Q: Moving to “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” what did you learn from making the first “Downton Abbey” movie that you were able to apply to this sequel?
A: I don’t know, really. We were nervous with the first film because you never know when you take something and turn it into a different medium. You take a TV show, turn it into a film; you take a film, turn it into a play; you take a film and turn it into a ballet — whatever it is, there’s always a fear that that won’t work, that transition, And sometimes it doesn’t, so it’s not a fear based on nothing. We’ve all seen moments where it didn’t quite work. And so when we realized there was an audience for “Downton” in film form, that was a very happy moment
I enjoyed (making it). I enjoyed this one. It’s funny to be working on something for so long. … It’s extraordinary that here we still are, calling each other by the same names and going on with the same story. It’s been extraordinary.
Q: With both movies, you have many characters to juggle, and I’m wondering about trying to find that sweet spot where you give everyone at least a little something. How difficult is that for you, the writer?
A: I think if you choose this form, this kind of multi-narrative, multi-arc story, some of the arcs are the main stories, so they have people with lots to do. And some of them are much more modest stories, and there are really two or three scenes. Nevertheless, I think you’re absolutely correct that the difference between a film and television is that in television, (a character) can have a decent story once every three or four episodes, and the other episodes, you’re just there sort of peeling the sprouts and getting on with it. And that’s fine. And the actors know that in an episode or two, they’ll be given something else. That isn’t fine in a film; everyone in the film has got to have a reason for being there — they’ve got to have their story. And so that is what you’re trying to do.
I think all jobs have difficult areas that you have to deal with … so I don’t feel we have to be particularly sorry for screenwriters because they are faced with this challenge. And I think that is the challenge of screenwriters and particularly when you’re working with so large a cast. I hope, you know, we brought it off. I can’t really say more than that, but I think the actors are quite happy, so I think perhaps we did.
Q: I have my guesses, but are there two or three characters whom you’ve always enjoyed writing for the most?
A: I never normally answer this because I love them all — I made them all. And honestly, we have gone uphill and down dale so many times with all of them by this stage — I’ve cried at their woes and given birth to their babies.
Of course, there’s fun when you write a line that could be funny … if the actor can get the laugh. And that is always a source of relief when you’re sitting in the cinema and they do get the laugh and you think, “Oh great!” Sometimes they make it work better than you thought.
Q: Lastly, I assume if it’s up to you, we won’t have seen the last of the family Crawley?
A: I don’t know. I never know the answer to this. although as you can imagine, I get asked a lot. Well, I keep thinking it’s probably the end, and I like to write it (in a way allowing) that if it is the end, that’s OK. But if they want more, then I’m sure we’d be delighted to give it to them.
So, you know, that’s not really an answer. Anyway, that’s the best I can give.
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