Downton Abbey returns for a Christmas special - find out what you can expect...
The final episode of Downton Abbey looks set to be the period drama's most exciting yet. For starters, actress Patricia Hodge is making a guest appearance in the Christmas day special as Bertie Pelham's mother.
After much speculation actress Lily James has revealed that her character, Lady Rose WILL also be returning to the show for its final farewell. The youngest and liveliest cousin of the Crawley clan has been absent from series 6 since marrying handsome Atticus Aldridge - except for a string of letters detailing the young couples 'hectic' lifestyle in New York.
But fans who were following the unfolding romance will be pleased to hear that Rose and Atticus are set to make a grand return. And if pregnancy hints dropped by Lady Mary in a recent episode are to be believed, they might not be alone...
On returning from her honeymoon, newly married Mary endeavours to build bridges with her sister, while Edith's secret continues to pose a threat. Henry settles into the role of husband and stepfather effortlessly, but cracks begin to appear as he attempts to find his feet at the Abbey.
Below stairs, Carson also faces some personal challenges, which prove that even he is not invulnerable to change.
Grand new locations have been woven into the final jaunt with scenes shot in the iconic dining rooms of the Ritz London and Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.
We can't wait to join the family and servants as they welcome 1926 in style and celebrate an unforgettable New Year's Eve together at the great house. Tissues at the ready!
Keep reading for more insider secrets from Downton Abbey's production team...
The Executive Producer
Liz Trubridge lives in London with her two sons. She has worked on Downton Abbey since the first series. When we launched Downton, it was the first big costume drama that had been on ITV for around 30 years. Episode one was well received, the second one more so, and I thought, "Ooh!" But the success of it really hit me at the Emmy Awards during series three, seeing a screaming mob of people for Jim Carter (Carson the butler). One of my favourite moments was when Shirley Maclaine joined the cast. She did the most astonishingly lovely thing of curtsying to Maggie Smith. But there's also that unbeatable feeling when a performance really comes together. In series two, it was the Christmas special, when Matthew Crawley had just hit Sir Richard Carlisle, who had been the nasty beau of Mary Crawley.. He picked himself up off the floor, dusted himself down and said to Violet Crawley (played by Maggie Smith), "We may not meet again." She has this line, "Do you promise?" and the way she delivered it had everybody on the floor. We were convinced it was going to be a jem of a moment - and it was! For the past sox years, for six months of the year, I've spent almost every waking moment with the cast and crew, and we've become a real family. The death of Sybil was an astonishing scene, which we were all deeply effected by, but its those moments that have created that bond. There have been problems along the way too, everything from flooded locations to recurring "hatgate." Do they keep their hats on or take them off and, if they do, where do they put them? But I've learned rather than to just react to everything, to take a pause - often, things will sort themselves out. Leaving Downton behind, I feel a mixture of sadness, relief, and immense pride at what's been achieved. But we've all still got some steam left in us and we're very excited about the idea of doing a Downton film. Plus, I've got something else in development with (Downton creator) Julian Fellowes, so watch this space!
The Second Assistant Camera
Joanne Smith lives with her partner in London. She has worked on Downton Abbey since series two. When I used to tell friends and family what shows I was working on, the reaction was, "Ok great" - then Downton came along and it was "My ran in Australia watche it!" and "My parents in Boston watch it!" I knew it was a special show. Not long after starting, a photo of me with the clapperboard alongside Hugh Bonneville appeared in a local newspaper. It was a surreal moment. Later on, Hugh's son, who's now 13, came on set to watch us film and I taught him how to use the clapperboard. That was really special. As the second assistant camera, my role involves loading the film stock, crawling round on the floor putting marks down, so the actors know where to stand, and operating the clapperboard for each take. I'll never forget the moment I did a focus pull for the first time, where you make sure an actor is as sharp as possible on screen. It was with Maggie Smith, and I was thinking , "It's not Maggie! You've got to get this right!" Filming the trenches during series two was just as incredible. When an explosion went off, I had to press a trigger at exactly the right moment, which made the camera jerk form side to side and make it all look more real. I felt I'd really made an impact that day. If Downton's taught me anything, it's to work hard. But also to step back and look at what you're doing - and just appreciate it.
The Second Assistant Director
Danielle Bennett is single and lives in London. She has worked on Downton Abbey since the first series. I'm in charge of making sure the actors are in the right place at the right time, and I'm the first port of call if they have a problem. If I didn't know how to cope in a crisis before, I certainly do now! I can't count the number of times I've thought, "I don't know how we're going to pull this off." One of those times was when we had Mary Crawley's wedding in series three. Everything had to run like clockwork. And when it all came together and I saw Michelle (Dockery) in an incredible wedding gown, I just stood back thinning, "It's amazing to be a part of this." Most of the actors are very different from their characters - apart form Lesley Nichol, who plays Mrs Patmore! I always get a big morning hug from her. I've had so many "pinch yourself" moments, particularly when we've won an award. The Downton experience has been like no other - and it will stay with me forever.
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