Monday, January 31, 2011

This entry assumes you have watched Downton Abbey

So these last few weeks, I have been watching "Downton Abbey" on Masterpiece and loving every minute of it. I even love it when the mean characters are being mean, because if everything was perfect at Downton Abbey then it really wouldn't be much of a story, now would it? (Although I was totally cheering when William punched Thomas. He had that one coming and then some.)

This actually was my second viewing of "Downton Abbey", and, because I didn't feel that I needed to give it my undivided attention, I was able to participate in the Twitter party for each episode (#DowntonPBS). "Watching along" with people all over the East coast was great; cheering, laughing and even booing is always more fun in a group, even if it is a virtual group.

One of the things that happens to me a lot when one of these period dramas is on is that friends and family end up asking me (because I watch so much British stuff), "who is that again?" Even though with IMDB you don't really need this, I thought I would write up a little "where have I seen him/her before?" list. It is nice to have it all in one place and with little reminders of which other period drama characters they've played (ie. editorials).

Hugh Bonneville plays Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (the man I wouldn't mind being married to.♥) You have seen him before as the evil Mr. Grandcourt in "Daniel Deronda", the dandified Prince Regent in "Beau Brummel: This Charming Man", and Mr. Claude Bennet in "Lost in Austen". (He also got to smooch Kate Winslet in Iris and was the oblivious friend at dinner who didn't recognize Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.)

Jim Carter plays Charles Carson, the butler. Familiar roles include Charles James Fox in The Madness of King George, Ralph/the Nurse in Shakespeare in Love (which I saw in the theaters 5 times), Mr. Brehgert in "The Way We Live Now" (where Anne Marie Duff jilted him), Lord Faa in The Golden Compass (simply ruined by the studio, but he was perfect), and the beloved Captain Brown in "Cranford" and "Return to Cranford".

Brendan Coyle plays John Bates, Lord Grantham's valet. (Team Bates!♥) Mr. Coyle has made his mark playing working class men with education and strong values. Before appearing in "Downton Abbey", he was Nicholas Higgins in "North and South" (father of Bessie, sob sob) and Robert Timmins (father of "Our Laura") in the first three seasons of "Lark Rise to Candleford".

Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary Crawley ("Mary, Mary, quite contrary", indeed). Michelle Dockery was recently on Masterpiece playing heiress Erminia Whyte (Johnathan Pryce's ward) in "Return to Cranford". She was also Susan/Death's granddaughter in Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather" (which isn't a period drama, but I still liked it.) Her clothes on this show are GORGEOUS!

Joanne Froggatt plays head housemaid (and Team Bates! #1 fan) Anna. She played Kate in the third series of "Robin Hood" and Angelique Mahy in "Island at War" (her character falls for German pilot Laurence Fox, despite the fact his Nazi air squadron dropped the bombs on the Channel Islands that killed her dad. Oh, the humanity...but Laurence Fox is lovely, so I can support the falling for him.)

Elizabeth McGovern plays Cora, Countess of Grantham. Ms. McGovern was recently in "Appointment with Death" playing Dame Celia and was Lady Blakeney opposite Richard E. Grant's Sir Percy in "The Scarlet Pimpernel". She first wore Edwardian dresses in The Wings of the Dove and The House of Mirth. (We Yanks know her from John Hughes' She's Having a Baby.)

Dame Maggie Smith plays Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Dame Maggie is known for her roles in A Room with a View, Becoming Jane, Gosford Park, Tea with Mussolini, "David Copperfield" (opposite her Harry Potter co-star Daniel Radcliffe), and she played the goddess Thetis in the original Clash of the Titans, where I first discovered her when I was 10. SHE IS AWESOME.

Dan Stevens plays Matthew Crawley, attorney at law and Lord Grantham's heir apparent. Dan was seen on Masterpiece as part of the Jane Austen year, playing Edward Ferrars in "Sense & Sensibility" where he wore a wet, white shirt while chopping wood. He also was in "Dracula" with Marc Warren, but he had syphilis in that and wasn't as handsome as he was dying of syphilis and hanging out with Dracula.

Penelope Wilton plays Isobel Crawley, Matthew's mom. (Penelope played Simon Pegg's mom in Shaun of the Dead, but that isn't a period drama.) Ms. Wilton was recently seen as Mrs. Gardiner in Pride & Prejudice (2005), Mrs. Hamley in "Wives & Daughters", and the Duchess of Kent in "Victoria & Albert". (She also was Harriet Jones, Prime Minister on "Doctor Who", which also isn't a period drama, but, as it is my favorite TV show, I don't care.)

So, hopefully now, having read all that, it will help you connect the dots ("oh yeahhhhh") between some of the period dramas you have seen, and if there are some mentioned about that you haven't seen yet, like "North & South" or "Wives & Daughters", I highly recommend checking them out. (The only one I don't recommend is "Dracula". It wasn't scary or sexy, which is the whole point of Dracula.)


  1. Melanie--This is a great post! Would be very helpful to those who are less in tune with all things British than you and I are! I saw Downton Abbey twice as well, and I'm sure I'll be watching it again after a bit. If you haven't seen Dame Maggie in her younger years, you must see The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Do let me know what you think of it!

  2. Jean,
    As Miss Brodie would say: "Girls, I am truly in my prime." I LOVED that movie!! :) She totally brought to life the character from the book.

  3. Totally just went "Ohhhhh!" when I read the part about Penelope Wilton playing Simon Pegg's mom in Shaun of the Dead! Love her! I only just watched Downton Abbey. Super fun!



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