Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton have been married for 36 years and have a CBE and an OBE between them, having both appeared in countless films and TV shows.
But despite both being successful actors in their own right, they’ve only ever starred in three films together; Shakespeare In Love, Bright Young Things and Alice In Wonderland.
Now, with Downton Abbey back – this time on the big screen – Imelda, 63, has joined Jim, 71, and his cast-mates for their fourth film together. However, as the couple sit down to chat to our sister publication Woman’s Weekly, it turns out there weren’t many words exchanged between the pair due to Jim playing butler Mr Carson downstairs, while Imelda’s Lady Bagshaw mingles in higher circles.
‘Unfortunately, we went to work together three days and didn’t really speak to each other, much like at home!’ Jim chuckles. He continues: ‘I saw her across a posh dinner table and across a field full of horses, and that was it, but it was great being in it together, a treat.’
Despite the fact they didn’t have much to do with each other on set, as we speak to Jim and Imelda, it’s clear Jim has a very big place in his heart for Downton Abbey. And he was just as excited to turn the TV show, which ended at the end of 2015, into a film, as the millions of fans worldwide.
‘I thought it was lovely being asked to do the film,’ he says. ‘We heard about it about two and a half years after the series finished, and the reason for doing the film is that the fans kept asking us all the time.
‘Everyone asked, “Are you going to do a film? Is there going to be another series?” so it just seemed lovely. There’s obviously the demand there. People wanted it to happen, and it was a treat to do it!’
And of course Jim was immediately eager to get his wife Imelda the chance to come on board for the film.
‘Jim let me know the film was a possibility,’ Imelda explains. ‘He was out watching cricket and had just emailed Gareth Neame, the producer, and he texted me saying, I think you might be getting a script.’
And, while she admits it wasn’t a hard decision to say yes to Downton, Imelda did, of course, do the sensible thing of reading her script first.
The actress tells us, ‘I wasn’t going to just say yes without reading the script, but I think the writer Julian Fellowes has done a tremendous job of delivering to the fans what they’re hoping for, with a little bit more.
‘It was lovely to be part of it, and also, I had a very nice storyline. It was nice to come in on something that’s quite challenging to do and not just being a lady in a posh frock.’
The person who really made Imelda love her time on the Downton set, however, was Dame Maggie Smith – who plays the iconically frosty Dowager Countess Violet Crawley.
Having previously gone head-to-head in Harry Potter – as Professor Minerva McGonagall and Dolores Umbridge – Imelda was very excited to face up to the acting legend again.
She enthuses, ‘I loved doing the stuff with Maggie, they were my favourite scenes. I’ve worked with her before, but it was great because no-one can deliver those lines like she can.’
Speaking about Dame Penelope Wilton, who plays Isobel Crawley in the film, Imelda modestly adds, ‘With her and Penelope, it’s like Roger Federer (opens in new tab) and Rafael Nadal, and I’m there trying to get it back over the net.’
For Jim, his favourite moment was returning to Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed. He beams, ‘I loved walking back up to the castle because I thought, “People are going to like this.” I felt a bit like Clint Eastwood walking into town. I probably didn’t look like it though!
And it may not be the last time Jim and Imelda visit Highclere, as neither have ruled out another film!
When we ask whether there’s any chance of another, Jim says, ‘It depends how this one goes, I suppose. If people don’t like it, there won’t, and if people love it, there might be. Who knows?
‘You want to do things people enjoy, and if it’s seen by a lot of people, that will be very nice. But that’s above my pay-grade, that’s for the producers and writer!’
Imelda jokingly chips in, ’I can see it now, “Bagshaw is back!”’
Jim finishes, ‘It would be a treat to do it. It would be an easy yes. Why not? It’s good fun.’
It doesn’t sound like it’s the end of Downton just yet!