“Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes readily admits during our recent webcam chat (watch above) to being a sentimental softie at heart. He was determined to give as many of his characters a happy ending as possible when the PBS period drama signed off after six seasons earlier this year. “I talked with (executive producers) Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge about the stories. Some of the route was left unplanned so that things could change as I wrote the episodes but most of it was mapped out.”
Fellowes has written every episode of this acclaimed series that followed the wealthy Crawley family and their servants throughout the early 20th century. It began in the dark days leading up to World War I and ended with the joyous Jazz age. Major events were told through the stories of those who lived both upstairs and downstairs.
He reveals that the inspiration for “Downton Abbey” was the similarly-themed “Gosford Park” for which he won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2001. “Gareth Neame asked me if I would consider going back into this territory for television. I wasn’t all that keen as I thought people would see it as asking for a second helping of the same piece of pie.” He decided to shift the time frame back two decades to 1912 as the film reflected the end of that way of life for the aristocracy. “And I think ‘Downton’ is warmer than ‘Gosford,’ we like the people more as they are kinder and decent.”
Fellowes, who created “Downton Abbey” as a one-off for ITV, won Best Movie/Mini Writing at the 2011 Emmys. Since the return of the show for a second season in 2012, he has contended every year for Best Drama Series and twice for writing. This year, he has submitted the penultimate episode for Emmy consideration, in which Mary (Michelle Dockery) sabotages her sister Edith (Laura Carmichael) who has found love at last.
In England, this was a cliffhanger, airing seven weeks before the finale was broadcast on Christmas day. As he explains his choice, “I am guided by Gareth. It has a mixture of tears and laughter.” However, he readily concedes that he was among those who wanted Edith to find happiness in the final episode. “I felt that she and we had earned it. We’d been up hill and down dale with her, using up a box of kleenex.”
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