For the past 6 years, viewers around the world have tuned into the happiness, sadness, scheming and compassion that was Downton Abbey. Even though it was about the lives and loves of the British aristocracy and their servants in a bygone era (that of the early twentieth century), it charmed millions of viewers weekly with its style and warmth. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and this year Downton Abbey closed its doors to the viewing public.
With the release this week of Downton Abbey: Season 6 and Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray and DVD, actress Phyllis Logan (Mrs Hughes, the housekeeper) caught up with Glam Adelaide to chat about herself, the wonderful Mrs Hughes and all things Downton.
Phyllis was born in Paisley, Scotland (yes, that is her own beautiful accent in the show) at a time when acting wasn’t considered a profession. But as a girl, she had loved language and writing and really anything to do with storytelling. She joined whatever clubs and groups she could that involved plays, musicals and films. When it came time for her to decide on a profession Phyllis wasn’t sure what she wanted to do until a school girlfriend suggested that she try out for drama school.
“I auditioned for the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now called the Conservatoire) and was accepted,” she says, and the rest, as they say, is history.
At first her parents thought “it was a wacky thing to be doing” and, unfortunately, Phyllis’ father passed away before she graduated and never got to see her perform. Her mother, however, did, and even went on some film locations with her talented daughter.
When asked if she first thought that Downton Abbey would be the success that it was (with viewers even in places like Japan and China), Ms Logan said, “Not really. It was a total and utter surprise. We thought it might be a moderate success”.
And when I asked Phyllis her thoughts on how the series ended, her reply was, “I was intrigued to read the final episode to see how it all tied up. Julian (Fellowes, the writer) did a beautiful job. The episode was poignant, but not mawky”.
Would she have predicted Mrs Hughes romance and eventual marriage to Carson (Jim Carter)?
“If you asked me during Season One, I would have pooh-poohed the idea,” she laughed.
So, what was Phyllis’ favourite ‘Mrs Hughes’ moment in the entire six seasons?
“My opening lines to Daisy in Season 1 Episode 1. She’s cleaning the fireplace in the main hall and Mrs Hughes says to her ‘What are you doing girl? You’re supposed to be making a fire, not inventing it.‘ I think that established her character perfectly”.
In summing up her experience of working on Downton Abbey (for all 52 episodes) Phyllis said “I am forever proud of and grateful for the opportunity to work on such a phenomenal show”. The experience will stay with her forever.
Now that she’s no longer a housekeeper to landed gentry, what’s next for Phyllis Logan?
“I may be going into theatre,” she says.
Before then, however, there’s the rumour of a feature film to conclude Downton Abbey. On behalf of all the fans, I had to ask if there was any truth to the rumour.
“I can neither confirm nor deny it,” she responded diplomatically before admitting there should be an announcement one way or the other very soon.
“I hope it does happen. I think it would work well on the big screen,” she admits.
Season 6, the final season of Downton Abbey will be available on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD from 28 April 2016. For those yet to experience the splendour, romance, desire, heartbreak, scandal and rumours, Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection will also be released on Blu-ray and DVD in time for mum this Mother’s Day!
For the ultimate Downton fan, the Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection Collector’s Edition will also be released on DVD. With only 2,500 copies being sold in Australia, the limited edition set features all 52 episodes, bespoke Downton napkins, collector’s booklet and over five hours of never-seen-before bonus material that is exclusive to this release.
Interview by Brian Godfrey