Television

Edith in the middle

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley in the period drama Downton Abbey.  

Laura Carmichael, better known as Lady Edith in the award-winning British period drama television series, Downton Abbey, describes her personal style as a “lot more casual.” Talking on phone from Athens, the 28-year-old says she loved her clothes from the show. “We are very lucky to wear these fabulous outfits. It has been an education working on the show.”

For her fashion takeaway from the show, Laura says, “One thing I asked for was an overcoat. I asked the costume department if I could keep it.”

For those who came in very late, the series follows the fortunes of those above and below stairs at Downton Abbey. Created by Julian Fellowes, (he won the Academy Award for best original screenplay for the elegant mystery, Gosford Park) the series premiered in 2010. Telling the story of the Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley, and his three daughters, Mary, Edith and Sybil, Downton Abbey examines the effect of cataclysmic events on the personal.

Downton Abbey opens on the day after the sinking of the Titanic and the fifth season is set in 1924. The series with its luscious period detail and fascinatingly-written characters is addictive. Laura’s character, Edith, is not as feisty or glamorous as her elder sister Lady Mary nor as passionate as her younger sister, Sybil. “She is the middle Crawley. While she has grown over the seasons, Edith is always slightly over looked, slightly on the losing side. She has been quite unlucky through the years. She has not had the easiest time.”

Lady Edith most definitely has not had the easiest time—from being ditched at the altar to falling in love with a married man and bearing his child. On the other hand Edith is the first to learn to drive and also asserts her independence by writing a column.

At the end of the fourth season, Edith brought her daughter to stay with tenant farmers while her lover, Gregson, is missing in Germany. So is there any luck for Edith this season? “I can’t give anything away,” says Laura. From the episodes aired so far, we know that Edith escapes the fire and farmer Drewe first encourages Edith to see more of her daughter and later asks her to stay away as her visits upset his wife.

When asked about her contribution to the character, Laura firmly insists: “Lady Edith is definitely all Fellowes.”

From the first series, there has been a rivalry between the charismatic Lady Mary and Edith. While there have been attempts at reconciliation, the sisters share an uneasy relationship. “It is hard. There are a lot of secrets between them and neither can understand why the other behaves the way she does.”

Laura, the daughter of a radiologist mother and software-consultant father, like her Downton avatar is the middle sister of three. “I have two siblings and definitely draw on that for the show. Having said that, I get along very well with my sisters in real life,” she says with a laugh.

Though Laura says she had a “wonderful time shooting,” she says: “if there is one thing I would like to change, it would probably be spending a little less time in the dining room! Spending eight or nine hours with the same plate of food in front of you can get a little wearing. A little less would be nice.”

One of the problems of being in a successful show would be being overwhelmed by the character. Look what happened to Jennifer Aniston — she cannot shake off the ghost of Rachel Greene ( FRIENDS) and Sarah Jessica Parker will forever be Carrie Bradshaw ( Sex and the City). “No I don’t feel pigeonholed at all. Downton is a lovely show and I am very grateful for it. It is nice to be remembered for it.”

When asked about any chances of visiting India, Laura said: “I have never visited India. I would love to visit. Maggie (Smith, who plays the redoubtable Cousin Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham with the best put downs) and Penelope (Wilton who plays Isobel Crawley and crosses swords with everyone) had lovely stories to tell of the time they spent there while shooting for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Laura has worked on stage (she was about to travel to Dubai with Twelfth Night when the call came to read for Downton) and in film ( Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). “ Downton does take a lot of my time. Now we are on a hiatus before shooting for the new season. I have a movie coming out called Burn, Burn, Burn which is a modern, dark comedy, a road film. So I will be wearing modern clothes!”

Downton Abbey Season 5 airs every Thursday at 10 p.m. on Star World Premiere.


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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 3:16:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/radio-and-tv/edith-in-the-middle/article6481525.ece

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