‘Downton Abbey’: The Real Reason Why Cora Crawley Was American

In many ways, the world is more globally connected than it has ever been. Via our technological advancements, we share entertainment with ease, and our cultural fabrics continue to intertwine in interesting and surprising ways.

The connections between British entertainment and their American counterparts have been particularly pronounced. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex — an American actress — even married into the British Royal Family, which seems like an apt metaphor for the cultural mingling happening as television, films, and news stories jump back and forth across the pond. 

Downton Abbey, a particularly British series, had an American perspective through the eyes of the character Cora Crawley. Many suspected the character was written specifically to appeal to American audiences — and capitalize on American entertainment dollars. However, creators insist that’s not the case. 

Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern on the "Downton Abbey" set at Highclere Castle on February 16, 2015 in Newbury, England.
Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern on the “Downton Abbey” set at Highclere Castle on February 16, 2015 in Newbury, England. | Vera Anderson/WireImage

Premiering in 2010, Downton Abbey gave viewers across the globe a glimpse into the fictionalized past with a tale set in the early 20th century. The story follows the aristocratic Crawley family as well as the lives of their staff.

Hugh Bonneville stars as Lord Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham. Over six dramatic and tantalizing seasons, viewers get to see the ups and downs of both the aristocracy as well as the working underclass who serves them. They had plenty of moments of suspense and laughs along the way.

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The show explores clashing ideals and represents a changing of the time. As old-guard conservationism runs headlong into more progressive perspectives, modern-day viewers can find parallels with present political battles that make a show set 100 years ago feel fresh and relevant.

At the same time, the fantastic costumes and the sometimes ridiculously old-fashioned facade of it all provides a kind of fantastical escapism that many viewers crave. The combination was so popular that viewers were not ready to say goodbye when the series wrapped up in 2015. 

‘Downton Abbey’ is returning for a sequel 

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Following the conclusion of the series, fans were thrilled to see that it wasn’t over just yet. Many of the original cast members returned for a 2019 follow-up film, and now the story will continue once more with yet another film in the franchise.

Jim Carter, who plays Charles Carson, delighted fans when he announced that he had seen the script and it is “very funny.” Making the sequel extra special is the anticipation that Maggie Smith, a fan favorite as Violet Crawley the Dowager Countess of Grantham, will be returning. Due to the aging actor’s poor health, it was unexpected that she would be able to return for the sequel — especially with Covid-19 concerns.

With shooting set to begin in March 2021 and last until May, the 86-year-old Smith will be given her own “bubble” on set to help ensure her safety. One character who is expected to make a return for the sequel is Cora Crawley. Her marriage to Robert is one of the central tenets of the show, and continuing that part of the story is likely to top of many fans’ minds. 

Cora Crawley was not created for American appeal

RELATED: ‘Downton Abbey’ Didn’t Create the Character of Cora To Attract American Viewers

Cora Crawley, portrayed by Elizabeth McGovern, is an American, which makes her stand out among the cast of Brits. Many suspected that this decision was designed to make the show more appealing to American audiences, thus increasing its potential reach and success. 

As Mental Floss reports, however, this wasn’t what the creators had in mind. The decision was more plot-driven than based on marketing. Show creator Julian Fellowes explained: “The advantage for me of having the American wife was it gave me a central character who was not dyed in the wool of the upper middle class upbringing, so you could have one of the principal characters who didn’t take all that stuff for granted, and questioned it, as Cora did.” 

The fact that Cora helped rope in more American viewers was just a nice bonus.