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Downton Abbey is a series popular across the world. How did a show about some of the most privileged people in England become a hit across cultures? Downton Abbey cast member Hugh Bonneville has an idea.

‘Downton Abbey’ star on why the show is popular around the world: the characters try to be good

Downton Abbey cast
The cast of Downton Abbey: Jim Carter, Raquel Cassidy, Kevin Doyle, Phyllis Logan and Brendan Coyle | Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features, LLC

When Downton Abbey cast member Hugh Bonneville was interviewied by  SAGA in 2019, he acknowledged that the show is “complete escapism.”

“It’s a world that, if it did exist, was limited to a tiny section of the population,” the actor said. Still, the stories on Downton Abbey are popular all over the globe.

“… we can’t get away from the fact that it has a huge following across the world in cultures and societies and political structures as varied as Brazil and China,” Bonneville told the publication.

One universal aspect, the Downton star believes, is that every character on the series strives towards being a good person.

“Even our villains,” Bonneville said. The Downton Abbey actor continued:

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.

Cast member Hugh Bonneville says the British drama series touched many fans on an emotional level

Downton Abbey movie cast
Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery on the set of the Downton Abbey movie | Jaap Buitendijk / Focus Features

In the same interview, Bonneville apparently got “emotional” remembering fan letters; many wrote the cast that “Downton has helped them through difficult times.” The actor recalled:

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.’

That’s why Bonneville believes Downton Abbey is more than just a TV show.

“Yes, it is a fantasy,” he acknowledged, “but it’s not so far out of reach in terms of memory. It’s my grandparents’ generation.”

Many viewers in that generation — or with relatives in that generation — appreciate the historical details added throughout Downton Abbey.

“… you’ve got nice little touches each series,” Bonneville said, “like the invention of the electric whisk or the hairdryer.”

‘Downton Abbey’ creator Julian Fellowes on the love — and the 2 characters that best embody it over 6 seasons

The creator of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes, told the website WLIW that the key to the show is simple.

“The spine of the series is love,” Fellowes explained. “All of the characters are given an opportunity to feel love, to turn love down, to love the wrong person, to make a mess of it, to make a good thing of it.”

However, the Downton Abbey writer/creator wanted love to be a focus of the show.

“I think on the whole love is a very key ingredient to all our lives, even if we haven’t got any,” he said.

Downton Abbey movie cast
Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Grantham and Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey | Jaap Buitendijk / © 2019 Focus Features, LLC

Have ‘Downton Abbey’ Withdrawal? Cast Member Hugh Bonneville Has an Idea

“The central marriage of Downton Abbey is that of Robert and Cora, played by Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern,” the site argues. The two characters’ “deep understanding and affection for one another” stands out — and “grows over the course of 6 seasons.”