Last night, Taylor Swift showed up at the premiere of Romeo & Juliet, but I could not have cared less. I had the attention of Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes (known also as Baron Fellowes of West Stafford and a member of the House of Lords) who wrote the latest version of Shakespeare’s tragedy.
Needless to say, we got along like a house on fire (or, ever the gentleman, he allowed me to think so).
We discussed the art of period dramas, a theme Fellowes is all too familiar with.
“There was a time when people said that period films were dead, and that no one cared about them,” Fellowes told me. “I lived through the death of the musical, the rebirth of the musical, the death of the sports movie, and the rebirth of the sports movie.”
“Nobody knows anything, that’s the point of our business. We don’t know anything. [All of a sudden] someone comes along with a reinvention of a genre, and they think, ‘Wait a minute! I’m really enjoying this.’
“And suddenly that myth’s gone out the window and everyone is pitching period dramas.”
Speaking of period dramas, season four of Downton Abbey premiered in the UK this past Sunday. Will this one be the last?
“No, no. I don’t think the fourth will be the last,” he said. “But I don’t think it will go on forever in the American way (where a series goes through 12 seasons, for example).”
Traditionally, British shows last about 3 to 4 seasons (lest they end up like Friends).
Fellowes began to speak of season four, but I reminded him that spoilers were not welcome on American soil (I’m a traditional girl, despite access to the interweb).
“I mustn’t say anything,” he agreed. “I won’t tell anything about the story. You’re safe with me.”
“It’s very complicated. Its like a series of trick wires,” Fellowes said of British nobility and peerage titles. “Whether the daughter of an Earl outranks a Baron, I think we have to take that up in private, because in her [Emma’s] house, nobody outranks her.”