Star shares reason why Downton Abbey is so popular ahead of new film release

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Hugh Bonneville stars as Robert Grantham and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey: A New Era Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

ITV Meridian's Natalie Boare met the cast of Downton Abbey: A New Era

One of the reasons for Downton Abbey's huge success around the world could be its famous setting at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, actor Raquel Cassidy has said.

She was speaking ahead of the release of Downton Abbey: A New Era in cinemas this Friday (29 April).

Raquel plays Phyllis Baxter, the Countess of Grantham's lady's maid. Ahead of the premier she told ITV Meridian reporter Natalie Boare why she thought Downton Abbey had stood the test of time.

"It's difficult to tell, 100 people would give 100 different answers, and that might well be the secret, that there is so much people can relate to, you know and it's also set in this incredible setting, that people can't relate to but there is something spectacularly beautiful about it," says Raquel.

Highclere Castle has been the location for the Downton Abbey television series and movies Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Archive/PA Images

Both Downton Abbey films and the television series were filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.Created by Julian Fellowes the first television series was broadcast in 2010 on ITV and it was so successful a further five series followed until 2015. At its peak it had a weekly audience of more than 13 million. Michelle Dockery's character, Lady Mary Crawley, has been central to many of the storylines from the start but in this latest film the audience get to see a softer side to her.

Michelle says: "She is in a much kind of settled place in her life and the sparring between her and her sister has kind of died down and I think that kind of comes with maturity and the fact they live so far apart , but it's lovely playing her.

Harry Hadden-Paton stars as Bertie Pelham, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith, Tuppence Middleton as Lucy Smith and Allen Leech as Tom Branson Credit: Downton Abbey A New Era, a Focus Features release / Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

"I love playing her anytime and this film particularly was great to see her out of her comfort zone and doing something very different and being part of a movie - it's just really cool."

Downton Abbey: A New Era sees a silent movie film crew descend on the Crawley household. Keen to escape the chaos some of the family travel to the South of France to uncover the mystery of a villa that the Dowager Countess has inherited.

New to the Downton Abbey cast is Hugh Dancy, who plays film director Jack Barber.

Hugh told ITV News he was made to feel very welcome by the rest of the cast: "They made it very easy, so I suppose it could have been challenging or could have been uncomfortable but it really wasn't from day one." 

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey: A New Era Credit: Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

And Kevin Doyle who plays Mr Molesley says it was a learning curve for them all: "We were all experiencing something for the first time, a film within a film which was sort of new, so we had a few days where we were filming with a film historian so we all shared that together so that was a nice little introduction - that sort of helped." 

Asked whether we would see a third Downton Abbey movie, the cast wouldn't be drawn, saying only: "Who knows"

Downton Abbey: A New Era will be released in UK Cinemas April 29th