How Downton Abbey: A New Era Hinted at the Off-Screen Relationship Between Two of Its Stars

·2 min read
Photo credit: Ian West - PA Images - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ian West - PA Images - Getty Images

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Downton Abbey is famous for its love stories—from the tragic tale of Mary and Matthew, to the frequently tested bond between Anna and Bates, to Tom Branson's second chance at happiness with Lucy Smith.

But what is less well known is how the romance sometimes continues off-screen as well. The franchise is at least in part responsible for one pairing between castmates: Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith Pelham, met and fell in love with her co-star Michael Fox, who plays footman Andy Parker, on set. And the latest film hints at another relationship between beloved Downton Abbey actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton.

Video: A love letter to Maggie Smith with the 'Downton Abbey' cast

Carter, who has portrayed the steadfast-if-stuffy butler Mr. Carson since the beginning of the series, is married in real life to Staunton, the Harry Potter who joined the first Downton film as Maud Bagshaw, a distant relative of Lord Grantham harboring quite the secret past. Staunton returns in the second film, and she and Carter share a scene (below) that winks at their marital status. After running into one another in a hat shop in the south of France, Lady Maud and Carson are embarrassingly mistaken for a couple.

"It was great because they're mistaken for a husband and wife. And in fact, they are a husband and wife," describes director Simon Curtis. "So, there's a sort of in-joke, but it wasn't too indulgent."

While Carter and Staunton have acted together before—they both appeared in 1998's Shakespeare in Love, for examplethey didn't share many scenes in the first Downton film.

"We were across a dining room table from each other, but we never spoke to each other in the first film," Carter tells T&C. So, he says, the back and forth in the hat shop was a"treat."

"It was just a short, cheeky little scene with the French hat seller. It was nice, but very quick."

As for how he'd describe his wife as an actress? He simply says she's "the best in the business."

Downton Abbey: A New Era is available to stream now on Peacock and to purchase on digital. The film hits Blu-ray and DVD on July 5 with a special collector's edition that includes bonus content. A gift set, which includes the Blue-Ray + DVD as well as vintage postcards, a photobook, and other collectibles is available here.


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