DOWNTON Abbey returns for a second series in the UK next month.
My report and photos from last Friday’s Press Launch at Highclere Castle are here.
Among those I spoke to was new Downton recruit Amy Nuttall.
An early taste of the interview – with mild spoilers – was published in Tuesday’s Manchester Evening News, but has yet to go online.
So let’s put that right below, shall we?
DOWNTON Abbey star Amy Nuttall is set to shock fans of the global TV hit.
The Bolton-born actress plays new housemaid Ethel Parks when the ITV1 series returns to the screen in September.
One time Emmerdale favourite Amy, 29, who went to Bury Grammar School, said she was “thrilled” to play dramatic scenes involving outspoken northerner Ethel.
“It was terrifying and exciting to join the cast. This has been the best job I have worked on. I still have to pinch myself.”
The second eight-part series of the TV phenomenon, watched by up to 13m viewers, begins two years on in 1916 with Great War battle scenes at The Somme.
Former Manchester solicitor Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), heir to Downton, is in the trenches with scheming footman Thomas Barrow, played by ex-Coronation Street star Rob James-Collier.
Back at Downton, it is Ethel’s first day at work ahead of her dramatic scenes later in the series, which also features Irlam-born Lesley Nicol as cook Mrs Patmore.
“It felt like the first day at school, a proper new girl with an already close-knit family that have made the series so successful. I was completely in awe of the people I work with,” added Amy.
That included Dame Maggie Smith, who plays the stern Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, famed for her character’s one-line quips.
“On that very first day I was filming in a scene with Dame Maggie, to make it all the more terrifying. But she said some lovely things and is definitely the mother of the cast.”
Amy also filmed many scenes with former Corrie actress Joanne Froggatt, who stars again as head housemaid Anna. While lady’s maid O’Brien, played by Oldham-born actress Siobhan Finneran, springs a number of tricks on Ethel to bring her down a peg or two.
Viewers will see Downton turned into a home for wounded officers, which brings new challenges and problems for everyone, including the below stairs staff.
“Ethel is very aware that the war is going to bring change to everyone and narrow the gap between upstairs and downstairs.” explains Amy.
“And so I think deep down she definitely believes it’s going to open more opportunities for women like her and she’s not going to have to stay stuck as a servant.
“She has ideas way above her station, is extremely naive and rubs people up the wrong way. There’s certainly trouble ahead.
“People are so excited about the next series. No-one could have foretold it would have been as big as it was.”
Highclere Castle in Berkshire doubles for the Yorkshire country house but Amy filmed most of her scenes at Ealing Studios in London, where the below stairs sets are built.
She quit her Emmerdale role as Chloe Atkinson in 2005 to pursue other challenges, including playing Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady at Manchester’s Palace Theatre. Amy was awarded an honorary degree by Bolton University last month.