How does it feel to be so close to the end of the show now?
"I can’t actually believe I’m talking to you about the final episode. It’s strange because mentally the cast has had a lot of time to prepare for this moment. We all made the decision a year ago that this would be our last season, so we psyched ourselves up for it. But I don’t think the reality that Downton’s over will really hit me until the final credits roll."
So can you tell us what might be the future for the house?
"I’m not able to say, but anyone who’s watched regularly will have seen a slow disintegration of their way of life. There’s a dawning on everybody individually that they’re looking at the end. It’s been built into the show that time takes its toll. The great march of history is leaving them behind. You’ll have to watch to see what that means for them."
Will Mary finally be happy in love?
"Anything’s possible! All I’ll say is there’s never a dull moment in Mary’s life. Cora’s much less wound up about them getting married now. As a mother she’s more interested in them finding their independence and following their destinies, which is admirable."
Was it hard to film the memorable scene a few weeks ago where Robert had a burst ulcer?
"I’d say! They had some back-up tablecloths but you couldn’t have a back-up of Cora’s dress! Of course she’s worried about the state of Robert's health and in the final episode she’s still concerned that he’s doing too much."
Cora and Violet have gone head-to-head over the hospital this series, have you enjoyed that?
"Filming those scenes with Maggie Smith has been great fun. If you have to go to war you may as well do it with a challenging opponent! There’s more of the story to come so I can’t say she forgives me quite yet."
What can you tease for Christmas?
"I don’t want to spoil things, but what I can say is that by the end of the Christmas episode the audience will feel they’ve had a chance to say goodbye to their favourite character. You get to have a moment with each and feel you know something about where their path is taking them."
Will there be a Downton film?
"I don’t know if it’ll happen, I’ve just heard the rumour, like you. I’d certainly read the script if there was one. Would I do it? It would depend on how good the idea is."
Will you miss Cora?
"I think it’s time to put Cora to bed and do other things. It’s been a great job but it’s time to move on."
But was it sad on your final day?
"There were waves of tears, from people you didn’t expect. The atmosphere on set is usually jokey, but the end-of-an-era feeling hit us as we realised it was the last day filming at Highclere, or the last ever dinner party. The wrap party was bittersweet, but mostly we celebrated. Downton’s been a wonderful gig to be part of."
The Downton Abbey series finale screens on ITV on Sunday, November 8 at 9pm
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