July’s Spotlight On……
*** Jessica Fellowes ***
Hi Jessica, thank you for talking to ‘Break A Leg Review’, our first question is what inspired you to start writing and what drives you to continue as a writer?
Reading got me started as a writer – I was a ferocious reader as a child – but it wasn’t immediately obvious that I would write for a living and took until my mid-20s to realise that was what I wanted to do! Now I love it because in the modern world there’s a natural pairing with public speaking, which sorts out all my frustrated acting ambitions. So I have this great life in which half my time is spent quietly in the corner at my desk, and half is on the road, meeting people, on a stage, putting on a show!
Tell us about your new book ‘A Year In The Life of Downton Abbey’
It’s a look at how a house like Downton Abbey as well as Downton Abbey itself would have operated across the seasons in 1924. As well as revisiting some past episodes in which seasonal traditions were celebrated – whether Christmas or cricket – we have recipes and tips on how to do similar events yourself. With gorgeous photography throughout.
Did you have any idea that ‘Downton Abbey’ would be such a hit show for your Uncle?
I think if any of us had said that we thought this show would become a cultural reference point around the world, watched by over 330 million people, win hundreds of awards and be Britain’s most successful television export ever, someone would have telephoned for the doctor!
Who is your favourite character in the show and why?
Lady Edith – she always has been my favourite and it’s funny because when I first said this a few years ago, everyone thought I was very odd but now people adore Edith. The question Julian gets asked the most is if he will let her have a happy ending! But my interest in her was really about the fact that she represented a fascinating type of woman in that period – the one who had been brought up expecting a life that the war turned completely inside out. There were many fewer women than men by 1919 (nearly two million) and marriage was simply not on the cards. While this was of course heartbreaking, some women jumped the obstacles to find an arguably more interesting and fulfilling life – they went out and became not just teachers and nurses, now that they had to support themselves, but also scientists, doctors, pilots, business owners… They were the real forerunners of the female equality movement and we owe them a lot. I like that Edith of all the daughters probably wanted the least but has ended up achieving a life that is more varied and exciting than her peers, despite her share of heartbreak.
We hear that Rob-James Collier (Mr Barrow) can be a ‘trickster’ on set, have you ever been on the receiving end of his mischief?
Ha ha, he’s certainly nothing like his character – he’s very funny and mischievous but also very big-hearted. No tricks on me thank goodness but I’ve started to get involved with one of his favourite charities (the Chilterns MS Centre) – he ran the marathon for them this year and made a hilarious film on his phone to help fundraising that involved Brendan Coyle (Bates) stomping around the set in a huge cape.
We’re sure you cannot possibly divulge any of the forthcoming storylines for series six, but what would you personally like to see happen?
Now that I’ve actually read the scripts I’m afraid I can’t answer this question at all! I’m too nervous – it’s more than my life’s worth to even accidentally reveal a spoiler. I can tell you that fans will not be disappointed – it’s as rollicking a ride as all the previous seasons. They’re definitely going out with a bang.
What is your greatest ambition?
To be allowed to keep on doing what I’m doing, I’m having so much fun.
They say never meet your heroes, who are your heroes? Have you met them? Did they disappoint?
The person I would most like to meet is Sir Ken Robinson (see his TED talk on education). Somehow I feel he wouldn’t disappoint but I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Favourite Things (quick-fire questions):
Favourite television programme (apart from ‘Downton Abbey’)
The restaurant at Cliveden House.
Favourite time of year
Favourite Actor or Actress
‘Man cannot live on bread alone, he needs his bit of crumpet.’
Link to Jessica’s website: https://jessicafellowes.wordpress.com/