Will this finally be the Year of Edith on Downton Abbey? All signs point to ... probably not.
As the acclaimed drama returns for its fifth season, Britain is reeling from the country taking a leftist turn in 1924. "It's the year the first-ever socialist government was elected, so they all feel very threatened by that," executive producer Gareth Neame tells TVGuide.com.
Downton Abbey Season 5 Scoop: Granny's past and a baby Bates?
At Downton, progress is being made on the technology side as the household gets a chance to hear the king address the country on the wireless, aka radio. "We will see them get their first radio, which is quite funny," Neame says. "The radio is upstairs but we see the servants invited to hear it. It's a very special occasion. Some people don't really approve, but the youngsters want the radio on."Amidst all this change, some of the residents of Downton are more concerned with their more private matters. "There's a theme about secrets or things from your past that comes through," Neame confirms. Who's leading a double life? Who can't escape a sordid past? Check out the scoop TVGuide.com got from Neame and stars Laura Carmichael
, Allen Leech
and Joanne Froggatt
about Season 5:UPSTAIRSLady Edith Crawley (Carmichael)
The much beleaguered Lady Edith is one of those trying desperately to keep part of her life hidden. Although last season saw her live a dashing and successful life in London, all of that came crashing down when her lover Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards
) went missing and she learned she was pregnant. Unwilling to give up her child, Edith secretly gave birth in Switzerland and then adopted her daughter Marigold out to an unsuspecting farmer, Tim Drewe (Andrew Scarborough
), on the estate.
Watch the Season 5 trailer for Downton Abbey now!
"None of the family understand why she's behaving the way she is, why she can't sort of buck up and get over Gregson," Carmichael says. "They don't realize that she's had his child, and she's given up his child. It's a real stinker; she's watching these lovely parents take care of her child thinking she was an orphan of a friend of Edith's who died in childbirth and whose father passed away."Edith's arrangement with the Drewes is far from perfect, especially when she gets increasingly attached to little Marigold. Carmichael explains, "It's complicated. With that is the element of the class: 'Who does she think she is, this lady of the house coming in and picking up my child? We're actually quite busy, milady. We want to get on with our life. Are you going to be popping in all the time?' It's tense."Although Edith still does some writing and submits columns from home, her life is consumed with motherhood, and that extends to how she views her niece and nephew. "She'd be a very different mother from Mary," Carmichael says. "Watching Mary pack off George to the nanny is excruciating. Edith is going to be one of those really annoying mums that tells everyone how to do it. All she can do is imagine what she'd be doing if it was her."Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery)
Motherhood for Mary hasn't really kicked in this season, but she may not have the freedoms that Edith as the second-born might. "Mary has the responsibility of being the eldest," Carmichael notes. "She has that pressure on her to take over where Cora and Robert left off. And even though she's not married to Matthew anymore -- obviously he was the heir holding onto the home -- her role now is to take care of his work, and [their son] George now will inherit the house. So she has to be the more traditional, responsible one.""There's a new guard," Neame adds. "She's going to be the custodian of the place, she has to carry on into the future. There's an old guard represented by her father and others. You'll definitely see that become an issue as well."
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Part of the responsibility of moving into the future is remarrying, and as seen by the end of last season, Mary is now open to being wooed by suitors, among them Lord Charles Blake (Julien Ovenden
) and Lord Anthony Gillingham (Tom Cullen
). In the Season 5 trailer
, we see her looking doe-eyed at various unidentified men and even moving in to kiss one. Could a Downton wedding be far behind? Finally, from official episode descriptions, we learn that she will put her reputation on the line and in the process, make her lady's maid Anna a reluctant accomplice. Whether this risk applies Mary's love life or duties at Downton remains to be seen.Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith)
Why should the young generation have all the fun? According to Neame, Violet has an "amazing new story" this season that's "killer, very different" from what we've seen before. This may have to do with a certain gentleman, Prince Kuragin (guest star Rade Serbedzija
), who enters their sphere when Russian refugees stay at Downton. Upon meeting the refugees, Lady Mary comes to a realization and remarks, "Granny has a past!" Let the speculation begin!
Lord Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
Robert is among those who's not thrilled with the new Labour Party government and believes that "people like us" will be phased out. He faces more dire problems at home, however. In the trailer, we see that at least one of the bedrooms in Downton catches fire (click here
for more spoilery details), and in the wake of that dramatic event, he's faced with a difficult decision.This season, we'll also see an impassioned Earl declare, "Our grandchild is about to be stolen from us forever!" But which grandchild? Thus far, he is not aware of Edith's daughter Marigold, Mary appears to be dutifully grooming little George to be the Downton heir, and granddaughter Sybbie? Well, that brings us to ... Tom Branson (Leech)
The former chauffeur who married the noble's daughter can't quite shake his past progressive political leanings. "Tom very much has the attitude now that anything he wants to change, he's going to try to change from the inside-out," Leech says. "Certainly the fire is stoked in him again ... and what he spoke about a lot was going to America. I think that definitely comes to the fore in Season 5, whether he decides maybe it's time for him while he's bettered the house the best he can, maybe it's time to better himself."
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If Tom does go to America, that could remove little Sybbie from Downton, where some of his loyalties still lie. "That's the challenge for him, to balance his beliefs and his responsibilities," Leech adds. "He is a father now, he has a huge responsibility to Sybbie. He also has a huge responsibility to the family who took him in when he was basically ostracized from his own country and wasn't allowed back." Taking Sybbie to America could be the reason that Robert is riled up. Robert is also concerned that Tom is being influenced by his friend, schoolteacher Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis), whom he met at a political function. But is there something more to their relationship? Although it certainly appears that he kisses her in the trailer, Leech dismisses the idea of Tom having romantic intentions. "I don't think his mind is there," he says. "I've always said that I think it's going to take a long time for Tom to get over that relationship. I think Sarah Bunting would like it to be more than that, but I think Branson sees it more as someone who gives him a reminder of the political aspects of his life."Meanwhile, Mary and Tom's friendship progresses since they're in the same boat and have had parallel tragedies. "Mary and Branson have become very close allies, they've become confidantes in relation to each other's lives as well. There's a playfulness between the two of them," Leech notes and adds, "Edith and Branson become quite good friends as well. Branson knows a lot more than Edith is aware of. That's a nice little spoiler."
Cousin Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton)
Unlike Mary, Isobel is not so eager to jump back into the romantic waters, but somebody tell Lord Merton (Douglas Reith
) that! He continues to pursue her, which in turn continues to amuse Violet
. But could his affections stray elsewhere? Upstairs Guest Stars
Richard E. Grant plays Simon Bricker, "a slick art dealer, who comes to the house to inspect a painting and ruffles a few feathers," says Carmichael. Meanwhile, Anna Chancellor comes in as Lady Anstruther, who used to employ footman Jimmy (Ed Speleers) and flirt with him. As she arrives at Downton, it doesn't seem that the widow's interest has abated. In the trailer, we see "naughty boy" Jimmy discovered in bed with a woman. Could the lady's wishes have been granted? Harriet Walter also joins Season 5 as Lady Shackleton.
Did Downton Abbey lose its charm? Our frustrations with Season 4 DOWNSTAIRSAnna and Bates (Froggatt, Brendan Coyle)
Following Anna's rape by Mr.Green (Nigel Harman
) last season, he suddenly died in an accident while visiting London. Bates also happened to be out of town that day, but claims he was in York. "There's a little spark missing from Anna as we find her," Froggatt says. "Nobody can move on from such a thing. It takes a great deal of time... The subject of Mr. Green they can't escape it really because there's a police investigation into his death and it keeps getting brought up." Meanwhile, the couple is trying to repair their relationship. "There are still moments of freedom and joy and love with her and Mr. Bates; it's not all doom and gloom," Froggatt says. "Like human beings do, we can laugh and forget about our worries once in a while. Sometimes they stay there, sometimes they don't. There is mention of babies. They both want a baby. It hasn't happened for them yet. We'll have to wait and see if it will or not."Carson and Mrs. Hughes (Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan)
The butler and head housekeeper were last seen by the seaside holding hands and sharing a moment of lighthearted sympathy, and we can expect more of that feeling, if not exactly romance. "As there always has been, there's this little bubble going on underneath the surface," Froggatt comments. "They're each each other's confidants and all of those things. There is more of that."Despite their amity, the two have butted heads in the past -- mainly because Carson is more tradition-bound, whereas Mrs. Hughes is more liberal-minded -- and will do so again when it comes to the subject of a war memorial.Daisy Mason (Sophie McShera)
The kitchen maid-turned-assistant cook continues to chafe under the constraints of her station in life. The ambitious girl is therefore "trying to better herself and educate herself. She's finding her voice. She's enjoying her studies and sort of coming to terms with what opportunities she may or may not have," Froggatt says.In a sneak preview clip, we see her studying "the glorious revolution." Could Tom's schoolteacher friend have a hand in that particular choice of reading material?
George Clooney heads to Downton Abbey Thomas Barrow and Phyllis Baxter (Rob James-Collier, Raquel Cassidy)
"Thomas is still trying to manipulate the whole thing to his own ends, but there are fresh surprises for him too," Neame says. Although it appeared that the scheming underbutler delivered nothing but empty threats last year, he may have just been biding his time. This season, he gives an ultimatum to Baxter, who's been trying to outrun a very bad secret in her past and owes him for her position at Downton. Unfortunately, whatever he has hanging over Baxter could affect her friendship with Molesley (Kevin Doyle
).Downstairs Guest Stars
Sue Johnston plays Violet's new lady's maid, Gladys Denker, and a new footman played by Michael Fox will join in the ranks.
Downton Abbey Season 5 premieres in the U.K. on Sunday at 9 p.m., while U.S. audiences must wait for the Jan. 4 premiere on PBS' Masterpiece.