Downton Abbey actress can stand the heat

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TORONTO -- If you were lucky enough to be a cast member on the wildly popular British TV series Downton Abbey, written by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes, you might be reluctant to offer script guidance.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/02/2012 (3931 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TORONTO — If you were lucky enough to be a cast member on the wildly popular British TV series Downton Abbey, written by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes, you might be reluctant to offer script guidance.

But actress Lesley Nicol, who plays the perennially exasperated cook Mrs. Patmore on the acclaimed British drama — which began airing on Vision TV this week — had the pluck to do just that.

“I have made a suggestion,” the 58-year-old actress announced with a laugh during a recent telephone interview from London.

Lesley Nicol plays Downton Abbey cook Mrs. Patmore.

“I don’t know whether this will come to fruition, but I’d like to see Mrs. Patmore in love.”

Such a development would no doubt be endlessly analyzed by the rabid fans of Downton Abbey, which follows the inhabitants of a majestic Yorkshire mansion in the early 1900s.

Viewers have become enthralled by the soapy upstairs-downstairs plot lines dreamed up by Fellowes, who won an Academy Award for penning Robert Altman’s 2001 film Gosford Park.

They’ve also been captivated by the show’s sprawling cast, led by Hugh Bonneville as Downton overseer Lord Grantham, who has his hands full dealing with the whims of his three headstrong daughters and imperious mother (Maggie Smith). His American wife Cora, meanwhile, is played by Elizabeth McGovern, probably best known for ’80s movies including She’s Having A Baby, Ordinary People and Racing the Moon.

And then there are the numerous servants of Downton, including the mysterious valet Bates, the evil footman Thomas, his co-conspirator O’Brien and the high-strung Mrs. Patmore.

The popularity of Downton has snowballed since the show began airing on PBS just over a year ago. It received a big boost at last September’s Emmy Awards, winning an armful of trophies and prompting millions of viewers to wonder what the lush period drama was all about.

Legions have since found out.

Downton is a popular download on iTunes and Season 2 is currently airing on PBS. Viewers who want to delve in from the beginning can catch Season 1 on Vision TV (check local listings).

The actress has done some research on the era, and was struck by one fact in particular.

“The little paragraph that pinged out at me was (that) cooks were notoriously hot and bad-tempered, you know, because they were under huge pressure. They weren’t allowed to mess up, the stakes were very, very high,” she said.

“They were there for long hours, it was hot, they did get sweaty and that’s exactly what I look like in the show.”

In fact, Nicol said, her Downton servant togs are so authentic that she rarely gets recognized on the street. (“In the show I look like the back end of a bus. In life I do put me makeup on.”)

In addition to Fellowes and Bruce, Nicol also has high praise for her castmates, including Sophie McShera, who plays Mrs. Patmore’s young apprentice Daisy.

“There’s no question, I absolutely adore her. She and I are great mates,” she said. “She calls me ‘telly mummy’ and I love her to pieces and I also respect her hugely.”

As for her wish for some romance for the put-upon Mrs. Patmore, Fellowes isn’t making any promises.

“People do fall in love in their 50s. I did, I got married for the first time in my 50s. I’d like to see a woman like that touched by something like that, do you know what I mean? …. I’d like to see just another side to her, that’s all,” said Nicol.

“He’s considering it. He said, ‘Never say never.”‘

— The Canadian Press

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