The Hardest Part Of Returning To Downton Abbey For Elizabeth McGovern

Downton Abbey Cora smiling, wearing a hat, in a room for tea

Coming back to a series such as Downton Abbey feels like a daunting prospect, what with about three years separating the finale in 2015 and the film going into production late last year. If you ask franchise star Elizabeth McGovern what the hardest part about slipping back into the world and role of Cora Crawley was, she’d easily tell you it was finding the opportunity to be able to do so.

That’s not a logically impossible answer. Literally the hardest part of getting back into Downton Abbey was all of the work and coordination that went into putting the film together in the first place. As I spoke with her over the phone, on behalf of CinemaBlend, Elizabeth McGovern put that very sentiment into this apt description:

The easiest part was everything after the word 'Action,' and the hardest part was everything before the word 'Action;' just kind of, you know, getting there. It wasn’t really my job, but the organization of absolutely everything, and that’s really [what] the producer Gareth Neame had to take responsibility for.

So while slipping back into a character like Cora was second nature for Elizabeth McGovern, it was all of the events leading up to the production that provided the greatest obstacles. Which is refreshing, as sometimes you’ll hear stories of how actors need to refamiliarize themselves with the material, spending time to get back in touch with that person they used to play.

As far as the Downton Abbey film is concerned though, it sounds like the hard work really came down to finding a reason to this story to exist. As much was recently said by writer/creator Julian Fellowes when he admitted that between searching for inspiration and trying to work with everyone’s schedules, the Downton Abbey movie wasn’t a sure prospect from the start.

Once the stars aligned, it was a breeze for everyone, even Dame Maggie Smith, to come back into the fold and bring the Crawley family into its next chapter of existence. It's a feat that McGovern credits to none other than Downton Abbey producer, Gareth Neame:

[Gareth] is a talented producer, and that is not something I say lightly. He had a vision for this series way back at the beginning. This same vision gave him the perseverance to really not give up on this idea of the movie. And so, I think the hardest bit was getting the script right, getting all the actors together, getting everybody in a good mood, and the rest was sort of like being on a ship that’s sailing.

If it wasn’t for Neame’s tenacity, it sounds like we may have never had a Downton Abbey movie to look forward to. Which only makes its success at the box office that much more rewarding, as seeing Elizabeth McGovern’s Cora Crawley returning alongside the rest of her iconic family seems to have been an absolute joy for fans to behold.

Sometimes, it takes a little more effort than just getting the band back together to make a film such as this a successful moviemaking effort. However, it sounds like once the momentum was built up, and the first call of “Action” went out, Downton Abbey saw itself, its cast, and its crew, falling back into the typical rhythm, while scaling everything up into a more cinematic concext.

Focus Features and Julian Fellowes should keep this story in mind, as their current efforts in the world of this famed estate are doing well enough that a sequel is most definitely in the cards. Should they want another spin of the wheel, it might be good to set down some tent pegs now, so as to reserve the space for everyone to get back together more easily in the future.

Downton Abbey is in theaters now, awaiting audiences with a smile and impeccable service on hand. And if you’ve already sampled the joys of Elizabeth McGovern’s return to the role of Cora Crawley, you can see what other films are in store for you throughout the rest of the year. Just head over to our 2019 release schedule, and take a look at what’s in store.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.