“You are cordially invited to the grandest escape of the year,” reads the message accompanying the release of the first trailer for “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” the sequel to the original movie planned to premiere next March.
‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ will open two years after the original movie and five years after the ultra-popular TV series that ran for six seasons from 2010 to 2016, and is bringing back the full ensemble of the original British period drama and some new faces.
The series and the movies follow the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family, who own a sprawling English countryside estate in the early 20th Century, and their servants.
What ‘new era’?
The sequel film takes place after the events of the first, when Downton Abbey and its inhabitants were preparing for the royal visit of King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) that ended with a sumptuous ball honoring the Royal Family.
For the new movie, “we’re trying to mark the change,” creator Julian Fellowes has explained. “It’s really a new era. The further the 20s went along, the more the world was changing in so many ways.
Everything from entertainment to transport was really different by the end of the 20s. That’s what we’re referring to.”
He added: “As we know from the last film, Mary may not be the titular head of the household, but she is effectively running the show. We take that further.”
A surprise and a trip
Among some of the main teasers, the new trailer shows the Crowley family and the Downton staff taking a trip to the French Riviera after learning that the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) has inherited a sprawling villa from a former lover.
“Years ago, before you were born, I met a man,” she says. “And now, I’ve come into the possession of a villa in the South of France.”
“And with that, I will say goodnight and leave you to discuss my mysterious past,” the countess adds at the end of the trailer.
Maggie Smith’s appearance in the sequel has been of particular interest after it was suggested that her iconic character, Violet Crawley, had come to an end after the first film when the Dowager Countess insinuates that she has fallen gravely ill.
“All I would say is that one of the things that’s been commented on over the years about Downton is that we’ve had plenty of medical misdiagnoses,” commented producer Gareth Neame to explain her return.
One or two weddings?
The trailer also shows widower chauffeur-turned-heir Tom Branson finally finding happiness after Sybil’s death, as he ties the knot with maid Lucy Smith.
Their romance started in the first Downton Abbey movie, after he learned that Lucy was actually the secret illegitimate daughter of Baroness Bagshaw.
They appear sharing a kiss after the lavish nuptials as the family poses for photos.
Social media is buzzing with speculation about another wedding tease: that of Daisy, who started out as Ms Patmore’s kitchen maid and Andrew Parker, played by actor Michael Fox. In the movie’s poster she appears as Daisy Parker.
Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye and Dominic West are the new faces joining the original cast that includes Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Harry Hadden-Paton, Robert James-Collier, Phyllis Logan, Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Tuppence Middleton, Lesley Nicol, Imelda Staunton and Penelope Wilton.
The screenplay is written once again by academy-award winner Julian Fellowes, the series creator, with Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge back as producers and Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) directing.
The original TV series scored 69 Emmy nominations and 15 wins, including three supporting actress trophies for Maggie Smith and one for outstanding miniseries or movie.
The new picture has been filmed in studios and other locations including Highclere Castle — home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnavaron, whose family has lived there since 1679.