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Downton Abbey Creator Julian Fellowes On Bringing On Gary Carr As First Black Character, The Soap Stigma & If There Will Be a Season Six!

Courtesy/IMDB

Courtesy/IMDB

On Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic Lady Rose (Lily James) brought jazz singer musician Jack Ross (Gary Carr) and his band to the party honoring Lord Gratham’s (Hugh Bonneville) on his birthday as a surprise for him!

‘Downton’ Creator Julian Fellowes thus introduced a black character on to the canvas, and in the shock for the times of the 1920’s England, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) finds Rose making out with Jack at the end of the episode!  And once again amidst the backdrop of the upstairs/downstairs drama of Downton Abbey social issues are brought to the forefront.

In a new interview with Huff Post Canada, ‘Downton’s’ Julian Fellowes discusses how he sees the Jack Ross character on the canvas,  why the label “soap operas” have a stigma in the US, while not so much in Europe,  and if there will be a sixth season of the hit series (the fifth season has already been announced)  Here are a few excerpts below!

Fellowes on the buzz at bringing on the character of Jack Ross (Gary Carr),  a jazz singer emulated after 20’s cabaret performer Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson:  “I can assure he’s not a token. Far from it, in fact. Gary Carr is a very interesting character. He’s very attractive young man, who is also a good actor. His story, in a sense, because I don’t want to give anything away for story’s sake, is that he’s not a loser; he’s a winner. That’s important to represent in art. So much of today’s black narratives are about slavery and oppression. I always say to young writers, “We must empower people; and not think of people as victims all the time. We need black heroes. We need black characters being high achievers doing well in fiction — because we’ve got them in real life doing absolutely fine!” There’s this tendency in fiction to make black stories sad. I’m not saying they should never be sad. I’m saying we should get the balance better. Every canvas needs black characters, but where their blackness is not part of the story. Make them teachers or cops; people just living their lives. That’s my big message this season.”

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

Fellowes on why in America the  soap genre has a stigma while not so in Europe:  “Yes, the term ‘soap opera’ is used pejoratively in America. I mean, all continuing dramas are soap operas. Dickens created the form, for sure. I can only speculate that your daytime dramas]aren’t based in much reality, whereas ours are in England. When our characters die, they die. And life goes on … I’ve avoided those distractions because the human mind and heart are complex and entertaining enough to explore.”

Fellowes on if there will be a sixth season of Downton Abbey, or not:  “I”m not sure. Unlike America, in England we have to wait until the season finishes airs before we receive a pick-up; we’re not renewed multiple years in advance. We never want to jinx anything. (Laughs) That’s good because it keeps everyone at the top of their game. If there is a sixth season, it may be our last. I’m about to start on a new U.S. drama called “The Gilded Age” for NBC Universal.  And the last thing I want is to juggle two shows.”

So what did you think about the introduction of Gary Carr as Jack Ross on Sunday’s Downton Abbey? Do you like Julian Fellowes statements on his plans for the character on the canvas?  And his thoughts on the soap genre? Do you think ‘Downton’ should go a sixth season? Weigh-in below!

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jimh(leave it to beaver)
jimh(leave it to beaver)

He’s a very interesting character…i enjoy the jazz too…our local jazz festival is very popular and well known, attracts thousands from all over the country…i think if our soaps were more like the British soaps and more grounded(no campiness, sci fi plots or horror situations unless its a serial made for it(like DS or E.O.N., and keep dead character’s dead) our soaps could be far more popular like they use to be…jmo!!!

Laurel Twist
Laurel Twist

Black folks don’t need anyone to empower us, Jesus has already done this, but we do need writers to show the continuum of who we are as people, just like all human beings. I thank Mr. Fellowes for seeing this, & more importantly, WRITING this.

Mitchell1660
Mitchell1660

Black folks need to empower themselves and stop relying on myths to do it.

Deb
Deb

If you stop at Series 6, then please make a 30 minute a week show out of Downton, but please continue the story with the same actors. This show is just to fabulous to stop and needs to continue for many more years in whatever format is possible. People love the show because it is a wonderful escape from the humdrum of daily life. It is fascinating watching wealthy people which is why Dallas, Dynasty, and Falcon Crest were so popular. Folks love to watch the wealthy and escape their daily lives. Thank you.

carol
carol

I love this show and wish it would go on for many more seasons. It’s unique and very entertaining. I will feel very sad if it has to end.

jacknojill
jacknojill

Wow! He hires “ONE” black actor is this silly make believe white only society and believes he’s doing a service to “HIS” society. Typical behavior from his kind.

Harlee
Harlee

I love this show! I can’t get enough and hope we get a sixth season….heck I rather continue Downton Abby than have NBC have their hands stirring the slop. NBC will want to Americanize a version of DA and it can’t be done. British soaps as Downton is so superior compared to US’s soaps….we (meaning Irna & P&G) started the genre, go figure. This man Julian is a hot property and major talent right now and I’m just afraid NBC won’t let him write his vision.

Shay
Shay

You totally nailed it on this subject, Harlee! If anyone needs an example as to how NBC will ruin the winning concept that Julian Fellowes has perfected, simply look to their recent handling of “Dracula.” It was a beautifully conceived and presented project, with some “Downton” links on the acting and production fronts, and yet in the hands of the Yanks it went down like a lead balloon in the ratings. It had a bad timeslot and was not given proper promotion….a shame too, because I immensely enjoyed the program and was hoping for a renewal, but that looks to be an extremely remote possibility at this point.

Kate A
Kate A

Where are the Hispanics, Asians , and all the many other races? Why is it only black people that seem to matter? I enjoy diversity in my television shows where appropriate. just wonder where the other races are?

jimh(leave it to beaver)
jimh(leave it to beaver)

I agree…i believe in diversity too!!!

Jeff
Jeff

Definitely do a sixth season! The best thing on tv right now(other than Homeland) IMO.

Shay
Shay

Definitely agree with Mr. Fellowes point of view….he is not a slave to political correctness, and really does strive for historical accuracy, often in the face of today’s popular clamouring for revisionism. Found Mr. Ross’s attitude to be refreshingly self-empowering and not of the usual grievance-based nature that we are so often subjected to in the States. Carr also offered some very effervescent musical performances, which were a delightful surprise to those of us who only knew him from his role in “Death in Paradise” prior to this series. That being said, I am not a fan of his secret amour, Rose. She is such a vulgar little guttersnipe…always pushing the envelope with one unsavory escapade after another…she is just plain tiresome and not at all attractive with her against the grain attitude. I realize she was supposed to replace Lady Sybil as the show’s rebel, but she has neither the depth nor integrity of Lord Grantham’s youngest daughter and as such, really misses the mark when it comes to adding the anti-status quo element that she was obviously slated to provide.

Breaking News

IT’S OFFICIAL: Downton Abbey The Movie To Go Into Production This Summer

The highly-anticipated and rumored revival of Downton Abbey to the big screen is on!  Production is slated to begin later this summer.

From what we understand, all of the original cast is set to reprise their signature roles in the motion picture, written by series creator Julian Fellowes.

Fellowes will also serve as the executive producer along with other ‘Downton’ notables behind the scenes: Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge, and Nigel Marchant. Brian Percival is set to direct.  Percival also directed the pilot episode of the critically-acclaimed and beloved period soap opera series.

In a statement, Gareth Neame expressed: “When the television series drew to a close it was our dream to bring the millions of global fans a movie and now, after getting many stars aligned, we are shortly to go into production.  Julian’s script charms, thrills and entertains and in Brian Percival’s hands we aim to deliver everything that one would hope for as Downton comes to the big screen.”

Focus Features chairman, Peter Kujawski, shared: “Since the series ended, fans of Downton have long been waiting for the Crawley family’s next chapter. We’re thrilled to join this incredible group of filmmakers, actors and craftspeople, led by Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame, in bringing back the world of Downton to the big screen.”

Downton Abbey ran for six seasons on PBS  and received 15 Primetime Emmy awards and 69 nominations.

Actress Joanne Froggatt, who plays maid Anna Bates, took to Twitter with much enthusiasm at the news: “Delighted to announce we’re getting the band back together! #DowntonMovie #DowntonAbbey”

So, thrilled to hear the Downton Abbey movie is happening? Comment below.

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Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey Movie Project Moving Forward; Projected For Production In 2018

Courtesy/PBS

It looks like all of those earlier reports months ago about a production being put together for Downton Abbey: The Movie, may finally becoming to fruition. Numerous items detail that motion picture project is moving forward with production slated for sometime next year.

Michael Edelstein, president at NBCUniversal International Studios, told the AP: “We are working on getting the script right and then we’ve got to figure out how to get the (cast) together. Because as you know, people go on and do other things. But we’re hopeful to make a movie sometime next year.”

Currently, the cast and writer Julian Fellowes have been on hand at the Downton Abbey exhibition which debuted in Singapore. However, some notable members of the company seemed surprised by the news including Laura Carmichael (Edith): “Well, tell my agent, because we’re still waiting to know. We’re hoping that will happen soon.”

Variety reports that an NBCUniversal spokesman confirmed the studio hopes to put the movie into production in 2018.

The Downton Abbey exhibition however, is set to travel to the United States and Australia with dates to be announced. (more…)

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Downton Abbey

SAG AWARD NOMINATIONS: Downton Abbey Scores Drama Series Ensemble Nod; This Is Us Star Sterling K. Brown Tapped For Two!

Courtesy/ITV

Nominations were announced this morning for the 23rd Annual SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards for performances in motion pictures and television.

The awards ill be handed out Sunday, January 29th at the Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles. The ceremony will air live at 8/7c (5 p.m./PT) on both TBS and TNT.

For its sixth and final season, the British period soap, Downton Abbey once again made the finals in the Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama.  They will go up against, The Crown, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things and Westworld.  On the snub side: the widely acclaimed and highly-rated This Is Us failed to score a nomination in the category.

In addition, this is the first time that Dame Maggie Smith did not wind up with a Lead Actress in a Drama Series nomination for her performance as the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey. (more…)

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