We couldn't be more obsessed with Downton Abbey and were thrilled earlier this year when the highly anticipated second film in the franchise was released, reuniting us with the Crawley family and their servants, who may as well be family at this stage!
And now, to mark the release of Downton Abbey: A New Era on DVD and Blu-ray, HELLO! spoke to stars Jim Carter, who plays the beloved butler Mr Carson and Raquel Cassidy, who plays Phyllis Baxter, as well as director Simon Curtis, who revealed some rather surprising filming secrets...
WATCH: HELLO! chats to Downton Abbey: A New Era stars Jim Carter and Raquel Cassidy
Downton Abbey: A New Era DVD, £9.99 and Blu-ray, £14.99, Amazon
Scotland was the backup plan if filming in the French Riveria was not possible
It's hard to believe, but the sequel could've seen the Downton inhabitants descend on the Highlands rather than the French Riveria. Jim revealed that due to changing coronavirus restrictions, up "until two weeks before" they flew to France, they were very much prepared for the reality that they might have to settle for Scotland.
The French Riveria was almost swapped for Scotland
Although there is nothing wrong with Scotland - they did, after all, set the second ever Christmas special there back in 2012 - Jim explained: "Being in Scotland is lovely, but it's not the Mediterranean." Raquel added: "Although Scotland's gorgeous, it's not so warm!"
There was a little bit of jealously on set when the plan to travel abroad did get the green light
Not all the cast were among those who got to film scenes abroad, however. While Hugh Bonneville's Lord Grantham, Elizabeth McGovern's Cora, Laura Carmichael's Lady Edith, Allen Leech's Tom, Tuppence Middleton's Lucy and Jim and Raquel's characters all take the trip, the majority of the house's residents stay behind.
Not all of the cast got to shoot scenes in France
This naturally led to a little bit of jealously, especially when Jim and Raquel sent back gorgeous photos of their new surroundings! "We kept sending them photographs of the sunlit south of France," Jim said, laughing. "And it was pouring with rain back [in the UK], it was a terrible start to summer."
Not everyone was included in the Downton cast WhatsApp group
Talking more on how the cast stays in touch, Raquel revealed that they "had a France contingency [WhatsApp group]," which left Jim surprised. "Did we? Was I on that?" he asked to which Raquel teased: "[We had everyone] except for you!"
The cast keeps in touch via WhatsApp
However, it turns out that Jim, in his own words "isn't big on WhatsApp groups", which makes total sense after finding out that he much prefers catching up with his castmates in person...
Jim Carter's dressing room was the party room during filming
Although the majority of filming took place on location in both France, Highclere Castle and other UK stately homes, the 'downstairs' scenes were filmed, as they always have been, on a sound stage at Ealing Studios where Jim, as the biggest star playing one of the house staff, had the honour of having Dressing Room #1 which the other actors flocked to.
Other cast members made Jim Carter's dressing room the "party room"
Describing it as the "party room," he revealed that cast members would gather there to chat away, do their crosswords and play Bananagrams between scenes. How sweet!
It wasn't the first time director Simon Curtis had joined his wife on set
Fans might be surprised to learn that the director of the sequel Simon Curtis, who is also known for helming the likes of My Week With Marilyn and David Copperfield, has actually spent quite a lot of time with the cast and crew of Downton Abbey.
Director Simon Curtis revealed he had been on the set of Downton Abbey before
Not only has he worked with producers Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge and stars Maggie Smith and Michelle Dockery before, but he has been married to Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Cora Crawley, for 30 years. As a result, before he was brought on to direct A New Era, he regularly visited his wife during her filming days at Highclere Castle.
Speaking on how it felt to finally become an official member of the Downton family, he said: "It was quite good because I've been around on the set in the past and it was nice to be in the mix of it."
There are quite a few jokers in the cast
Filming Downton is no small affair and with so many stars in its sprawling ensemble cast, there's usually a lot of downtime between scenes that Jim and Raquel revealed can lead to some on-set silliness, naming Allen Leech, who plays Tom Branson and Brendan Coyle, who plays Mr Bates, as two of the biggest jokers.
Allen Leech is often cracking jokes on set
"Allen's good at impressions, he's fun," Jim divulged before Raquel added: "There is a lot of banter from Brendan too!"
Downton Abbey: A New Era is available Digitally to download & keep and on Blu-ray & DVD now.
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