So why has Downton Abbey been such a success? “It might be that we have made the decision to treat every character, the members of the family and the members of their staff, equally, in terms of their narrative strength," Fellowes tells PARADE. “They all have emotional lives, dreams, ambitions, and disappointments, and with all of them we suggest backstories, many of which are to be found in my own history.” He reveals that the Dowager Violet Grantham was inspired by his great-aunt Isie, and Robert Grantham was definitely drawn from his “dear departed father.”
PARADE also spoke with Shirley MacLaine (newcomer Martha Levinson) as well as Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley).
Says MacLaine, on her character: “She’s a force for change. … She tells [the family] they really need to get up to speed on what’s happening in the world.”
And while it has now been revealed that Stevens will be leaving the series after this season, the actor didn’t want to spoil anything for U.S. viewers. Both he and Michelle Dockery sidestep the question of their characters’ future happiness. Dockery remarks, “The course of true love never did run smooth, and there are still issues that [Matthew and Mary] have to resolve.”
Says Stevens: “One of the constant dramatic pressures on the characters is that personal happiness is often sacrificed for the sake of the house.