PBS’ Masterpiece has been hitting it out of the park frequently the last few years, but its grand slam of late has to be the Emmy-winning Edwardian drama Downton Abbey. Detailing the lives and loves of the Crawley family and its servants, the series returns for Season 2 this Sunday, Jan. 8.
For Joanne Froggatt, who plays head housemaid Anna, the new season was even more rewarding than the first go-round. “It was so much fun. Obviously with the first season being such a success everywhere, it’s just fantastic to go back to something when you know it’s gone down so well. And also the fact that we all knew each other. I’ve never done a second series of anything before.”
Froggatt and the rest of the cast re-enter the story with a two-year jump to 1916. “Season 2 starts with a bang — literally, in fact,” Froggatt says, referring to World War I, which had just started at the close of Season 1. “And it kind of carries on in that vein. I think the first episode is really strong. I think it’s really dramatic. Obviously we start in the first World War … that naturally brings about a period of enormous change for the house, for the country, for the women, for Anna … everybody. I think there’s more drama in [Season] 2. There’s more at stake in [Season] 2, definitely.”
Froggatt is naturally tight-lipped about Anna’s relationship with the valet, John Bates (Brendan Coyle). “It’s not plain sailing for Anna and Bates, and it never has been,” she offers. “But they still have this real need and want to be together. And their relationship definitely gets to move on in Season 2. However, it’s not plain sailing, and there’s some high points, and lots of low points as well, for Anna, in Season 2.”
So it’s still more Remains of the Day with those two? “Remains of the Day is a film I watched, actually, before we started filming the first season,” Froggatt laughs. “Brendan [Coyle] and I both watched it and we went, ‘It’s Remains of the Day. This is Anna and Bates.’ We said the same thing on the first day of rehearsal. We were like, ‘This is it.’ So it was pretty much an influence for both of us when we started to build the characters. I think the audience will get frustrated with it. I think it kind of goes to a — it moves forward. It moves forward.”
And speaking of moving forward, even as Season 2 is ready to launch here in the States, a third season of Downton Abbey has been greenlit for production over in England. At the time of our discussion, the news was brand new and Froggatt didn’t know any more than that, but she is excited by the prospect. “I’d love to do a third season. Absolutely would love to. We’ll see.”