Jim Carter still serving 'Downton Abbey' in its last season

NEW YORK -- In the grand domain of splendid characters at Downton Abbey, Mr. Carson is perhaps the first among equals.

See Full Article

Among the superb cast of "Downton Abbey," a similarly towering figure is Jim Carter, who plays him.

After all, this is the saga of a noble estate and those who populate it during Britain's post-Edwardian era, and Mr. Carson, as its butler, is the one who makes that house run. He bridges the gap between the upstairs elite and the servants bustling downstairs. His word, putting forward the policies and whims of the aristocratic Crawley clan, is law for those in his charge.

Bringing him to life is an actor who makes Carson's crustiness heroic, his unwavering sense of duty lovable to the viewer.

With "Downton" returning for its sixth and final season (Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on PBS), Mr. Carson's humanness will be exposed more than ever as his torturously arm's-length courtship of head housekeeper Mrs. Hughes (played by Phyllis Logan) finally blossoms.

"It was the slowest-burning romance of all times," says Carter with a laugh. "But the audience seemed to want it to happen -- as did we."

What happens, including an unlikely interlude in this first episode "which hopefully will melt hearts across the country," is only one among many resolutions as the series comes in for a landing in the mid-1920s. What will be the fate of the financially distressed Downton Abbey estate, presided over by Lord and Lady Crawley (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) with a less and less sure hand? Will their daughter, headstrong Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), deign to say yes to her latest suitor? Will the sad-sack valet Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) and his wife, lady's maid Anna (Joanne Froggatt), see their dream of parenthood cruelly denied?

Viewers have awaited these and other answers from a costume drama that, since its U.S. debut five years ago, has reigned as a lavish and literate phenomenon.

For the British-born Carter, 67, the road to "Downton" began long ago when he dropped out of law studies at the University of Sussex and joined a fringe theatre troupe he equates with "a door to the promised land."

Stage, film and TV jobs followed in a career that has kept him busy and happy, enjoying the process of playing each role free from worry over how the finished product might fare with critics or the public.

"I have no ambitions in the acting world," he explains. "I just need to get out of the house and work and be with people."

After auditioning for Mr. Carson, he thought that piece of acting work would be nice to land, "and I came away thinking, 'I should be very cross if I don't get it."'

One thing he particularly liked was how Carson's starchiness and pomp had a humorous edge.

Julian Fellowes, who created "Downton Abbey" and wrote every episode, "knows it's funny," notes Carter, "when my character says things like, 'A MAID in the DINING ROOM with a DUKE?! Over my dead body!' And I relish playing those moments."

But even just opening the door to the dining room and intoning, "Dinner is served, my lady," Carter (like the actor who plays him) cuts an imposing figure. Here is a big man with a broad, expressive face and, maybe most pronounced of all, That Voice: rolling, stentorian, a treat for anyone who's in earshot.

"I can't sing, can't carry a tune," Carter says when asked about his golden throat, but allows, "my voice is strong." And as soothing as it is authoritative: "Friends used to hand me their crying baby to hold and I'd just hum. The vibration through my chest would put it to sleep."

His presence, and the voice that issues forth when he speaks, has made Carter recognized by "Downton" fans around the world.

He somehow had escaped notice on a brief stroll from his mid-Manhattan hotel down to Herald Square. "But in Boston the other day, 30 times I was approached," he reports. "Nashville, Tennessee. Cambodia. Ghana. After 45 years of acting, 'Downton' is an unsought bonus, because I've never worked for money or celebrity."

This "gypsy caravan" approach to his career saved him from dwelling on his imminent departure from "Downton," even while shooting a final scene with a swell of co-stars in the downstairs hall where servants take their meals.

"When we wrapped, the other actors were getting weepy, and I thought, 'C'mon!' But then the producers came out and thanked them, and I thought, 'We've got to thank the crew, too, because they've been with us every inch of the way.' So I said, 'Guys, all your hard work, your artistry --' And suddenly I couldn't speak. I began to weep along with the other actors and all these big tattooed guys on the crew with tears pouring down their faces."

"I genuinely hadn't anticipated that," Carter marvels thoughtfully.

But before this final season is done, "Downton" fans should expect a few tears, too.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Canadian screen industry to 'move speedily' on drafting new code of conduct

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Groups representing Canada's screen and stage talent say they feel a sense of "urgency" in implementing a new collective approach to end sexual harassment, but they also want to get it right. Representatives from 16 organizations -- including the actors' union ACTRA, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, and the Director's Guild of Canada (DGC) -- gathered with a moderator and a few lawyers Thursday in a five-hour, closed-door meeting in Toronto to discuss sexual harassment,…
  • Trump supporters confuse LaVar Ball with LeVar Burton; tweet hate at Star Trek actor

    Entertainment CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump is feuding with LaVar Ball and LeVar Burton is taking the hit on Twitter.UCLA suspends LiAngelo Ball, 2 teammates indefinitely for shopliftingThere's Hamilton, the hit musical and Hamilton, the city. Angry social media users confuse the twoBurton is an actor best known for playing Lt. Source
  • How to snag tickets to hit musical Hamilton? You might have to go back to school

    Entertainment CBC News
    More than 2,000 students got into the hottest show in Chicago for free — Hamilton: An American Musical — as part of their acceptance to Northwestern University. It's one of the ways colleges and high schools are using the hugely popular musical to teach students about history, art, drama, culture, and even politics. Source
  • Uma Thurman lashes out at Harvey Weinstein in cryptic post

    Entertainment CTV News
    H A P P Y T H A N K S G I V I N G I am grateful today, to be alive, for all those I love, and for all those who have the courage to stand up for others. Source
  • Bookies halt Prince Harry marriage bets, citing engagement 'to be confirmed imminently'

    Entertainment CBC News
    A major London bookmaker has suspended betting on whether Prince Harry will marry American actress Meghan Markle in 2018 amid rumours an engagement may be announced soon. Jessica Bridge of Ladbrokes said Friday that it seems an engagement announcement "is to be confirmed imminently. Source
  • Cadbury, Smirnoff pull YouTube ads over clips of scantily clad children

    Entertainment CBC News
    ?Lidl, Cadbury maker Mondelez, Diageo and other big companies have pulled advertising from YouTube after the Times newspaper found the video sharing site was showing clips of scantily clad children alongside the ads of major brands. Comments from hundreds of pedophiles were posted alongside the images, which appeared to have been uploaded by the children themselves, according to a Times investigation. Source
  • Amid royal engagement rumours, prominent bookmaker suspends betting

    Entertainment CTV News
    LONDON - A major London bookmaker has suspended betting on whether Prince Harry will marry American actress Meghan Markle next year amid rumours an engagement may be announced soon. Jessica Bridge of Ladbrokes says it seems an engagement announcement “is to be confirmed imminently. Source
  • Lawren Harris pencil sketch fetches record $161,000: Auction house

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- A Toronto auctioneer says a pencil sketch by Lawren Harris sold for $161,000 this week, a record price for a pencil sketch by the Group of Seven Artist. Consignor Canadian Fine Art says the preparatory work for Harris's famous Lake Superior sold for nearly five times its estimated sale value of between $20,000 and $30,000. Source
  • Canadian screen industry wants code of conduct on sexual harassment

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Groups that represent actors, talent agencies, directors and other employees of Canada's film and television industry say a code of conduct will be one of several steps toward tackling sexual harassment in the industry. Source
  • Canadian screen industry wants code of conduct to deal with sexual misconduct

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Groups that represent actors, talent agencies, directors and other employees of Canada's film and television industry say a code of conduct will be one of several steps toward tackling sexual harassment in the industry. Source