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Hiding her anguish in a TV interview was a remarkable display of courage

By Lindy McDowell

Published 17/12/2015

Michelle Dockery and Allen Leech
Michelle Dockery and Allen Leech

On a late night TV chat show in the US just a week ago, Michelle Dockery joined fellow Downton stars Hugh Bonneville and Allen Leech for a prearranged interview to promote what will be the final series of the long-running dramain the United States.

Downton has taken America by storm, not least because of those quaint plummy "Britisher" accents which Americans so love.

Host Stephen Colbert threw down a challenge. Could the trio do a small scene with American accents? Gamely, they all gave it a go, provoking much mirth from the audience.

Watching Michelle Dockery, knowing what we know now about the terrible pain that must have been gripping her heart as she fixed that smile on her face, it's impossible not to feel deeply moved - and awed - by her courage. That old adage about the show must go on sometimes comes across as trite. In this instance it involved heroic self-discipline.

Ms Dockery and her fiancé John Dineen guarded their privacy fiercely and she had maintained a dignified discretion about their relationship and about his terminal illness. In the glitzy, so-often-shallow world of showbiz, where any personal anguish is used to self-promote, that is all the more admirable.

No-one, in the circumstances, would have thought less of the actress for pulling out of the round of promotional interviews. That she carried on says something about her own mettle - and in its own way pays enormous tribute to the man she loved.

And while it might seem glib to say so, it is true, as many have pointed out, that there are heartbreaking echoes in this real-life tragedy of the Downton storyline where Lady Mary (Dockery's character) loses her own young husband.

Most poignantly on that late night show, Ms Dockery was accompanied by Irish actor Allen Leech who plays her brother-in-law (and close friend) Tom in Downton.

Again, there's a real-life mirror. Allen Leech is the man who introduced her to John Dineen a couple of years ago.

As a friend of the couple, he will have known what the actress was going through when she put on that brave, smiling face for the cameras.

Viewers would never have guessed, though. Michelle Dockery, the ultimate professional, kept her pain private. But what enormous dignity and courage, to go on with the show.

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