The Great War is over and a long-awaited engagement is on, but all is not tranquil at DOWNTON ABBEY as wrenching social changes, romantic intrigues, and personal crises grip the majestic English country estate for a third thrilling season.
With the return of its all-star cast plus guest star Academy Award®-winner Shirley MacLaine, DOWNTON ABBEY, Season 3 airs over seven Sundays on PBS beginning on January 6, 2013. BWW brings you a series of interviews with the award-winning cast of this popular PBS series. Next up, actors Amy Nuttall and Ed Speleers.
AN INTERVIEW WITH Amy Nuttall
The first surprise for Amy Nuttall, who plays maid Ethel Parks in Downton Abbey’s third series, was that she was in it at all.
“I was always of the understanding that I was only going to be a series two character, so it was a lovely surprise to find that I was back for series three. At the end of filming last time round I got a call from a producer saying, ‘Watch this space,’ as in, ‘Don't go rushing off just yet.’ And then when it was confirmed... I was absolutely chuffed to bits. In fact I was chuffed to bits just to have been in the whole of series two, so it was the icing on the cake to be able to come back and do more.”
Ethel was last seen with a babe in arms born out of wedlock. And as we join her, things have only got worse.
“I think we can say that she’s fallen on hard times. Other than the workhouse there aren’t too many lower rungs of the ladder to fall down than where she is, in terms of society’s view of her. No, things aren’t going too well.”
Ethel’s storyline represents a stark historical fact, however. After the war many women found themselves without husbands and with no means to support themselves. They had to do what they could to make ends meet.
“Historically, what happens to Ethel happened to thousands of women. It’s not like in this day and age when we have the welfare state. Back then you would have been completely shunned by society and frowned upon. It’s not unusual today to have babies out of wedlock but it leaves Ethel hugely dependent on the kindness of others. Fortunately for her there are a couple of people that do step in to help her. They’re hugely unlikely sources of support, let’s just say that.”
It has meant, however, that Nuttall has been away from most of her friends on the cast for much of filming.
“It’s been nice to have my own storyline and it was a completely unexpected arc, but in one respect it’s a shame being in a different place – out of the house, neither upstairs nor downstairs - because I don’t get to see anyone. Normally there’s a lot of banter and a lot of fun, especially in the downstairs scenes. Instead I was out filming in Beaconsfield, Bampton and Ealing. But we’ve kept in touch.”
In the meantime she’s been enjoying the company of a new co-star: because her on-screen baby Charlie has now grown in to a little boy.
“The little boy playing my son Charlie was just a complete star. He was called Frank, he was about two and a half and he was amazing. Obviously you can’t tell a child of that age to be quiet when they say, ‘Action.’ So bless him, he was listening to every line and then he’d react and say his own little lines that he made up and just came out with. But it somehow worked. We all just adored this little boy and in the end I think they got some great takes.”