15 July 2012
Joanne Froggatt plays Anna, the sweet-natured and stoical head housemaid, who conducts a profound yet troubled relationship with Bates, Lord Grantham’s valet, in Downton Abbey.
In the first series, Anna proved a hugely popular character with audiences.
“She’s just so lovely!” exclaims Froggatt.
“She’s a genuine, kind, moralistic person; she is beautiful on the inside. She is also strong-minded.
She doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She has fun, but she also knows what’s morally right and wrong.
She’s the kind of person I’d want as a friend.”
The other aspect that viewers of the first series related to was Anna’s turbulent relationship with Mr Bates.
“People really like that relationship,” muses Froggatt.
“It is not plain sailing. There are lots of ups and downs.”
She adds, “I think people have engaged with it because it’s unusual to have so much screen time to develop a relationship slowly.
It was built on friendship and mutual respect and turned into something more than that.
Their relationship is about emotions and supporting each other rather than the physical side straight away.
“I think that’s more romantic because you have to find out all about a person before you jump into a relationship.”
The moral certainty of that era may be one of the principal attractions of Downton Abbey.
“Certainly, there is a whole range of morals and social behaviour now,” Froggatt says.
“Downton Abbey is set in a time where there was no sex before marriage – even being previously engaged was frowned upon.
“The rules are very different now.
Our world is very fast – we’re trying to cram as many experiences in as possible. Back then people didn’t have that opportunity.
There is something very nice about going back to basics.”
Froggatt sums up the reasons for the show’s success.
“The first time I read the script, I couldn’t put it down. Within a quarter of an episode, it had grabbed my attention.
I had to go somewhere else, but I couldn’t wait to get back to finish it.
“There are 18 principal characters and there’s a character for everyone to follow.
Some people are more interested in the family upstairs, and some in the servants.
It’s a great mix. It’s like a cross-section of life.
All walks of life exist in this house.
“It’s great drama, and it’s shown that the public do want to watch great drama.
It exceeded all expectations and has given drama back its confidence.”
Froggatt would be very pleased if the show were commissioned for a third year.
“We are all up for a third series,” she says.
“It would be lovely.
After the First World War, there was a huge period of change.
I’d love to see them in the Roaring Twenties and to observe the house and the relationships change.
“It would be lovely if Anna and Mr Bates could retire and have a family, but things never run smoothly for them.
You can rest assured; there is still a lot of drama in store for them!”
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