to be some similarities because they’re written by the same guy and there’s a kind of limit to how many voices one possesses,” Fellowes said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday. “I think it is different from ‘Downton’ because it has a tauter narrative. It’s a single narrative; a completed story at the end. By the end of Episode 6, we’ve gotten to the end of the story. It isn’t open-ended in [the same] way.”

“Belgravia,” based on Fellowes’ own novel, is a story of secrets and scandals amongst the upper echelon of London society in the 19th century. Fellowes, along with “Downton” collaborators Gareth Neame, Nigel Marchant and Liz Trubridge serve as executive producers on the show.

The series kicks off with a real historical event — similar to the way “Downton” began with the sinking of the Titanic — “to help place it in time,” as Neame put it. “Belgravia” begins at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in 1815, which was held in Brussels on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. Again, like “Downtown,” the series tells a fictional story with a few historical figures interwoven throughout.

But beyond the similarities in concept and in tone, the two shows are set about 100 years apart, with “Belgravia” spanning the first half of the 19th century and “Downtown” firmly rooted in the early 20th century.

“It’s a different period,” Fellowes said. “It really is, in a sense, the rise of the great Victorian era of manufacture and money making and empire … and the expansion of London and so on. Whereas you could say that ‘Downton’ was on the other side of the hill. It was part of the decline, particularly as we followed it through into the ’20s.”

But even Fellowes is willing to admit that, because both projects sprung from his own mind and cater to his own style and taste, there are bound to be some similarities.

“There are differences but, inevitably, there are some aspects that they share,” he said. “Because, you know, them’s my sentiments. So they pop up in what I do.”

“I think it’s a can-do show,” he said. “It’s really about people achieving what they want despite the difficulties that society places in their path. These take different forms in the different stories, but I hope it is essentially a kind of uplifting tale. Anyway, that’s my wish.”

“Belgravia” premieres on April 12 at 9 p.m. on Epix.

Reid Nakamura

Reid Nakamura

TV reporter • reid.nakamura@thewrap.com • @reidnakamura


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