Downton Abbey: A New Era Stars Jim Carter And Raquel Cassidy Had A Blast Filming The Big Dinner Scene [Interview]

The captivating melodrama of "Downton Abbey" would be but window dressing without its spectacular ensemble to bring these characters to life. Even when some favorites ended up leaving the show, series creator/writer Julian Fellowes ("The Gilded Age") always had someone interesting to add to the roster. For every Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) or Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), there was an Andy (Michael Fox) or Lady Rose (Lily James) to round out the cast. Even if you look the upstairs and downstairs crew within their own groups, in each you'll find a wealth of British talent, two of which I got the immense pleasure of speaking with on a recent press junket.

Even though he retired in the series finale, "Downton Abbey" would very different without Jim Carter as the stubborn, rule-driven head butler Mr. Carson. It doesn't matter that he retired in the series finale because, as "Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture" and "A New Era" have shown us, Mr. Carson will never truly retire. There'd have to be a force bigger than the sun to cause that. Phyllis Baxter (Raquel Cassidy), who joined the show in the middle of the fourth season, has also become a mainstay, in spite of the hardships her character's had to endure. Her relationship with Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle), one of my favorite characters, has been a welcome sight amid the blackmailing over her criminal past.

With "Downton Abbey: A New Era" now available on Digital, and arriving soon to 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD (July 5th), I got to speak with Carter and Cassidy (who I was admittedly starstruck by) about love, whether Carter can actually dance, and all the fun revolving around the big dinner scene of Mr. Barber's film.

'The Cheerful Charlies were a song and dance act, and I, Jim Carter, can't sing or dance'

Jim, I wanted to ask you, in your introductory scene, Mr. Carson is none too thrilled about the glamor of movie stars running around Downton. Do you feel like, had Mr. Carson steered ahead with "The Cheerful Charlies" routine, that he would've eventually found himself in the film industry?

Carter: Now, that's a good story. Yeah. We never investigated "The Cheerful Charlies" very much. The –

Cassidy: Next film.

Carter: Next film. Except it was a shame, because The Cheerful Charlies were a song and dance act, and I, Jim Carter, can't sing or dance.

Cassidy: Definitely got to be in the film.

Carter: Had it been a juggling act, I could have managed that. So, we never went far with The Cheerful Charlies. It's hard to imagine Carson on stage, isn't it really? Yeah, maybe he would. Maybe he'd have been there, yeah.

And Raquel, ever since your introduction in the series, Phyllis has gone through this strenuous period of either being blackmailed or having to deal with the constant questioning of her criminal past. And here, you're able to have some peace. How did it feel to finally give that character some catharsis?

Cassidy: She gets quite giddy, I think. And she's incredibly romantic. I think that the magic of Downton, the family and the house, the great house, is that people are able to heal. And they are able to be forgiven and allowed to be who they are. And you really see that in a lot of the characters, but I felt it very much as Phyllis. It was an absolute ball, I have to say. And then to be dressed up as a princess, kind of, and have the man of your dreams go down on one knee — albeit having to be asked to do so — it's pretty brilliant. It's wonderful. Filming that scene, but particularly walking in then to everybody's joy, which really feels like the whole family are happy, upstairs and downstairs, is just...

Carter: (To Cassidy) Had you filmed in the dining room much? Because your character hardly ever came in...

Cassidy: No, no. I've never been into the dining room.

Carter: So, that was your first time into the dining room?

Cassidy: And I got to sit down.

Carter: Yeah, and you got to sit down in the posh frock.

Cassidy: Exactly.

Carter: I'd done all the series and one film; I'd never got to sit down in that room.

Cassidy: I know.

Carter: First time.

'Both as characters and as actors, we were having a good laugh that day'

I noticed on a repeat viewing though, because it missed me the first time, where, when you [Jim] learn that you're going to be playing a Lord, you kind of have this smirk to the side that I'd never noticed before. Do you think Mr. Carson secretly has this fantasy...?

Carter: Oh, I wish that they'd played that moment more because I was very dismissive of the whole thing when they said, "You're playing Lord somebody." "Aha. Right. Yes, of course." I think the camera could have lingered on that a little longer. I must talk to the editor. So, I'm glad you detected that. I'm sorry it took two viewings to spot it.

It just happens so fast. But also, it seems like you're really getting into it in the scene when they have the outburst and Dominic [West] just walks out of the scene. And you're just like, "What's going on?" And then, just smiling with everyone else.

Carter: We were having a ball because A), we never get to sit down in that room, and B), we never get to dress up. And also, all the aristocratic family, they were being the extras. They were pushed into the background, so we were given center stage. So, both as characters and as actors, we were having a good laugh that day.

Cassidy: Yeah, it was really good fun. But Carson's fabulously pompous, isn't he? I'm allowed to say that, aren't I?

Carter: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Cassidy: And we all love him for it. So, for him to do that — and then he really gets into it and says ... it's almost like we watch it as if it's really happening, because we're not used to that whole thing. So, I think you called him a cad and a blinder or a bounder or something like that. And we see that, and it's lovely. It's no acting required from Carson.

'She knows him, and she loves him. Makes me want to cry'

Raquel, why do you feel that Mr. Molesley is the only one for Phyllis? Because, at one point, you say if he doesn't get on his knees, then you'll never marry.

Cassidy: Yeah. She just loves him. She knows him, and she loves him. Makes me want to cry. He's just such a good human being. And he's been her savior, but they've also grown through the years. They've had this wonderful friendship. She did know love with Peter Coyle. But it wasn't a true love. It was a betray[al] and a horrible, horrible experience. And I think she thought that would never happen again. She didn't even expect it or even want it. But then she meets Mr. Molesley. And we all love him. We all love him. Even the Dowager says, "He's a great favorite." So, within the film and then without it in the world, I think he's very easy to love. And he happens to love her back, so how lucky can she be?

Carter: It's nice when we get those scenes, isn't it? Where you get the personal. Because, so often, we're on duty. There we were, sitting in the south of France, in the evening, with the crickets playing around. And I said, "Well, what happens if...?" And then you said, "Well, there is no one else." That was nice, yeah.

"Downton Abbey: A New Era" is on Digital now and hits 4K/Blu-ray/DVD on July 5, 2022.