American viewers are still a way off from having the upstairs-downstairs bunch of “Downton Abbey” over as guests in their homes through the telly, but we have some crumpets of information to hold you over before then.
Executive producer Gareth Neame and cast members Michelle Dockery (Mary), Laura Carmichael (Edith), Allen Leech (Branson) and Joanne Froggatt (Anna) appeared before reporters at the Television Critics Association tour in Beverly Hills.
After a trailer of the upcoming fifth season – Lady Mary riding a horse! Talk of Dowager Countess having a past! Bates talking children! – the group talked about what lies ahead.
“I think for all of these characters, everything is just ratcheted up,” Neame said. “Everything is much more complicated.”
The new season of the British period drama, which rolls out Jan. 4 on PBS, will take place in 1924, about six months from where the finale left off.
• Forget the pigs? With Season 5 not yet airing in Britain, Neame and the cast were careful about revealing too much. Then Leech, who quickly became the rock star of the panel, let it slip: “Well, the unicorn farm, no one expects it.”
• Blinded by love? Anna and Bates have weathered their share of turmoil – murder charges, prison, rape, then the cliffhanger that left fans wondering whether Bates murdered the man who raped Anna. Heading into Season 5, Froggatt said: “ I think in her heart of hearts, she really does feel that Mr. Bates hasn’t done anything because she doesn’t think that Mr. Bates knows that it was Mr. Green who raped her. However, she has this doubt, and it doesn’t leave her. It’s something that haunts her in Season 5.”
• Back for more? Asked whether Shirley MacLaine, who played Cora’s mother, or Paul Giamatti, who played Cora’s brother, would revisit the series in Season 5, Neame shot down those dreams but added “they may well be in future seasons of the show.”
• Parent swap? Is Lady Edith the biological child to Lady Rosamund (Samantha Bond)? Carmichael said there’s no truth to it, though she understands it. “I think it comes from those moments when Edith says, ‘You won’t understand, Rosamund, because you’re not a mother.’ And the pain that Sam Bond played in that moment, I think, is she’s a childless woman and so she cares for Edith in that way.”
• Lady Mary is ready to bite back. After spending Season 4 in mourning over the death of her husband, Lady Mary will have some fun with her suitors.
• Love for Mrs. Hughes and Carson? The two held hands in the finale. The question caused Dockery to clear her throat. Leech was less shy: “We all hope that they get together. I think everyone does. It would be a lovely story, but let’s see.”