SUE YEAP The West Australian
March 18, 2014, 10:38
If there's one thing most fans agree on about British period drama Downton Abbey it's that middle sister Edith Crawley, played by Laura Carmichael, is hard done by.
Unlucky in love, left at the altar, despised by imperious older sister Mary and often overlooked by her parents, Edith has, over the past season and a half, quietly broken with Crawley tradition and carved out a niche as a newspaper columnist, having previously, shock horror, learnt to drive.
"It has been a really lovely transition for her the last few seasons," Carmichael said down the line from London during a recent break in filming season five.
It was Edith's newspaper writing that led her to strike up a friendship, then relationship, with her editor and publisher, Michael Gregson, played by Charles Edwards.
In last Sunday's episode, the fourth of season four, Edith snuck back into her Aunt Rosamund's (Samantha Bond) house after spending the night with Gregson, whose wife has been in an asylum for many years.
So desperate is Gregson to be with Edith, he has been making plans for them to move to Germany to be together.
"Things start off so well but it doesn't quite all go smooth sailing," Carmichael revealed.
"I liked having time at the beginning of the series to show her slightly more rebellious side and really living and grabbing life with both hands.
"She takes some risks with Gregson; she's out with this married man and that causes a lot of drama to come, therefore she doesn't quite get away with it all.
"I think it is great, she has really sort of matured and is doing the things she wants to rather than the things she has to, which is really fun to play."
Carmichael said Edith was a bit of a black sheep and it was interesting to see how Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, who play her parents Robert and Cora, behaved differently towards her.
"It's heartbreaking, isn't it," she exclaimed. "I love playing this sort of underdog character."
Away from screen, however, Carmichael has formed solid bonds with her on-screen family, particularly Michelle Dockery, who plays Mary, and Jessica Brown Finlay, who played Sybil until the character's tragic death last season.
"We have all been through this mad journey together doing this full-on TV show for ITV that has gone kind of global," she said.
"Michelle and I are similar ages, have similar interests and have become really close."
Although Downton is one of the most-watched dramas in the world, Carmichael still manages to get about mostly unrecognised because she wears a wig to play Edith.
"I was recently out and about with Jim Carter (who plays the butler, Carson) and I couldn't get over how much he gets recognised, which is completely different to my experience," she said.
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