“It was a surprise. I didn’t know how it was going to wrap up for Edith until halfway through the final season,” reflects Laura Carmichael as we chat via webcam (watch above) about the happy ending for her character on the PBS period drama “Downton Abbey.” As she explains, “There had been hints but I had no idea of the fanfare that there would be. I could never have predicted it.”
Indeed, in the penultimate episode Edith’s sister Mary (Michelle Dockery) sabotages her engagement. In England, this episode had been a cliffhanger, airing seven weeks before the finale was broadcast. As Carmichael recalls, “there was an expectation that Julian wouldn’t leave people heartbroken on Christmas day but that was the episode where Matthew (Dan Stevens) died in a car crash.”
When the series began, Edith was the neglected middle daughter, largely ignored by the rest of the aristocratic Crawley clan. The actress embraced her transformation over six seasons into a single mother who worked as the editor of a magazine. “I think what people ended up loving about Edith was her strength, her ability to power on.
With the increased size and scope of her storyline, Carmichael is being submitted in the lead category at the Emmys for the first time. However, she is typically English about this attention, demurring at the mention that her character became the focal point for the final episodes of this acclaimed series. Rather, she prefers to focus on the ensemble nature of the show, and recalls with affection the hours spent listening to the stories of veteran actresses Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton.
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