Laura Carmichael And Allen Leech On Downton Abbey Filming Dueling Storylines - Exclusive

When we think of impactful British television series, titles like "The Crown" instantly come to mind. But perhaps there wouldn't be such a carved out space for drama-rich, U.K.-based programming if it hadn't been for "Downton Abbey," the singularly brilliant series that ran from 2010 until 2015. Of course, "Downton Abbey" features the likes of Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, and Michelle Dockery, but their storied names make up just a fraction of a brilliant ensemble cast that brought the abbey to life. 

Among the impactful actors are Laura Carmichael and Allen Leech, who bring Lady Edith and Tom Branson to the screen, respectively. Not only did the actors star in the bulk of the original series' episodes, but both also made it to the big screen when the first full-length feature film, also entitled "Downton Abbey," was released in 2019.

Much to the delight of fans, "Downton Abbey" is back in our lives once again, as the second feature film, "Downton Abbey: A New Era," is set to be released. Ahead of the film's premiere on May 20, we sat down with Carmichael and Leech to discuss the dueling storylines of the new film, as the world of "Downton Abbey" has grown enormously in the next chapter.

Laura Carmichael reflects on the more 'disjointed' filming experience

While the bulk of "Downton Abbey" is, of course, filmed at the abbey (or its accompanying sets), "Downton Abbey: A New Era" brings a whole new perspective to the abbey's inhabitants. While a movie set takes over the family estate and turns life on its head, a handful of beloved characters venture to the south of France. It's not just for a vacation, however, but rather to track down why Maggie Smith's matriarchal character was gifted a home in the beautiful setting by a man she hardly knew. With these two simultaneous storylines evolving, we asked Laura Carmichael what it was like filming the second feature, and she reflected on the unique process.

"It's quite often a game of two classes, isn't it, at 'Downton'? With the upstairs and the downstairs, because of the location," Carmichael explained. "The downstairs servant quarters were filmed in a studio, and we were at Highclere Castle." Adding yet another component, however, was the on-location filming in France. Carmichael continued, "We had this extra layer, two or three weeks at the end, which is the cast that goes to France. That meant that it was [more disjointed]."

Allen Leech discusses the ways in which the Downton Abbey world was expanded

With such an expansion impacting the new film's production, did the cast members themselves wonder what the final product would look like? Absolutely, with Laura Carmichael telling us that it was "a thrill to see ... the finished product." In addition to these two worlds interconnecting on screen, Allen Leech further told us that in his perspective, the new era of "Downton Abbey" was exposed to a whole new arena, giving the characters an opportunity to discover new environments.

"What was wonderful was it opened up the world of 'Downton,' taking part of the cast abroad," Leech told us. Reflecting on writer Julian Fellowes' work, Leech explained that the creative mind behind the story was genius, and Fellowes brought multiple components of "Downton Abbey" to the French location.

"What Julian's very cleverly done as well, he's brought them from both the family and the servants. It's not just the family — you can experience exactly as you would back at 'Downton,'" Leech told us. "This movie has ... so many more plots and subplots. Julian's so brilliant at intertwining all of those stories, like you say, and they all come back together at the end."

Focus Features will release "Downton Abbey: A New Era" in theaters on May 20, 2022.