'Downtown Abbey' star Elizabeth McGovern reveals she returned to play Cora because of 'loyalty' towards the people in the film
Actor Elizabeth McGovern plays the role of Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham and mother to Lady Mary Talbot, and Edith Pelham, Marchioness of Hexham.
'Downton Abbey' the movie exceeded expectations with an estimated $31 million collection in ticket sales after premiering in the US on September 20. On the day of release, the movie and the show's Cora Crawley -- actor Elizabeth McGovern -- revealed her thoughts on the film, her role and more in this exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). McGovern was excited as well as exhausted from the last few days of promotions for the film but graciously accepted the compliments coming her way: "It's very exciting to see how Downton is hitting the world. It's just so gratifying to feel the visceral response that we're feeling from the audience, fans and the critics. They're kind of embracing it so that does really energizing and obviously affirming."
It wasn't only nostalgia and fans' love for 'Downton Abbey' that brought McGovern back to reprise the role of Cora Crawley. She explained that it was a feeling of loyalty to all the people that have worked so hard for so many years and their desire to do it that pushed her to return. "I want to not to let them down and I'm certainly glad that I am a part of it because it's gone so well. There's no way of anticipating what is necessarily gonna happen. I didn't come back to the movie thinking. 'Oh, this is going to be a huge big box office movie'. I came back because I really love these people and they want to do it. I don't want to be the one to let them down. It's worked out to be beyond my wildest dreams, to be honest."
Speaking of her role -- the Countess of Grantham -- and how she reacts to the changing times in the 1930s and what she thinks of her daughters moving forward, McGovern said that perhaps because of Cora's American background, she has a much easier time with the change than her English family that she's married into. "I think it's to Cora's credit that she stands back and lets her daughters grow and mature, become fully-fledged women without too much interference or criticism or meddling or disapproval."
McGovern added, "She has an ability to let them go and support their desire for change and that's something I really do like about the character. I don't think it's hard for her. I think she's not as attached to ritual and tradition and all that kind of thing as the other members of her English family. I don't think Corey cares."
McGovern also revealed what it was like to share screen space with actors and characters that she had worked with years ago. She explained that her reprising her role and Cora's equation with the other characters on the show is not something that can be separated. She explained, "I think that my character is a response to the other characters around her. I think everybody's personality is really defined by how they respond to people around them. That is the definition of personality. So there's no way to distinguish what it's like to be coming back to that character and to be coming back to the way she responds to other characters."
She also added that the overall difference when it comes to the writing in the movie is that Cora lets her daughter grow up and take over the running of the house so she has less responsibility. "It's very relaxing. She's just having a really good time because the weight of responsibility has been lifted from her, so, in some ways that is nice for Cora, but it's hard to play because there is nothing to really fight for or there's no struggle. I kind of try to find a way of playing the lack of struggle and the fact that she's just happy to be entertaining king and queen."
She also spoke about how her character has very few lines in the film and said that the extraordinary thing about Julian Fellows, the creator of the show and the film, is that "he can suggest so much with those few lines so that you can make it clear to an audience, even an audience that hasn't seen the series so much."
She explained, "I hardly have any lines in the movie but you still understand who I am. You still understand basically what my relationships to other people are and I think that is the great craft that Julian Fellows has mastered. That he suggests so much depth so economically. So in that respect, it's so nice to be able to trust that his words will convey a lot of clarity to the audience and it makes my job very easy. It does so much of the work for me. I just have to trust his words and the audience will understand who I am."