Sumptuous decorations, historical intrigues, relations between the nobles – those above – and their servants – those below -, travel to France and twists and turns, this new “Downton Abbey” is breathtaking. Meeting with Raquel Cassidy, who plays Phyllis Baxter and Kevin Doyle, the interpreter of Joseph Molesley.

The filming of “Downton Abbey: A New Era” took place during the pandemic, in the spring and summer of 2021, when the whole of Europe was confined. “The health protocols, wearing the mask and then taking it off when shooting, all of that took time. In a more intimate scene – and we have one together in the film – it definitely puts a barrier between yourself and the game. But, compared to everyone else, we were very lucky, “said Raquel Cassidy during an audioconference interview with the QMI Agency reminiscing about the weeks between France and England as her character of Phyllis accompanies Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and her husband (Hugh Bonneville) when they visit the south of France to take possession of a home bequeathed to the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) in 1928.

“We also respected what we were accomplishing by being extremely careful in our private lives not to take any risks.”

“I’m glad I wasn’t one of the producers. I think they had a lot more things to sort out than during a normal shoot. There was a lot of uncertainty, we didn’t know if any actors would have to self-isolate due to COVID or if we would have access to the planned locations,” said Kevin Doyle, whose character Joseph Molesley is staying with Lady Mary. (Michelle Dockery) at Downton and helps shoot a silent film that becomes talkative during production.

Far from superheroes?

The two plots skilfully distill a mixture of nostalgia for a bygone era and a feeling of impending upheaval.

“I don’t know about the nostalgia,” the actor replied. On the other hand, for Raquel Cassidy, “the nostalgia for this time, certainly” comes from the “magic” and the beauty of the places, whether it is the house of Downton or the magnificent property on the French Riviera, not yet the holiday resort full of tourists that we know today.

Kevin Doyle liked that his character found himself involved in the production of the film shot at Downton Abbey. “It was fascinating to see how a film was made at that time. It was so precarious… the fact of making a silent film, and then, suddenly, the public only wanted talkies.”

As Raquel Cassidy points out, “the female characters are so strong.” As in the series, “The Dowager Countess is the strongest. With her money, Lady Cora has saved the family with discretion and grace, and her strength grows in the film due to what she faces. Edith (Laura Carmichael) who wants to work and whose husband encourages her, Lady Mary… and I could go on.

Discretion, an English brand par excellence, is what, in the eyes of Raquel Cassidy, explains the success of what must now be called a film and television franchise… even if it is years away. light from Marvel productions.

“Julian Fellowes [book author, producer and screenwriter] always wanted to show how the characters react to the pressures they are under. And they are quietly heroic,” said Kevin Doyle.

“The appetite for superheroes is not felt by all categories of spectators. But the heroism is there, in the characters of “Downton Abbey” […] Mr. Molesley is very discreet … and just as heroic”, added the one who, on the screen, embodies his love interest and who has kept as a souvenir the letter that Phyllis writes to Joseph when she is in France.

“Downton Abbey: A New Era” hit theaters May 20 across Quebec.