Spend Christmas With the Crawleys — Plus a Sneak Peek at the 2022 'Downton Abbey' Film
We talk to the stars and get the scoop
Celebrate Christmas with the Crawleys! PBS Masterpiece is broadcasting the 2019 movie on Christmas Day 2021, and again on Jan. 2 after the premiere of the new series, Around the World in 80 Days, starring David Tennant.
Grownups love the Crawleys
Forget superheroes — the Crawleys are a bona fide franchise, and the $195 million hit film of their aristocratic exploits was driven by AARP’s grownup cohort. Most viewers at its premiere were over 55, and the median age for addicts of the original TV show was 60 to 63.
"With Downton Abbey, baby boomers flex their muscles at the multiplex,” says The Hollywood Reporter. "Bottom line: Make movies that have appeal to this audience and they will show up in droves,” Comscore box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian tells AARP. “Don't leave the influential, passionate, movie-loving folks over 50 out in the cold.”
Hugh Bonneville, 55, who plays Downton's Lord Grantham, tells AARP: “Cinema number crunchers are going to have to go to their calculators and say, ‘Hang on, maybe there is an audience that goes for films with gravitas or wisdom behind them.’”
Downton Abbey stars share a sneak peak with AARP
There’s more to get excited about in 2022. Downton Abbey: A New Era, which picks up the plot a year later in 1927, is scheduled to open in March and boasts most of the old cast, plus newcomers Dominic West, 52, as an aristocratic Downton guest and French star Nathalie Baye, 73, as a longtime crony of Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith, 87) — who this time around has scandalously acquired a villa in France from a mysterious man in her past.
The sequel is an “unashamedly feel-good movie,” says creator Julian Fellowes, 72. “It’s a delicious pudding with a spoonful for everyone,” adds Bonneville, “with elements of soap, multistranded storylines, melodrama, sweeping romance, and really sobbing, heartbreaking moments.”
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”As for the heartbreak, Elizabeth McGovern, 60, agrees: “There will be tears — that’s all I can say!” McGovern, who plays Cora, the American wife of Downton owner Lord Grantham, has lived her own expatriate storyline. The actress left Hollywood at the age of 21 after an Oscar nomination for her work in Ragtime, married a British showbiz aristocrat (Cranford director Simon Curtis) and moved to England.
“I’m not sure much has changed between 1926 and 1927,” says McGovern, though there is a generational shift. Violet’s French adventure leaves her granddaughter Mary (Michelle Dockery) with more power over Downton. “Mary is taking the reins from Violet,” says McGovern, “and Cora wants her daughters to take the reins and run with them — to have more control over their lives than she ever had.”
Going from a fictional family to a real family
After 11 years of playing the Crawleys, McGovern says, “It doesn’t feel like acting anymore. We really love each other.” And they feel like family to viewers. “At first, the show appealed to people nostalgic for a simpler time. Now I think people are nostalgic for the way the world was when they first started watching Downton!”
Catch Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture on Dec. 25 and Jan. 2, on PBS (check local guides for showtimes).
Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.