Edith of ‘Downton Abbey’ looking to leave heartbreak behind
By Sarah Rodman Globe Staff,March 29, 2015, 11:14 a.m.
CAMBRIDGE — Poor Lady Edith. Inveterate “Downton Abbey” watchers know that the middle Crawley sister, played by Laura Carmichael, is the Jan Brady of Downton. Edith is forever watching older sister Mary get all the attention as she quietly suffers indignities including, but not limited to, getting jilted at the altar and having her true love mysteriously disappear while she’s pregnant with their out-of-wedlock child.
“I know, she can’t catch a break,” says Carmichael with a laugh.
Recently in town to attend an event at WGBH, Carmichael sat down for a chat about the upcoming season and what will become of that child, for which Edith was last seen arranging adoptive care with a kindly Downton farmer.https://9d1bb25db0149ad0478fc3defaeaf21d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
Q. Edith was so heartbroken at the end of last season after giving her baby up for adoption in Switzerland, only to take the child back and place her locally. Although that seems unfair for all involved, it must’ve been an enjoyable bundle of emotions to play.
A. I think the whole experience has made her more compassionate, as it inevitably would. And I think of it being a leveler, status-wise, class-wise. She wants to mother her child and she can’t and that’s incredibly painful. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have or how important you are, you’re unmarried and you can’t expect society to accept you as an unmarried mother. It’s happened in Downton before; look at Ethel. And you can argue that Edith is in a different, and certainly more fortunate position because she is able to have the child adopted nearby but it doesn’t take away from the pain. That’s one of the great themes of the show, watching the different classes, your position and how that affects the way you live your life. So I think it has made her maybe more empathetic as a person, I hope, and you’ll see that a bit more. The relationship with the Drewe family is fascinating because it’s in their farmhouse, around their humble table that she feels most comfortable.https://9d1bb25db0149ad0478fc3defaeaf21d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
Q. And then there is the matter of her lover Michael Gregson disappearing and likely dying. Do you ever wish [creator] Julian Fellowes would just let Edith be happy for a few episodes?
A. I think the positive spin on things always being crappy is that it’s those moments that have led to her becoming better and bigger and braver, and I think she absolutely would’ve been the most conventional of all three sisters. She would have happily married and planned the dinners for her husband on her country estate, and it didn’t happen for her. Having to accept that was not going to be her role in life led her to be more courageous and to think, “Well what else is there?” And I think as well the tragedy of Sybil dying inspired her to be more like her, to be bolder and not care so much. It’s been such a nice thing to watch her evolve into a slightly more likable character and to not just be defined as “not being Mary.”
Q. As both the actress and just a fan of the character, do you hope Edith finds love?
A. I think that must be [coming], who knows? I don’t dare say it out loud in case [Julian] changes his mind. [Laughs.] I hope so. But I also loved that it’s pushed her in a different direction and I always want her to keep working, now that she’s become a working woman. But yeah, I hope that it will end in love for her that lasts just a little bit longer.
Q. With its big, rotating cast of characters, “Downton” could go on for many years. Do you have any sense of how many more seasons you’d like to be playing Lady Edith?
A. I don’t know. It really depends on how it forms itself. I think it’s always good to keep the scripts good and not tire an audience out. I love the show and I love that it is loved. I love that Julian is able to write it so well. I think as long as he’s interested in that, then that will be interesting for me.
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