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Why Phyllis Logan is ‘carrying on the Downton tradition’ with The Good Karma Hospital

The Good Karma Hospital, phyllis logan
(Image credit: Chris Burgess)

Phyllis Logan gives us the lowdown on her new Sunday-night drama and reveals why she’d love to play Mrs Hughes one last time

When Phyllis Logan approaches us on the set of The Good Karma Hospital in Sri Lanka, TV Times does a double-take.

Last seen on our screens as Downton Abbey’s prim-and-proper housekeeper, the 61-year-old actress is barely recognisable in brightly coloured clothes, hair long and free flowing, and a beaming smile seldom seen on the stoical Mrs Hughes.

In ITV’s India-set drama The Good Karma Hospital, Phyllis plays an adventurous mum from Stourbridge, Maggie Smart, who has decided to extend her holiday in Kerala following her daughter’s wedding. But after breaking the news to her husband Paul (played by Poirot’s Philip Jackson), will Maggie end up staying in India?

You look very different from Mrs Hughes, Phyllis… “I know! I’m so pleased my character gets to wear nice, modern frocks. Mrs Hughes’s wig wasn’t exactly the most flattering either! Maggie is certainly a bit more upbeat, too…”

Especially considering she has a brain tumour! “Yes, but Maggie doesn’t feel sorry for herself, which is what I love about her. I actually find her story quite uplifting because she’s not just lying down to die. She gets on with living each day like it’s her last, but it is a bit tough on her husband, Paul.”

Will Maggie stay in India or go back home to Stourbridge? “She was thinking about going home after the wedding, but has had a change of heart. Maggie is blown away by India, and has embraced the culture, the people and the sunshine. She’s desperate to be a part of it all, while her husband just wants to go back to Stourbridge, mad fool that he is! In fact, he’s a bit like Downton’s Mr Carson, so he often needs a good kick up the old what’s-it!”

She drags her husband along to Holi festival in this week’s episode, how were those scenes to film? “It was pretty manic! There were elephants all dressed up, carnival floats, music and hundreds of supporting artists. Also, colourful powder was thrown all over the set and the crew were walking around with lime-green necks for about a week!”

What appealed to you about The Good Karma Hospital? “The fact that it’s filmed in Sri Lanka is a big pull, of course, but I thought it would be nice to carry on the Downton tradition by starring in a Sunday-night drama yet in something completely different. I’m also good friends with Philip [Jackson], who I met through my husband [Pirates of the Caribbean star Kevin McNally] a long time ago. When I found out he was lined up for the show, we called each other and said: ‘I’ll do it if you will!’ If anyone could ever take the place of Jim Carter [Downton’s Mr Carson], I suppose Phil will do.”

Have you been offered many Mrs Hughes-type roles since Downton ended? “Yes, a lot of period dramas, but I don’t want to be in a corset any more, not for a while anyway. However, there is potential for a Downton film and of course I’d be up for that. We were all in bits when the series ended, but we hope that wasn’t a final goodbye. It would be nice to get everyone back together again for one last hurrah. Imagine what a hoot that would be!”

The Good Karma Hospital continues on ITV on Sunday at 9pm