‘Downton Abbey’s’ TCA press panel: 12 things to know about Season 4

Actors Michelle Dockery, left, and Joanne Froggatt speak onstage during the "Downton Abbey" TCA panel.
(Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

It’s almost time, folks! Season 4 of “Downton Abbey” is almost upon us with its fall premiere -- oh, wait! That only applies to those in the U.K.

For those of us on the wrong side of the pond who have to wait more than a few of those wretched weekends until the drama’s PBS rollout on Jan. 5, don’t fret. You might be the lowly servants of the “Downton Abbey” viewership, but a good employee always stays informed -- for some of you, that means reading this article and turning to online pirates once the season premieres; for others, it means reading articles such as this and waiting.


“Downton Abbey” cast members Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Joanne Froggatt (Anna), Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes) and Sophie McShera (Daisy), along with executive producer Gareth Neame, appeared during the show’s panel Tuesday night at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills -- and what unfolded is presented here to fill your needs.

So, have at it:

1. Season 4 of “Downton Abbey” will pick up six months after the death of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens).

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2. Countess Dowager (Maggie Smith) knows how to lend a helping hand, as evident in a trailer for the upcoming season. With Lady Mary mourning her late husband, the spitfire countess shows her softer side, telling her granddaughter: “You must choose either death or life.” Cue a shot of the countess placing her hand on Mary’s shoulder. #heartstop

3. With Mary and Tom Branson (Allen Leech), widower of Mary’s sister Cybil, both dealing with the loss of their spouses, there has been speculation that the two would find comfort in each other ... in a romantic way. Eww, says Dockery:

“They are very much friends and, um, he is her brother-in-law still. I think they become close because of what they’ve both been through having lost a partner. And, also, Mary becomes far more involved in the running of the estate. We do have a lot of scenes together. Romantically, I don’t think it’s going anywhere. I hope not.”

3a) But you can bet Mary will have plenty of other suitors. “She has more than one love interest,” Dockery told reporters. One such suitor includes Tom Cullen, who will play Lord Gillingham, an old childhood friend.

4. New addition Lady Rose (Lily James) and sweet ol’ Anna party together?

5. With Edith agreeing to an illicit relationship with her married editor, does that jeopardize her involvement with the newspaper? “It’s a lot more complicated than that,” Carmichael teased, adding later, “I like to think of her as the Carrie Bradshaw of the ‘20s.”

6. Will Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) just hook up already?? “Yes!” Logan said. Don’t get your hopes up. She quickly recanted. “No, no, we still have a very nice working relationship. We still have occasional spats here and there. We still have a lot of respect for one another. And we occasionally get to drink a glass of sherry together in the evening.”

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7. The Lady Mary Curse? Might Sir Richard Carlisle (Iain Glen) also come up dead? Calm yourself. The ruthless newspaper tycoon whom Mary was briefly involved with doesn’t reappear. But in commenting on Mary’s bedfellows’ death domino effect, Neame wondered whether there was a praying mantis situation occurring. “They get to do it once, then she kills them.”

8. Don’t expect Mary to get a Mother of the Year award. “She was never going to be a very maternal mother,” Dockery said. “Within the aristocracy they didn’t really see their kids very much. So there’s a nanny, and, you know, eventually there will be a governess looking after baby George. So you don’t see much interaction between the baby and Mary. And actually, to begin with, it’s hard to relate. It’s hard to bond with the baby because, of course, she’s going through the grief. And she looks at him, and she sees Matthew. So, yeah, it’s a slow process, I think, with motherhood for Mary.”

9. Daisy’s cook uniform now comes with a drop waist. Progress.

10. Lady Mary joins Twitter? Sort of. Dockery said that she’s thought of joining Twitter, but has hesitated because, well, Lady Mary’s eyebrows have beaten her to the punch.

10 a) Speaking of social media, Forggatt noted that Sean “Diddy” Combs’ video spoof made the rounds on the “Downton” set.

11). Six seasons and a movie? Stop it. But the question over how long “Downton Abbey’s” future can stretch has been of conversation. A fifth season is planned -- and if all goes well, it won’t be the last. Just don’t get carried away; when a reporter asked if there are plans to see George, Mary’s son, fight in WWII, Neame replied that series creator Julian Fellowes “always says, ‘I don’t want to see our actors with walking sticks and powder in their hair.’ So I don’t think we’ll go onto the Second World War, no.”

12) Dear old Thomas (Rob James-Collier) has it cut out for him. With his sexuality fully advertised, Neame says it’s going to be a complex world for him. And with ice queen lady’s maid O’Brien leaving (Siobhan Finneran, who plays O’Brien, will depart the series), a “shakeup” happens to his story, Neame said.

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