STRICTLY Come Downton is set to waltz off with the Christmas Day TV ratings glitterball.
Downton Abbey stars will be tripping the light fantastic in their feature length ITV1 special which includes upstairs dancing with downstairs at the New Year servants’ ball.
Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham) was paired with Phyllis Logan, who plays housekeeper Mrs Hughes.
“We had an off screen dancing competition and it was clear from the outset we would win Strictly Come Downton,” revealed Hugh.
Phyllis added: “We had to learn the waltz which I thought would be quite simple – but we were knackered at the end of it. Lots of kicking shins and bruised toes.”
Former Coronation Street star Rob James-Collier, who plays Downton bad boy footman Thomas, dances with the Dowager Countess.
“I had to take the legend that is Dame Maggie Smith for a spin on the floor! I was so nervous and managed to stand on the Dame’s toe,” he said.
“But we had a laugh and she was so great with me. I think she humoured me and my two left feet.”
The cast had dancing lessons before filming which left Lesley Nicol – cook Mrs Patmore – injured on the sidelines.
Explained Lesley: “Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley) kicked me in the leg, not on purpose, but it put me out with an ice pack for a good 10 minutes.
“I imagined it would be like dancing with Prince Charming for her. He would have been the most handsome piece of eye candy you could possibly dance with, so I rather did enjoy it.”
But poor kitchenmaid Daisy, played by Sophie McShera, missed out on her big moment despite learning to dance with the rest of the cast.
“They were hilarious – we were proper limbering up and wanted to wear leg warmers and everything. We were all being very silly,” she said.
“I was promised a little dance with Matthew Crawley – I was so made up. We rehearsed and then I didn’t even get to do any dancing. I watched it longingly, learned all the steps.
“I was so excited, then nothing. Devastated I was.”
Michelle Dockery, who stars as Lady Mary, was also left without a partner at one stage so formed her own judges’ panel.
“I was sat with Maggie watching the others and between takes Maggie and I were shouting numbers, almost like in Strictly Come Dancing, giving them scores,” she recalled.
“We had a real laugh watching everyone.”
And head judge Lord Grantham’s final verdict?
“Rob James-Collier and Maggie Smith were a sight to behold. It was a joy – poetry in motion.”
The Downton Abbey special is set at Christmas 1919 and leads into the New Year of 1920, with a third series to be screened next year.
*Downton Abbey is screened on ITV1 between 9pm and 11pm on Christmas Day and will be up against BBC1’s EastEnders (9pm to 10pm) and Absolutely Fabulous (10pm – 10:30pm).
*Strictly Come Dancing’s Christmas Day Special – recorded earlier this week – is on BBC1 between 8pm and 9pm.