Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Fellowes baffled by Downton success

Julian Fellowes admitted he does not 'fully understand' why Downton Abbey has been such a hit with viewers

Downton Abbey creator Lord (Julian) Fellowes has admitted he does not "fully understand" why the stately home show has been such a hit with viewers.

He told Radio 4's Desert Island Discs he had been "a bit pompous" about complaints about the show's accuracy after viewers took it to task for using modern phrases and other historical errors.

Fellowes told host Kirsty Young: "Papers are not full of complaints about a programme that no one's watching. I think I misinterpreted what was an expression of the joint experience."

He said: "If I had a clear understanding of why it had done so well I would continue to write shows that attracted record viewers for the rest of my life. I don't fully understand why it did so well, I think we did one or two things right but for me I think the main reason it was so popular was we are allowed to give completely equal weight to all of our characters and we don't set them off in a group, so we don't make all the toffs horrible or all the servants funny."

Fellowes, who is revealed as something of an unlikely soul fan choosing records by Macy Gray and Marvin Gaye among his desert island picks, struggles when he is asked to say what class he is.

He tells Young that "I think there was a sort of bottom end of the top in the old days."

The actor-turned-writer said he was not an aristocrat, adding he was the sort of person who "might be asked to dinner occasionally but has to swim through the power of their own arms and legs".

Fellowes said his father, who worked at the Foreign Office, had known members of the Cold War Cambridge spy ring including Kim Philby and Guy Burgess.

He said his father found it difficult to dislike Burgess even after his treachery was unmasked and he had fled to the Soviet Union, adding: "He couldn't really bring himself to be unkind about Burgess because he said he was the funniest man he had ever known and Burgess could make him die laughing and it's difficult to take against someone who has that effect on you."

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