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Downton Abbey actor reminisces as exhibition about drama heads East

By Bo Leung in London | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-06-01 17:19

For hundreds of millions of TV viewers, Downton Abbey offered an insight into the opulent life of the upper-class Crawley family as it struggled with the social and political upheavals of the early 20th century.

Downton Abbey actor reminisces as exhibition about drama heads East

Hugh Bonneville plays Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey

Episodes of the award-winning series were watched by 160 million people in China and 25.5 million in the United States during its last season in 2015.

Now, fans around the world will be able to walk through the sets and admire the costumes that they had previously only seen on TV as Downton Abbey: The Exhibition starts its world tour in Singapore at Marina Bay Sands on June 17. The exhibition will take visitors on a journey through the grand stately home and give them a glimpse into the world of Lord Grantham and his family, as well as those who served them from below stairs.

Visitors can check out the series' most recognizable locations, which have been recreated for the exhibition. Mock-ups include the dining room, Lady Mary's bedroom, the servants' quarters, and the kitchen.

Hugh Bonneville, who played Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham,said the sets were the backdrops to some of the show's most dramatic scenes. Asked to choose his favorite, he said: "I'd say the great hall, simply because there were so many great iconic moments that occurred there, be it the Armistice – the end of the First World War – or seeing Lady Mary coming down the stairs in her wedding dress."

The historical period drama was set in a fictional Yorkshire town with some exterior and interior scenes filmed at Highclere Castle in Newbury, southwest of London.

The kitchen, servants' quarters, working areas, and some of the bedrooms were constructed and filmed at Ealing Studios in London. Many outdoor scenes were filmed in the village of Bampton, in Oxfordshire.

"We were obviously blessed by fantastic location design, costumes, sound and music, everything else that all came together in one of those rare experiences that really worked, really chimed together, and that is what the audience has taken to their heart," Bonneville said.

The exhibition will include more than 50 costumes from the show, worn by actors including Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, and Dame Maggie Smith.

Since Downton Abbey was first broadcast in 2010, it has become a global phenomenon, winning Golden Globe and Emmy awards in the US and BAFTAs in the UK. The drama has been shown in more than 250 countries.

Bonneville said he was shocked when he first heard how popular the show has been in China.

"We knew by the time we'd been filming three or four years that people really loved it all over the world," he said. "And then to discover it was popular in China, I could not believe it. I got a letter from someone in China saying how it was a fascinating reflection of Chinese society and I couldn't believe it."

While Bonneville is now busy with major films and other television series, he teased that there is a possibility that there will be a Downton Abbey film, but said it might be difficult to bring back the cast members from commitments around the world.

"I know there is a lot of goodwill toward the idea, so fingers-crossed," he added.

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