Downton Abbey drew to a close in 2015, bringing the Crawley family’s dramatic story to its end. But the show’s cast and its creator Julian Fellowes are in Los Angeles this weekend for the Emmys; the series is nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, among other awards. Laura Carmichael, who played Lady Edith Crawley, took a moment to reflect on her character at the BAFTA Awards Season Tea Party on Saturday afternoon.
“It was a really wonderful show for female characters,” Carmichael told ELLE.com. “I feel really lucky to have been given the chance to have such a great role. We’re in a time where parts for women are becoming really interesting and exciting, and people are having the confidence that women can lead shows.” Her own Downton character was evidence of that: “I was really pleased that, with all of the love story for Edith, that she also had this other level to her—she was the career woman and a mother…The fact that it ended with a real romantic love for her was the thrill that we all needed, but she would have been all right, do you know what I mean?”
Fellowes, who wrote every episode of the show’s six seasons, said he intended to make the women the center of power in Downton Abbey. The female characters, both in the Crawley family and in their staff, carried the story. “I’m always a bit nervous about talking about the legacy of my work,” Fellowes said at the BAFTA Tea Party. “It sounds as if I think I’m Charles Dickens. I don’t. But I do think the women in this show were very strong characters. I mean, not every one of them, but as high a proportion of women were strong as the men. In fact, if anything, the women were stronger. Because in domestic life, which is largely what the series was about, that is no more than the truth. People sometimes think that because women didn’t have overt political power or the vote, that they were kind of non-entities, but there were just as many clever women who were full of personality and ambition 300 years ago as there are now.”
Fellowes considers the strong women characters in Downton Abbey part of a tradition in his work, and his life: “I think in all my stuff the women are pretty strong, and I think it’s because I’ve always lived my life among strong women, you know? My grandmother, my great-aunts, my mother, my wife are all very strong women. Some men are only happy with clinging vines, but I’m nervous with clinging vines. I like strong women who will get me out of trouble.”