What Laura Carmichael From Downton Abbey Is Doing Today

For Laura Carmichael, playing Lady Edith Crawley in "Downton Abbey" was her big break. Born in the English coastal city of Southampton in 1986 (via Hampshire Live), Carmichael remained in Hampshire throughout her teens before deciding to study at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She graduated from there in 2007, and worked "odd jobs" as a teaching assistant, receptionist, and nanny while looking for acting work in fringe theatre productions (via MN2S).

Carmichael had just landed a role in a touring production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and was about to jet of to Dubai with the group, when she got the call to read for Edith Crawley in "Downton Abbey." Of course she got the role, and her character's development across the series would become one of its most important aspects. "I don't think we would have expected that Edith would be the one whose role would alter so much," the actress told The New York Times. "Inevitably, when she finds work and a purpose, you see her grow."

Laura Carmichael nearly quit acting before she got the role of Lady Edith Crawley on Downton Abbey

The same can be said for the actress herself, as she nearly quit acting before auditioning for the period drama. "I was so close to not being a working actress. I had a hard time," she told Town and Country. "It's such a painful experience, wanting to act and not doing it, and trying to figure out how to get there." Once she got the role of Edith, it changed the course of her life. "When you are able to work, and I love it, it is such a joy," the actress explained. "And I've fallen in love and made wonderful friends — how lucky am I?"

"Downton Abbey" became some what of an acting masterclass for Carmichael, performing alongside the likes of Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Joanne Froggatt, Lesley Nicol, and Siobhan Finneran (via IMDb). Her time at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre may have prepared her somewhat, but getting to act alongside these icons of British screen was another lesson altogether.

"Drama school prepared me for the nuts and bolts of acting but not for what it's like to be on a film set. It's terrifying really," she said during an interview with Backstage. "There's a lot of theatre heavyweights the 'Downton' cast, and that meant people took the work seriously, but not themselves," she explained, adding, "One of the things I'm grateful for is that I had six years working with the best in the business."

Starring on Downton Abbey prepared Laura Carmichael for future roles

"Downton" not only gave Carmichael the opportunity to hone her craft, but it also gave her the opportunity to study the inner workings of a set environment. "I remember my first day with Hugh Bonneville, with me trying to figure out everything, trying to hit a mark, trying to understand who did what in a crew of people," the actress told Backstage. Thanks to the kindness shown by the cast and crew, Carmichael learnt that the set was a safe place to ask as many questions as possible.

"I learnt to ask the right questions," she continued. Immediately after everyone's hair and makeup was done, the cast would be working through a scene and Carmichael would use this opportunity to learn as much as she could about the process. "I saw the importance of actors being allowed to ask why we were doing it like this or if we could try something different," she explained. In that sense, it enabled Carmichael to start doing the same and made her character all the better for it.

Laura Carmichael has also played major roles in two British thrillers

Her role as Edith not only propelled Laura Carmichael into stardom, but it also opened doors for roles in other films and television shows. Since working on the original series of "Downton," Carmichael had major roles on British thrillers "Marcella" and "The Secrets She Keeps," as well as the Starz drama "The Spanish Princess" (via IMDb). She's also starred in some major films, including "Madame Bovary" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", the latter of which was her first project outside of "Downton."

Of course, Carmichael was a major part of the first "Downton Abbey" film in 2019, and is currently filming its sequel (via Essex Live). The entire cast is returning for the new film, which will also see the addition of Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye, and Dominic West (via Twitter). The film also has a release date, and it's just in time for the festive season. Per Digital Spy, "Downton Abbey: A New Era" will be in cinemas on December 22, 2021, so mark that day down on your calendars.