Michelle Dockery

Michelle Dockery of "Downton Abbey" arrives for the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles on Saturday. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times / January 18, 2014)

Lady Mary Crawley of post-Edwardian Yorkshire slips into exquisite beaded gowns with the help of her trusted lady's maid, Anna. But Michelle Dockery, the 32-year-old actress who plays the eldest daughter on "Downton Abbey," seeks the assistance of a 21st century queen.

"I was listening to Beyonce's new album nonstop this morning while getting ready," said the actress, sporting a structured black and white gown with a plunging neckline on the Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet Saturday. "That album is everything I want in life. It's brilliant."

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Dockery's cheerful mood is a stark contrast to that of her character this season. When the fourth season of "Downton Abbey" picked up earlier this month, it had been six months since the death of Mary's husband and Downton's heir, Matthew Crawley (played by Dan Stevens). The gloom has Mary back to her prickly ways, and with quite few suitors on the horizon.

"Matthew is a tough one to beat," Dockery said. "He was the love of her life. I think [creator Julian Fellowes] is taking every character on an interesting journey."

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