Michael Engler Q&A: ‘Downton Abbey’ director
“You definitely feel the weight of a legacy upon you,” admits Michael Engler during our recent webcam chat (watch above) asked his helming of the series finale of “Downton Abbey.” Engler, a two-time Emmy nominee for his work on “Sex and the City” and “30 Rock,” had previously directed three episodes of this PBS series about an aristocratic family and their servants in 1920s England, and felt honored to wrap things up. “There was such a thorough approach to how it would go out,” he continues, “and everybody had such strong feelings about it, that at the very least, I knew by the end it wouldn’t be unconsidered.”
Engler first came aboard the show in its fifth season, and was surprised to find himself assigned to such a significant episode. “Because I was a little bit of a wild card at first in coming in there as an outsider,” he says, “I think maybe there was a little bit of a sense that I wouldn’t allow it to be sleepwalked through.” He quickly clarifies, “It’s not that I think any other director who worked on that show would’ve done that, but I think there was a sense that maybe I brought an outsider’s eye to it, and sometimes, especially that far along in a series, that can be a good thing.”
The director took us inside the set, from planning to production, revealing, “There was a real sense of poignancy about it. People were very aware of what an exceptional opportunity it had been, and moment in their lives, whether they were the very youngest actors to the most experienced actors, and everything in between. They knew by the end of it especially that the likes of this would never come again.”
Engler recently picked up a DGA nomination for his work on the “Downton Abbey” finale. Will an Emmy be next?