Emmys 2014: Julian Fellowes celebrates “Downton Abbey”
For Julian Fellowes, Emmy nomination morning is just any other writing day. As the creator and sole writer on “Downton Abbey,” he rarely gets out from behind his desk — even after he’s just handed in the final script for the show’s fifth season. He’s now working on a staged show, to be produced in America, though he can’t reveal any details about it.
When reached at his country house in Dorset, in South West England, he was pleased about the show’s 12 nominations this year, if a bit surprised: Fellowes had entirely forgotten the announcements were coming today.
“I’d been told — you know, where will you be in case anyone wants to ring? — but I’d forgotten. And now I’m really overwhelmed and absolutely delighted,” he said. “If you asked me two years ago, if I’d still be a contender now, I’d say definitely not. It seems they’ve treated us very generously.”
“Downton Abbey” racked up 12 nominations, including for drama series.
Michelle Dockery, who plays the regal, oldest daughter, Lady Mary Crawley, was nominated for lead actress, and Joanne Froggatt, who plays Bates’ wife, Anna, was nominated for supporting actress as was Maggie Smith, A.K.A. Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham.
Jim Carter, who plays the persnickety Mr. Carson, received a nod for supporting actor; as the visiting Harold Levinson, Paul Giamatti was nominated for guest actor.
“I’m particularly pleased for Jo [Froggatt] because she played the [rape] victim so brilliantly,” Fellowes says. “It was an extraordinary performance, so layered. And for Paul Giamatti — he came all the way over from America. He was so good in the role.”
Since its 2010 debut on ITV in the U.K. and 2011 debut on PBS in the U.S., Downton Abbey has resonated in both counties — though Fellowes says to different effects.
“The U.K. audience is very rewarding, and I’m mad about anyone who wants to watch the series,” he says. “But I just feel there’s sort of a fervor in America that is sort of un-British; it’s good, and it gives us energy.”
Still, there’s a universality to the show, which Fellowes chalks up to a perception and curiosity about the period of the early 20th century, against which it is set.
“It was a simpler back then — a clearer time to live,” Fellowes says. “Not more just, God knows, but somehow clearer. And most of the characters are nice people — even the nasty ones have some nice elements to them. I think we’ve had so many TV and films about horrible people doing terrible things to one another, so in a way, it’s kind of relaxing to watch relatively decent people on TV.”
Fellowes doesn’t have grand plans for the day but to get back to the writing, he says. But he will take at least a little time toast the show’s success.
“I’ve got a bit of a deadline, but then I think I’ll go out and raise a glass,” he says. “I really am pleased. These things give such a lift to the whole company. And that’s a lovely feeling.”
The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live on NBC Monday, Aug. 25. The ceremony, being held at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, will be hosted by Seth Meyers.
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