How 'Belgravia''s Julian Fellowes wound up writing

Luaine Lee, Tribune News Service on

Published in Entertainment News

PASADENA, Calif. -- Julian Fellowes was an actor for 30 years. Then, by some quixotic trick of fate, his life changed overnight. There was no planning to it, he says. But he became one of England's most famous screenwriters when his "Downton Abbey" hit the telly and viewers couldn't get enough of it.

On Sunday he'll do it again, as his "Belgravia" arrives on Epix. The six-part series takes place in the 19th century amid the glitterati of the era assembled in London's upscale neighborhood of Belgravia which is, of course, filled with secrets and scandals.

Ever since drama school, acting served as Fellowes' metier. "I was a very hard worker at getting work," he recalls.

"I had a rule that I never let a 24-hour period go by without doing something to make work happen -- either an interview, writing a letter, making a telephone call, going to a show so I was there on the first night -- whatever it was," he says.

"And I kept that up for 10 years and did get work. It worked. Now looking back, I think I was a bit too desperate. I think I should've calmed down. And when people ask what would you tell your own 25-year-old self? I always say, 'Calm down,' because I was pushing and pushing and pushing. Nevertheless I did get work," he nods.

"Then I got married in 1990 and I don't know whether that made me less desperate, but that calmed me down, and I was very happy. And a year later, I was a father and suddenly the work side of it started to take off."


It did take off with roles in "Tomorrow Never Dies," "Shadowlands" and "Aristocrats." But acting proved unpredictable, and Fellowes says he was looking for a Plan B.

"I thought I would become a producer, and I set up ... at the BBC a children's drama. And then we just needed some work on the script, and we'd spent all the money, so we had to find someone to do the work on the script for nothing. And, not surprisingly, nobody wanted this enticing job. And so I ended up stepping in and doing it myself," says Fellowes.

He was surprised when the kiddie show was successful, and followed it with an adaptation of "Little Lord Fauntleroy," which earned an International Emmy in New York.

"And then I was a writer. So it all happened with no planning at all," he says.


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