Downton Abbey: A New Era Stars Elaborate On The Days That Were Harder To Film Than Expected (And Yes A Lobster Was Involved)

A film experience like Downton Abbey: A New Era looks absolutely effortless on the surface, but everyone knows that a lot of hard work and effort goes into such an undertaking. Working on one of this weekend’s upcoming movies certainly had its challenges, with every cast member I spoke to being able to share their own unique story in that regard. Perhaps the greatest surprise of all is the fact that a lobster happened to be involved in one scenario that just might take the cake. 

Sitting down with several of the cast members during the press day of Downton Abbey 2, I posed the question of what the most difficult day on set had to be. In a movie that’s been rumored to feature the death of an iconic Downton character, I was ready for potential stories about sobbing takes and fond farewells. 

Instead, I was treated to some stories that would probably make the fictional counterparts of the Downton Abbey: A New Era cast either laugh or blush. Starting with Allen Leech, Tom Branson himself, the tales from those wild days in the south of France kicked off with a bit of a fishy accent:

The longest day on set, probably was one of the dining room scenes we had in France. It wasn’t that the day was any longer than it normally was. It was just that it was 32 degrees, and we were surrounded by seafood. It’s not the best choice, and it was all sitting out for two days, or three days actually. I had the great idea of saying I was happy to deshell one of the lobster tails, in every take, and just a couple of times that didn’t go well, and I got spattered with some entrails.

For readers that aren’t on the Celsius scale of temperature, Leech’s story entails a day that was roughly 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It figures that the cinematic sequel to the wildly successful Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture would throw this sort of twist. That previous picture saw Leech engaged in a last minute dance scene that saw him rushed back to set, which worked well as a segue into another cast story of interest.

Night dances are certainly a specialty when it comes to making for interesting Downton stories. This time, actor Laura Carmichael was the one that had a particular memory involving a dance under less than ideal conditions. As the woman known to fans as Edith Pelham, the Marchioness of Hexham, explained, those complications came due to a bit of moviemaking trickery:

There was only one bit that we did a bit of doubling, the party at the end of France. That was a night shoot, and we were doubling some parts of the UK for the south of France. So it was pretty freezing, actually, and raining. So that felt like a really long day.

Surely with all of these problems, the more domestic half of Downton Abbey: A New Era’s story was easier to film, right? As it would turn out, some of the chaos thrown into the mix by a major film production in Julian Fellowes’ latest cinematic narrative actually led to real chaos. In the case of one character in particular, a change of costume led to a rather perilous situation. 

We turn now to Phyllis Logan, the woman who brings Mrs. Elsie Carson to life in this particular universe. Without spoiling the experience that led a loyal member of the Downstairs team into some new threads, Logan explained how these changes led to a very threatening obstacle:

Mrs. Hughes ends up in a rather bizarre outfit, which you would not expect to see her in, in normal circumstances. And I literally couldn’t get into the toilet with this. … I tried every which way, and so I had to, I think I went in a field in the end. I don’t know what I did, but we worked it out some way. It was quite a challenge, trust me.

Reading back Phyllis Logan’s story of bathroom woes recalls some of the most interesting stories from comic movies past. Just as Jason Momoa had some issues going with his Aquaman costume, Logan can now count herself a cinematic superhero of sorts. Depending on what solutions was eventually reached, she may have had to display some sort of feat of strength and agility to make it all work, so the point still stands. 

As for Joanne Froggatt, her Downton Abbey sequel experience wasn’t as strenuous as the stories provided above. Her character Anna Bates is still very much a part of the chaos that overwhelmed Downton in this second film. However, as Froggatt herself highlights in her contribution to the question at hand, it was a piece of cake on her end:

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I really had a hard day, in all honesty. It’s just so much fun, we had such a giggle. … We all know each other so well, and slot back into those roles. To have new cast members with us who were great fun and brilliant at what they did. It was just great fun, there was no hardship for me.

Sometimes the days you think are going to be easy end up being the real wringers on set. Then again, some moments members of the Downton Abbey 2 were dreading turned out to be absolutely comfortable scenes. Movies truly are a form of magic, as you don’t always know what you’ll get once someone yells action, and that first lobster tail gets cracked on camera.

Downton Abbey: A New Era finally graces domestic theaters, starting with fan events showing this evening. Early showings will continue tomorrow night, with Friday marking the proper wide debut of the movie in theaters. Depending on when you’re planning to book your tickets, you might have enough time to rewatch Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture, which at the time of this writing is streaming only for Peacock Plus subscribers.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.