Why ‘Downton Abbey’ Cast Member Hugh Bonneville Calls the Series ‘Complete Escapism’

Downton Abbey, the British series about a wealthy family and their estate’s giant staff, is somehow popular all over the world. Perhaps that’s because, as one of the show’s cast members Hugh Bonneville put it, the TV show Downton Abbey is total “escapism.”

Even though not everyone can relate to the ‘Downton Abbey’ characters, cast member Hugh Bonneville knows the show is warm and fuzzy

Downton Abbey
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley and Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley in the 2019 Downton Abbey movie | Jaap Buitendijk / © 2019 Focus Features

Downton Abbey star Bonneville, who plays Robert Crawley, or the Earl of Grantham, told SAGA last year that he has a special place in his heart for the Julian Fellowes series.

While Bonneville has worked on other big projects like Paddington (and its sequel), Downton Abbey is still what gives him the most “warm, fuzzy feelings.”

“It’s complete escapism,” he argues of the show. The aesthetics of the show make it a true masterpiece to watch; the gowns, the estate, the beautiful people, the infamous theme song, we could go on. But Bonneville understands that the story Downton tells is a thin sliver of the human experience.

“It’s a world that, if it did exist, was limited to a tiny section of the population,” the actor explained. That makes it all the more impressive that Downton Abbey “has a huge following across the world,” Bonneville continued” — and “in cultures and societies and political structures as varied as Brazil and China.”

How in the world is ‘Downton Abbey’ so popular?

The Downton Abbey actor believes the reasoning behind the series’ global popularity comes down to the characters, who Fellowes writes in a very specific way.

Downton Abbey movie
The Downton Abbey movie | Jaap Buitendijk / © 2019 Focus Features

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“Julian, he says, writes from a default position that people try to be good,” SAGA reported. Bonneville further explained:

Even our villains. We know they are flawed people put into a position in the world where life made them do these things, but somewhere in them there is a goodness, or an attempt to make their lives better. That is the heart of Downton.

The series got several emotional fan letters over the 6 seasons

However, just because Downton can be described as “escapist” TV, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable and meaningful to its fans.

“Yes, it is a fantasy,” Bonneville acknowledged. “But it’s not so far out of reach in terms of memory.”

That’s why it makes sense that so many Downton Abbey viewers watched it with older relatives, and bonded over it.

“It’s my grandparents’ generation,” he said. Not to mention, Downton adds “nice little touches” to each season, “like the invention of the electric whisk or the hairdryer.”

Downton Abbey cast member Hugh Bonneville
Hugh Bonneville on Downton Abbey | PBS

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And it sounds like the viewers appreciated those details; Bonneville even gets “emotional” sometimes when reflecting on fan letters from the series. According to many adoring fans, “Downton has helped them through difficult times.”

“I had more than one letter saying ‘Downton reminds me of when my gran died. We watched the whole series as she was passing because it’s the one thing she wanted to do,’” the actor told SAGA.