Her performance as Lady Mary on "Downton Abbey" has brought Michelle Dockery many a thing: fans with tales of their own repressed sisterhood memories, a few Emmy nominations and a Twitter account for her eyebrows. The fifth season of the PBS drama premieres Jan. 4 — and the 33-year-old actress said it's one in which some color comes back into her character's life.
There's a weird and contentious roll-out period — Britain gets the show first, and then months later it drops in the U.S. Are you just constantly on edge about what you can say about the show and to whom?
Oh, yeahhhh. We're all very cautious not to give the game away and not give away any storylines because it would only spoil it for everyone. But then at the same time, there's curiosity and people want to know what's happening. I'm always checking for accents and wondering who I can tell a little more to and who I can't, depending on what time of year it is.
Where do we pick up?
We pick up … We pick up … Gosh, it was so long ago now. See, this is another problem! I can't keep track of it all. It's six months on since the Christmas special. I guess the thing I feel for this series, in terms of Mary, is she's a new Mary. She's through her grief. She's really embracing the social climate. Literally, the color has come back into her life since the death of Matthew. She's wearing lilacs. She's picked herself back up again, and she's moving on with her life. It's really a new side of her that I love playing. You see more of her with George, now that he's a little bit older. And she's taking on responsibilities of the estate with Branson. But she's also trying to move on romantically.
We saw Mary go through a lot last season — and then we saw her farming, which was a bit jarring. But how was it to see her suffer at this level?
Mary is not a dweller. I mean, we saw her in Series 4 being in the dark place and Violet Crawley [Maggie Smith] and Carson [Jim Carter] having to pull her out of it. But it would only have ever been brief with Mary anyway. I think she's stronger than that. So you see her kind of getting her strength back. There's almost a bit of her from [Season 1] that's come back as well.
There's a very interesting storyline for Edith (Laura Carmichael) this year, and Mary's attitude toward Edith is kind of like, "Well, I lost a husband as well as a sister, get on with it." She's got that attitude a little bit with people who are going through something. There's no fussing around. So I love that about her. She doesn't suffer fools. I get a kick out of it, especially the stuff that involves Edith. I just love their dynamic.
After Laura told me how you and she go nuts for Beyoncé and Rihanna, I like to imagine that you two are playing some of their numbers for the cast between takes.
Wouldn't that be something? It would make for a great extra on the DVDs. We should do that. We're so limited with our sources of entertainment. There's no cell signal in Highclere Castle. So it's like living in that time because you can't get any reception on your phone, so there's no point to even bringing it to the set.
It's like you're living in the period. What's another modern element you wish you could infuse onto the set or into the show?
Sometimes I just want a simple blow dry! The hairstyles on the show take a bit of time. It's not that I dislike it, it just takes so much time.
"Downton Abbey" is heading into its fifth season — and it's a show that people are always wondering how long it will span. Is there a show you'd be sad, or were sad, to see end?
I'm a big fan of "Mad Men." And I know it's on its way out, so I'm really interested to see how everything plays out. It's such a stunning show. And I have been known to watch "Two and a Half Men" — people always find that odd.
Has "Downton Abbey" made you think about class or culture differently?
It's just like any job. You're always learning. For me, I'm fascinated by the history and what was happening at the time. The changes that were happened post-WWI. I think being part of a show that started in the Edwardian period and is now in the '20s, it's a huge leap, and it's been interesting to see that.
We're doing this interview in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton — a place I'm sure Mary would stay in if she were around. How do you think you're L.A. experience might differ from Mary's?