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Sophie McShera & Michael Fox Interview: Downton Abbey

Fans were gifted with another glimpse of their favorite characters in the recent Downton Abbey film, which was a hit for Focus Features. With the Blu-ray now available, another visit to the dignified manor is in order. But viewers don’t just go for the high-class drama and fine dining, they’re also deeply drawn to the downstairs lives of the servants in the house. Sophie McShera and Michael Fox, who play housemaid Daisy and footman Andy, explained to Screen Rant just why they hold such a special place in fans’ hearts.

Guys, first and foremost, congratulations on the film. Amazing job. Unlike my colleagues, I saw the movie first before the show. The movie brilliantly introduces you to everybody, and you understand everybody’s motivations, so great job on that front. After knowing that the series was going to become a film, what were your initial reactions?

Michael Fox: Well, excited to be doing it and that it’s not done. The Downton journey isn’t over. But also like question marks over that. Can we do it right? Can we justify the reasons to go to the big screen? Will people see it? Will people want to come out from their front rooms, where they normally enjoy it, and take a trip to the cinema? But then also, is it going to be a love letter to the fans like you want it to be. But also, for people who haven’t seen the series, will it work as a standalone film? So there are lots of things.

Sophie McShera: It’s so cool. We didn’t really expect that. I just thought it would be all the fans that already watched it, so it was really nice.

The interesting thing for me, is that I really identified so much with the servant class that I got super involved in each and every character. Why do you think people are so emotionally invested in these characters?

Sophie McShera: I think if you’re a regular person watching the show, that’s your way in. Because it’s so otherworldly, this life, and your way in is probably through the servants, isn’t it? Into this world. And I think you feel for all the characters, and you’re invested in them all, but that’s your sort of initial gateway.

Michael Fox: I think also what you enjoy is that you see the backstage downstairs, and then you’re also seeing a character refresh upstairs. You’re watching them put on the conformities that you have to at that time. And then you see them kind of drop it all and gossip about what’s happened, so you kind of get a bit more of the gossip and the scandal downstairs. It feels a bit more human, because you’re not always perfectly held.

That’s a great point. Andy kind of goes through his bouts of jealousy in this film; there’s a plumber that kind of gets involved. Talk to me about how Andy views the plumber, and how ultimately that works for him or against him with his bouts of jealousy?

Michael Fox: Well, it’s funny because I was excited that that part of his character was being shown, because he’s normally so subservient and respectful. And when he sees that he might be losing Daisy potentially, he acts out. And yeah, it’s foolish, and the repercussions are probably a little too large or potentially could be too huge. He wasn’t anticipating that. but I love the fact that that’s the thing that brings Daisy back to him.

Because Daisy is the one who’s pushing the boundaries of the house and of the job and of the time. Once he’s on that train, his career is potentially going to be on the way to Carson, and he’s happy with that. So, I love the fact that it’s Daisy, at that time, who’s telling him to shake off the constraints and the expectations and to be more ambitious. I think that’s really brilliant of Julian’s writing.

Sophie, there’s a fun dynamic between Andy and Daisy, and I love the character so much. Can you talk to me a little bit about what she sees in Andy ultimately?

Sophie McShera: He’s so lovely. I think, at first, it was just that he’s so kind and good and all those things that you were saying that you didn’t love about him. I think she was at that time in her life to meet someone like him because, you won’t know this, but she’s had a few other footman along the way and it hasn’t worked out. I think she’s incredibly ambitious, and she gets that sort of itchy feet thing of like, „Oh, is this what I want? He’s really nice, but what’s what’s going to be our future?“

I guess she sees it more of from the point of view of how she’s quite anti this royal visit and thinks it’s ridiculous, and he’s doing this kind of like rock and roll thing and… ruining the royal visit. More than it being this jealous act, I think she sees it as, „Oh, that was quite cool.“ It is quite fun that they get back together.

Speaking of the future, are there wedding bells in the plans in a possible sequel if there is one? Would you like to see it go in that direction, or where would you like to see your characters go?

Michael Fox: Well, it never runs smoothly with Julian, we know that.

Sophie McShera: We don’t want to be too happy, because then we don’t have a story left.

Michael Fox: Something needs to go awry, but I would like it to go down that route. It’s such a gem with this film, that we got the story that we did with so many characters and actors. We had a really lovely storyline we could hold onto, and if we get to pursue that further with them, I think that would be amazing. I personally think Andy would be wanting kids and a wedding.

Sophie McShera: But Daisy’s got a lot to do. I don’t think she’ll be happy if we just get married. She’s got still got her eye on –

Michael Fox: Well, Andy could just be like the stay-at-home dad on the farm.

Sophie McShera: With Mr. Mason in the pig.

Michael Fox: Yeah, it’d be fine.

Longtime fans have been following your journey throughout. After being initially cast and reading what your characters were, did you expect to go where your characters ultimately ended up going?

Sophie McShera: Not for me, because we didn’t know how long it would go. My character then is completely different to my character now. And that’s amazing. But that’s the joy of doing something for six years, because you’ve got to grow up and you’ve got to change, and you’re going to be different how you were in the beginning. And that is so unusual, in our job, to get to do that over a big long stretch.

Michael Fox: Well, I didn’t know that my character was illiterate until halfway through the series Yeah. So, there’s things like that that kind of Sideswipe you a bit. But that’s the joy of it, every time you open the script, anything can happen. He’s so good at that.

Sophie McShera: Yeah, he only ever has a few scripts. You would never even know the full series.

Michael Fox: Apparently, he watches as the series goes on. He’s watching and seeing what you’re doing, and then changing it. So, he obviously saw something in me.

Downton Abbey is now available on Digital and Blu-ray.

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