Despite his best efforts, Julian Fellowes can’t seem to escape the Crawley family and their antics.
Maybe it’s because Fellowes is the executive producer and creator of Downton Abbey, the hit television series which ran for six seasons and a spin-off film, focusing on the life and legacy of declining gentry in rural Yorkshire. This, of course, includes a lot of drama, betrayal and lies; think The Kardashians with British accents and a lot less spray tan.
Despite many storylines resolved in the self-titled 2019 film adaptation, Fellowes and the Crawley family are back with Downton Abbey: A New Era slated for a theatrical release this week.
Fellowes spoke with All things Considered on what awaits us in this new chapter, the relativity of aristocrats in our modern age and the excess of misery in modern media.
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images
Just wanting people to watch his movies and have fun
Yes – cry a little, laugh a little. Sometimes you hope you’ve somehow provoked a reasonably interesting thought that they’ll consider later when they’re, you know, sitting in traffic waiting for the light to change. I mean, I think an important part of the entertainment industry is to entertain. I’m not really trying to provoke the French Revolution. You know, I just like to make people think, maybe change their attitude.
Telling the story of a privileged white family for a modern audience
I mean, we’re looking at a certain way of life. These are a select few. It involves more disadvantaged people. In my own head, among the minions, you get the different types. You get those who are resentful and unhappy like O’Brien. You get those who adore family and revere them and see them as their soap opera like Carson. You get those for whom it was a job, who I’m sure were in the vast majority, like Mrs. Hughes. And I think that’s a pretty accurate reflection of that society.
I think at the end of the day, you know, when you’re going to do any movie, any TV show and write a book, what you’re trying to do is tell a reasonably truthful story on a group of people. I mean, this modern thing, this current thing that nothing is worthwhile that isn’t about misery — I don’t agree with that. I think misery is fine for investigating and dramatizing and all that, but I don’t think it’s required.
On the longevity of Downton Abbey franchise
I won’t go on forever. So I think there would be a real difficulty in making Downton last indefinitely. Whether it’s over or not, I can’t tell you.
One of the other things is that over the lifetime of Downton, the whole nature of showbiz, how you make movies, how they’re released, the platforms – it’s all different than what it was 15 years ago – I mean, quite different. Now, of course, people complain about it in a way. But I also think it constantly creates new opportunities, new chances, new ways of doing things. And, you know, I like that. I think it’s interesting. And I love being part of it. So if Downtown is to be reborn in a different shape or size, so, you know, I hope to be a part of that.
This interview was produced for radio by Mallory Yu and edited by Sarah Handel. It was adapted for the web by Manuela Lopez Restrepo.