Downton Abbey stars on their favourite moments
After six years of butlers, bodice-ripping and blue bloods, Downton Abbey is swanning off screen. Stars of the show share their most memorable moments with Keeley Bolger
Whether it is Maggie Smith's impeccable delivery, the ongoing drama of Lady Mary's love life or even just the enjoyment of gawping at stunning stately homes, Downton Abbey has struck a chord with millions of us.
Now - six series in, 59 Emmy nominations and a Guinness World Record for the highest critical ratings for a TV show later - Downton is bidding a final farewell to our screens. (Unless the hints of a spin-off film come good).
Here, some of the show's stars tell us about their favourite memories from working on the hit series, and the reality of coping with the 'Downton effect'.
Dame Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess Of Grantham)
"I was surprised that I got to the end. Just before this, I'd done about 10 years with Harry Potter, so I felt very, very old indeed by the time I got to Downton," says the 80-year-old. "I'm honestly just surprised that I got through it and I'm still here."
Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham)
Recalling a funny moment, the 51-year-old actor reveals: "When Elizabeth (McGovern) and I went to the White House to represent the team, a lady dashed out and thrust her camera in front of Elizabeth and said, 'That's Hugh Bonneville. Will you take a picture?'"
Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham)
"A big group of us were all doing press in New York and we went to see Dan Stevens (who played Matthew Crawley) in his Broadway show (The Heiress, in 2012). It was at that moment in time when people in America just literally couldn't get more excited about Downton Abbey," reveals the American actress (54). "We walked in to the audience, who were suddenly sitting with the entire cast in one row, which wouldn't happen in any other world. You can't maintain it quite at that level, but it was at its absolute fever pitch. It felt like being a Beatle just in that one minute of time, for that fraction of a second... It was surreal."
"Anthony Hopkins was at Ealing Studios filming earlier this year while we were there, and he popped in to say what a fan he was and watched some filming," recalls the 29-year-old. "That was great."
"I think those moments when we're looking across the room (at awards parties) at the people we've loved and admired forever, and they approach us and tell us how much they've loved the show. When that started to happen, it was such a big deal for us," confesses Dockery (33).
Jim Carter (Charles Carson)
"Some people have charmingly, and bizarrely, asked me if I'd like to go to the wedding of their son or daughter and be a butler," says the 67-year-old, whose Downton character is a butler. "I hope I've charmingly said, 'No, I'd rather amputate my left leg than do that, but it's very sweet of you to think that a fictional character would want to turn up at your son's wedding.'"
Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates)
"I don't think you can pick a single moment out of six years, there are so many good memories," says Froggatt (35). "I'll just take away the laughter we had on set, the giggles and the great times we've had working together."
"I don't think any of us ever knew it would become the success it became, and I don't think anybody thought it would go on beyond two or three years, so we're all surprised and delighted it's lasted so long and so well," says Lincolnshire-born Doyle.
Lesley Nicol (Mrs Patmore)
"We had a huge food scene (for this series), so there was masses of food. There were some particularly pungent pasties, smelly little cheese things that the food lady made with Parmesan cheese. She kept apologising, and then she sprayed them with Dettol, thinking that would improve the situation. Trust me, it didn't."
"For me, one of my big memories is waltzing with Dame Maggie Smith in the Christmas special a few years back," says the Salford-born actor (38). "To take an icon like that for a spin on the dance floor, I was like, 'Woah'. It was a really special moment for me."
(Lady Rosamund Painswick)
"When I started the job, I'd worked with a whole lot of the grown-up actors before. I'd worked with Maggie and Elizabeth, Penelope and Phyllis, so the great joy in Downton for me, has been my girls. Rosamund is passionate about her nieces, and I feel just as passionate about Michelle and Laura," admits the 53-year-old actress. "Their friendship has meant the world to me. That's going to be the wrench, not seeing them regularly."
Downton Abbey begins this Sunday, ITV, 9pm