When Downton Abbey first hit our screens in 2010, it quickly became evident that the show would be a smash hit. Viewers seemed to love the scandalous upstairs-downstairs Edwardian soap opera, and in its first season, it became the highest-rated show in over 30 years (via Slant). Downton Abbey went on to enjoy a six season run, finally ending in 2015. Then, in 2019, we checked in with the characters again with the Downton Abbey movie (via IMDb).
Downton Abbey followed the upper-class Grantham family and their army of live-in servants. Alongside the stunning Edwardian costumes, the wide range of British accents, and rolling English hills, the show was also filled with shocking twists and turns that thrilled viewers.
As for the cast, Downton Abbey featured dozens of actors throughout its six seasons. For the most part, the older actors on the show were titans of the British acting world — think Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, and Jim Carter. And for the younger actors, the show was often a jumping off point that led to a wonderful career. So without further ado, here’s what the cast been up to since Downton Abbey came to an end.
Michelle Dockery took on some very different roles after Downton Abbey
Michelle Dockery portrayed Lady Mary, the eldest Grantham daughter, in Downton Abbey. With her snobby exterior concealing a kinder disposition, Mary was a firm fan favorite. Additionally, Dockery was relatively unknown prior to the show, having guest starred in a few British shows and appearing in the 2012 film Anna Karenina.
Since Downton Abbey, Dockery branched out from the posh girl stereotype to take on some very different roles. In 2017, she played Alice in Godless, another period drama — but this time, a western. As she told Vanity Fair, “Getting the role was a big deal.” Next, Dockery took on the role of Letty in Good Behavior; in this show, she played a con artist who’d just gotten out of prison — talk about a contrast! Then in 2019, Dockery starred in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen, a modern day crime flick. While her character was pretty pulled together, when she opened her mouth, it was clear that she was no Lady Mary. As she told Tatler, “Being able to play a character whose accent has an Essex sound, as mine does — I love that” (via Film News).
Maggie Smith was happy when Downton Abbey ended
It would be difficult to go through life without coming across Dame Maggie Smith at least once. Smith is an undisputed titan of the stage and screen with credits such as Harry Potter, Gosford Park, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, along with countless Shakespearian productions (via IMDb). To that end, the period drama Downton Abbey certainly seemed right up her alley. And her incisive portrayal of the Grantham matriarch made for some great gifs (via Refinery29)!
However, as it turns out, Smith wasn’t exactly sad to see Downton go. In an interview on The Graham Norton Show, she explained that since being on the show, she started getting stopped much more frequently. When asked if she was glad that the show had come to an end, she quickly replied, “Oh, yeah. No I really am.” Smith went on to explain laughingly that her character “must’ve been 110” by the time Downton Abbey finished. Smith then coyly admitted that she’d never even seen the show!
Hugh Bonneville has stayed seriously busy since Downton Abbey
Hugh Bonneville is another well-known British actor that just seems to pop up everything. His previous credits include Harry Potter, Notting Hill, Paddington, Doctor Who, and much more. Suffice to say, he was no stranger to British TV when he was cast in Downton Abbey. And since the show has finished, he’s kept himself incredibly busy with other projects (via IMDb).
One of Bonneville’s more surprising projects was a documentary about the Passion of Christ, called Countdown to Calvary. For the film, Bonneville traveled to Israel. He also took part in a play called Shadowlands about C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia series.
Even though Bonneville has moved onto other projects, he seems to have a lingering fondness for Downton. As he told the Independent when the movie came out, “If the movie works, let’s do another. It could run and run. After all, how many Star Trek movies are there?”
Downton Abbey's Laura Carmichael has moved on to other projects
For Laura Carmichael, who portrayed Lady Edith on Downton Abbey, the show was certainly life-changing. For one thing, it launched her entire career. As she told BBC America, it “was really my first job and it opened so many doors for me.” However, the show also introduced her to her partner, Michael C. Fox. Fox portrayed Andrew Parker in the fifth season of Downton. “I’ve fallen in love and made wonderful friends — how lucky am I?” Carmichael gushed in a chat with Town & Country.
After Downton, Carmichael went on to star in The Spanish Princess, another period drama. However, after that project, she moved on to something entirely different: she played Agatha in The Secrets She Keeps, a modern-day series about a pregnant woman who develops an obsession for another pregnant teen woman. For Carmichael, it was the perfect contrast. “I had been doing The Spanish Princess as well as Downton, so I definitely wanted to look at projects that were quite modern,” she explained. Sounds like this dark part was the perfect change for Carmichael.
Elizabeth McGovern was incredibly proud of Downton Abbey
Elizabeth McGovern played Lady Grantham on Downton Abbey, the American mother of the family. After the show finished, she appeared in a range of films that were all complete departures from Downton: Showing Roots was an American film set in the ’70s, and The Wife was another American film about adultery set in the present day. Then in The Commuter, a modern day Liam Neeson thriller, she played Neeson’s wife. In The Chaperone, however, McGovern returned to the world of period drama in the Julian Fellowes (the creator of Downton Abbey) film about a silent screen star and her chaperone.
In 2019, McGovern also starred in a miniseries of War of the Worlds. As she told Variety, this modern thriller series was a welcome change. “With all these period pieces, I do sometimes feel like I’m in a straight jacket,” she explained. “As a woman, so little of the time you have a voice, and these [characters I played] didn’t.” In War of the Worlds, McGovern found herself “wearing jeans and calling the shots,” which, as she put it, “felt so satisfying.”
Downton Abbey's Joanne Froggatt's show Liar really shows her range
In Downton Abbey, Joanne Froggatt portrayed Anna, the always sweet housemaid who fell in love with Brendan Coyle’s Mr. Bates. Froggatt wasn’t new to acting, having starred in Coronation Street at the age of 16, but she’s certainly taken on some interesting roles since Downton wrapped. From 2017 to 2020, the actress starred in the ITV drama Liar; the modern series follows Froggatt’s character as she tries to get her rapist convicted of his crime. Needless to say, the subject material and tone of this show is vastly different to Downton Abbey.
In 2020, Froggatt spoke to BT TV about Liar. As she explained, the show was even more impactful than Downtown. “A lot of people came up to me in the street when it was shown in the UK,” she recalled. “It was probably one of the biggest reactions to anything I’ve done, emotionally… Everyone was talking about it.” She also added that Liar was one of her most difficult projects, too. “It’s a challenge to play someone where we couldn’t tell if she was telling the truth or not,” she added.
Allen Leech took on an exciting role after Downton Abbey
Allen Leech played Tom Branson in Downton Abbey, the one-time chauffeur of the family who married the youngest daughter. As the actor explained to the Los Angeles Times, he wasn’t exactly pleased with the show’s ending. “I felt that there was a lot left open for him,” he revealed. However, the loose ending actually meant that this character had more to do in the subsequent film. “Looking back now,” he continued, “I’m delighted because it meant he has this arc in the movie.”
Since Downton, Leech has definitely moved on. In fact, he moved to L.A. to marry an American actress; the couple have since had their first child.
Leech also took on some exciting new roles. In 2019’s Bohemian Rapsody, Leech played Paul Prenter, the former manager and lover of Freddie Mercury. As he told Queerty, the experience was a real contrast to Downton; with this bigger budget project, he finally got the luxury of more time on set. With Leech settled in L.A., it looks like we may see him popping up in more Hollywood movies down the line.
Sophie McShera appeared in The Queen's Gambit after Downton Abbey
In Downton Abbey, Sophie McShera played the adorable young kitchen maid, Daisy; in the hierarchical world of Downton, Daisy was at the bottom of the food chain. And while McShera wasn’t exactly new to professional acting, having appeared in well-known British shows like Emmerdale, Doctors, and Waterloo Road. However, Downton certainly set her career in motion (via IMDb).
One of McShera’s biggest roles post-Downton was playing Drisella, one of the ugly stepsisters in Kenneth Branaugh’s Cinderella (which also starred Downton alum Lily James). She also appeared briefly in the super popular Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit as Miss Graham, one of the teachers at Beth Harmon’s orphanage.
In addition to her film and TV roles, McShera also took on some stage roles. In 2016, she worked with Branagh again in his production of The Entertainer in London (via Deadline). It seems that this actress is just getting started on an exciting career!
Jim Carter basically became the father of the Downton Abbey cast
Jim Carter was a crucial part of the Downton Abbey family. While Hugh Bonneville played the head of the house, Carter played Mr. Carson, the butler. As Julian Fellowes, the show’s creator, told Town & Country, “Carson is the father of Downton.” It turns out, Carter probably didn’t really leave Carson behind after filming finished; in fact, he’s actually married to one of his co-stars, Imelda Staunton, who played Lady Maud Bagshaw in the Downton Abbey film. As she explained, “It’s no accident that Jim’s playing that part. He’s as honorable as Mr. Carson.” Apparently, Carter also became a father figure for younger actors on the show, too.
Since Downton Abbey ended, Carter has appeared in a few films and shows, most notably as Pope Boniface in the medieval drama Knightfall. In fact, he actually co-starred with a Downton alum, Tom Cullen. As Cullen told Yahoo!, “I remember the first scene we did [together on Knightfall], I was like, ‘Oh, it’s Mr. Carson with us,’ but he’s such a great actor that within 10 minutes, I just completely forgot.”
Rob James-Collier found it hard to get into a new project after Downton Abbey
Rob James-Collier portrayed Thomas Barrow in Downton Abbey, a gay servant at the house. As the actor explained to Digital Spy, he actually struggled to find acting work both before and after Downton Abbey. Fortunately, after seven months off, James-Collier found a role in an ITV thriller called The Level.
However, Collier-James explained that he didn’t find the wait “frustrating;” Apparently, he’s used to being patient. “I was waiting for the right thing and I could’ve been waiting for years,” he revealed. “This thankfully came along in the same way that Downton came along.”
In addition to The Level, James-Collier found other roles over the years since leaving Downton (via IMDb). He appeared in Urban Myths, The Fight, Death in Paradise, and Vera. Then, in 2019, Collier-James starred in another miniseries called Ackley Bridge about an academy school in Yorkshire (via The Guardian). And in 2021, James-Collier played Saul Silva in Netflix’s much-hyped Fate: The Winx Saga. It’s safe to say, his projects have been worth the wait.
Brendan Coyle turned his focus back to theater after Downton Abbey
Brendan Coyle played the loveable Mr. Bates in Downton Abbey, a quiet, gruff servant who falls for and marries the maid, Anna. After Downton came to an end, the actor went on to appear in various films and shows, including Me Before You and Requiem (via IMDb). However, Coyle’s main focus seems to be the theater.
In 2018, Coyle spoke to the Independent about returning to the stage. What he was after in his work, he said, was “great writing;” he listed Requiem and an Arthur Miller play The Price as examples of post-Downton projects he’d accepted for their scripts.
Coyle then went on to do a one-man show by Irish playwright Conor McPherson. As he explained, he’d been obsessed with MacPherson since the ’90s. “His writing struck me in a way that no writing has ever before or since,” he gushed. It sounds like Coyle really returned to his theater roots after Downton.
Lily James has become a total superstar since Downton Abbey
Lily James is probably one of the biggest stars to come out of the Downton Abbey series. Prior to appearing on the show as Lady Rose, her credits were pretty minimal. However, after Downton, her career well and truly took off. In fact, James has starred in countless major films, including Cinderella, Baby Driver, Darkest Hour, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!, Rebecca, and much more (via IMDb).
James’ rise to fame has practically been stratospheric — and as James put it, it was all thanks to Downton. “That show enabled me to be seen more — and that’s all you really want as an actor, to be able to be seen” (via The Glossary).
Even though James seems to be in just about every film being made right now, she still has big plans for the future. In fact, she’s even considered producing her own female-driven films with a school friend. We can’t wait to see what’s next for her!
Dan Stevens has had an exciting career since Downton Abbey
Dan Stevens’ time on Downton Abbey was short-lived; he played Lady Mary’s love interest, Matthew, until he asked to leave the show in 2012 — and his character was killed off, much to the disappointment of fans (via Country Living). As the actor told The Telegraph at the time, his decision to leave was motivated by a desire to have “a chance to do other things.” So, what other things did he do?
Well, Stevens’ career has certainly been busy and varied. In The Guest, Stevens took on an American thriller. Then in Beauty and the Beast, he starred alongside Emma Watson as the famous Disney prince-turned-beast. And in The Man Who Invented Christmas, Stevens played the famous author Charles Dickens. As he told IndieWire in 2017, his career has given him truly challenging roles. “I think I was mildly terrified,” he said of his role in Beauty and the Beast. “But that’s really, generally what drives a lot of my decision these days, is calibrating the right amount of terror.” Sounds like this actor is always after a challenge!
Matthew Goode starred in plenty of British period dramas since Downton Abbey
Downton Abbey wasn’t exactly an odd project for Matthew Goode, as the British actor’s career has been filled with period dramas; Brideshead Revisited, Belle, The Imitation Game, Death Comes to Pemperbley, and A Single Man are just a few examples. Apparently, Goode didn’t mind returning to the world of period dramas after his stint on Downton either: he played Tony, Princess Margaret’s love interest in The Crown, Sidney in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Philip in Ordeal by Innocence, and David in Four Kids and It (via IMDb).
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Goode discussed another post-Downton project called A Discovery of Witches, which followed a vampire and a witch as they travel through various centuries. Sounds like the ultimate period drama! One thing’s for sure — Goode is clearly pretty comfortable stepping back in time for a role.
Jessica Brown Findlay is in a much healthier place since Downton Abbey
Jessica Brown Findlay was just 21 when she was cast in the first season of Downton Abbey as Sybil, the youngest Grantham sister. As the actress explained to You, she’s done a lot of growing up since the show. Additionally, when Findlay decided to leave Downton, she was still very young. In fact, she’d only just left university. “For a while after, I… distant is the wrong word, but I needed to go off and find a bit of my own identity,” she explained of her decision to leave.
Over the years, Findlay set to work cultivating a healthy work life balance. Unfortunately, shortly after departing Downton, Findlay was hacked by a criminal who exposed private photos, which led to a resurgence of an old eating disorder. However, with therapy, Findlay found a better balance and a better relationship with her body.
Findlay has also been busy with her career, starring in multiple stage productions in London such as Hamlet opposite Andrew Scott and Uncle Vanya, while also appearing in dozens of film and TV projects (via IMDb). Looks like her departure from Downton Abbey ended up working pretty well for her.
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