Attention Downton Abbey fans – here’s the second half of our exclusive interview with Matt Barber (Atticus Aldridge) in advance of this week’s Christmas Special.
This interview was conducted during Downton Abbey’s UK airing – we’re bringing it back for the American crowd now that the PBS season is done!
Yesterday, we brought you the first half of our interview with Matt Barber, who plays Downton Abbey’s newest Crawley in-law, Atticus Aldridge. In part one, Matt discussed the Downton season finale and his character’s stag night scandal, marginalism in upper class 1920s society as the son of the Jewish Lord Sinderby, and how Atticus and Rose’s love story mirrors his own.
In the second instalment, Matt theorises about how Atticus would handle World War II, we learn a little about what it’s like to wear Downton’s beautiful costumes, and we even a drag few words out of him about the Christmas episode! The Aldridge family will play a major part in this year’s special, as the Crawleys will be visiting Rose and her new family at a castle rented by Lord Sinderby in Northumberland.
I’m sure we can’t really confirm anything today about what will happen in season 6, but if we were to follow Atticus and Rose’s story, what issues do you imagine them encountering from here on out?
I genuinely don’t know, because I have no idea what they’ll do in terms of the timing for the season. If you look back at the last five seasons, they’ve all dealt with both different time spans within the series and time jumps between the seasons. So in all honesty, until I’ve seen that I have absolutely no idea.
It was the 1920s in season 5 and we saw the first tiny hints of the conflict – anti-Semitism, mentions of Hitler and the Brownshirts – that we know, historically, will eventually lead to WWII. Now, we’re not predicting a 15-year time jump for Downton, but looking ahead in Atticus’ life, if he’d be in his mid-thirties at the start of the Second World War, do you think that he would go off to fight?
Yeah, absolutely. I imagine he would. The Second World War isn’t looming yet, because we’re too early for it. They’re just not aware of it – as a modern audience we look back and go “oh there’s this Jewish discrimination problem building” and that’s massively relevant, but’s just not in 1924, to the English at least. For us now, with news stories breaking on Twitter, on the internet or whatever, we know how quickly things are happening in terms of escalation. But back then, with newspapers and the wireless being your only access to news, awareness will take a lot longer. There’s a lack of access to breaking news.
On the potential of WWII: ‘When the walls come crashing down, it would be interesting to see what actually happens and how he deals with that.’
Looking at the relative ages of characters in Downton, I don’t know how you’d get another 15 years, especially in a series, so I think it’s unlikely to deal with the Second World War, but I would be fascinated to work with that character, that background and this sort of storyline as it’s been set up, in that context. Again, it’s like I was talking about earlier on with getting a character like this, who’s dealt with this stuff throughout his life, and he’s always dealt well with it and he’s always kind of come out on top. When the walls come crashing down, it would be really interesting to see what actually happens and how he deals with that. Whether or not I’ll get a chance to do that on Downton I don’t know!
You’ll be appearing in this year’s Downton Abbey Christmas Special. Is there anything at all you can can tell me about that? Is it going to be a happy ending, a sad ending?
I definitely can’t! I’m sure I can’t tell you that! I think the one thing I can tell you is that you should watch it because it’ll be very good.
Fair enough! One thing that has been mentioned is that this year’s episode is actually set at Christmas within the show, unlike some of the previous Christmas Specials. Is that correct?
Some of it is at Christmas, yes.
These specials are pretty unpredictable – sometimes you’ll get a beautiful garden party and sometimes you’ll get a dramatic death – so who can tell?!
Yes, exactly! And I think that’s why it’s worth watching as well, because you just don’t know what’s going to happen! But it’s a really good one. A really, really good one, and great fun to shoot. A really nice load of people.
You’d known a couple of the cast members prior to booking Downton Abbey, including working pretty closely with Michelle Dockery [Mary]. How was it to come on set and work with these people whose stars have risen through the show?
Laura Carmichael [Edith] was at drama school with me, we were in the same class. This was the first time I’ve ever worked with her professionally and that was awesome because she’s just a mate. I had only ever known her as a mate because we had never really worked together, so that was cool. Really really good fun. Just turning up and having her be there was a bit like turning up at a new school and an old friend being there, so it makes everything a lot easier.
And then Michelle, we worked together for quite a long time on this show we did [Pygmalion at The Old Vic] that Peter Hall directed. We got to know each other really well and had a great time, so it was awesome working with her again, and spending time with her as well. One thing that happens as an actor is that you move from job to job and you get very close to people very quickly, and then everybody disappears off and goes onto the next thing, and you get close to another group of people very quickly and then everyone disappears off. And so it’s fantastic coming back around and working with people again, especially people like Michelle.
When I worked with her previously it was just obvious how special she was, and nothing’s changed. She’s only kind of moved on to bigger and better things. I mean, she was doing amazingly the first time I worked with her, but coming around and working with someone like that again it makes you feel – honestly it’s quite a matter of pride because it makes me feel like I’m doing something right. Because you can see what they’re doing and if you’re coming back to that then that’s a pretty good thing!