PBS’ Downton Abbey kicked off the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour on Saturday evening with a spirited panel and a juicy preview of Season 3 (premiering Jan. 6 in the U.S). Here are six things we learned about Downton‘s return, including who’s on the outs and who’s hurting for cash.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’ | A rather revealing trailer – which was met with excitement and audible gasps by the assembled press – proved that the Season 2 finale’s respite of happiness will be short-lived. Major financial woes will plague the Earl of Grantham and his family – Maggie Smith’s Countess remarks that an aristocrat with no money is as useful as a glass hammer – while Mary and Matthew are in the midst of wedding planning. But will the big celebration actually take place? The two are already arguing. Elsewhere, a new footman enters the downstairs world and former chauffeur Branson (now the husband of Lady Sybil) elicits some strong reactions at a family dinner. Plus, one of his old cohorts doesn’t want to dress him!
A WHOLE NEW WORLD | “This season is about the recovery from the war,” previewed creator Julian Fellowes. “There were those few years where people were trying to decide [if] the world was going to go back? Is it going to be the same as it was before? Was the future going to be completely different? That’s the theme of the [season].”
CORA THE EXPLORER | One person on the grand estate is more prepared for the changing world coming in Season 3 than any other. The introduction of Cora’s mother, Martha (played by Shirley MacLaine), “reminds us that Cora’s upbringing was not the same as Robert’s,” explained Fellowes. “Cora is less afraid of the future than Robert is. She’s much less afraid of change. She’s less afraid of expressing that. … If anyone understands the world that’s coming, it’s Cora.”
GREAT DAMES | MacLaine admitted that she was not a fan of the show before she was cast. But she overhead the hairdressers at her Malibu salon chatting away about it and went to them for scoop on Martha. Joining the series “was an extraordinary experience for me in stamina and work ethic,” she said, recalling long shoots in the rain and wind while wearing her formal attire. As for whether she and Dame Maggie Smith – whose characters went head-to-head with pointed barbs in the sneak peek – knew each other before the show, the actress joked, “We were lovers in another life.”
WELCOME TO AMERICA | Now that Mary’s decided to brave it out in England, the show will not be traveling across the pond. Instead, “we have chosen the other route and brought America to us [with MacLaine's character],” said Fellowes.
SEE YOU NEXT DECADE? | Don’t look for Downton to jump to the 1930s anytime soon. Fellowes intends to continue “moving pretty slowly through the 1920s” because he finds the transitional period “very interesting.” For one, it allows him to explore major events of the time such as “the impact on this family [by] the Irish problems.” So where will it all wrap up? “We could end with the Wall Street crash and have Robert playing the ukelele,” joked the creator.