What could have been. If it was up to Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) would still be together if the Manchester lawyer wasn’t killed off in season 3.
“I really would!” the Godless actress, 35, exclusively tells Us Weekly. “But I think they had their problems. Mary is an incredibly complex character and I think that they would have had their issues, I’m sure. But, yea, that’s not the way it went.”
Stevens, 35, decided to leave the beloved PBS drama when his contract ended. “We all had a choice whether to continue with the show after three years and every actor is different and in a different stage in their career and so Dan and Jessica [Findlay], who played Sybil, it was their decision to leave the show,” Dockery explains. “Sometimes I wonder how different it would have been — the show would have been — had they not have left. Things obviously really changed for Mary after Matthew died.”
She adds: “I remember the reaction being so extreme from fans. That was something we weren’t expecting and Dan — he felt it more than anyone I guess because people loved it so much at that time.”
Dockery and Stevens knew each other before landing the series. They costarred in an adaptation of The Turn of the Screw before they crossed paths during the Downton Abbey audition.
“As I was leaving I came out in the waiting room and Dan was there,” she recalls to Us. “I said to him, ‘Who are you reading for?’ He said, ‘Matthew.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Mary?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ We were like, ‘Cool.’ And as I walked out I thought, ‘Well, that could work.’ But I never dreamed that I would get the job. It was just one of the most memorable days of my career — of my life — was getting that part.”
Viewers would go on to fall for Mary and Matthew’s romance. For Dockery, her favorite scenes between the characters were when Matthew proposed and when she sent him off at the train station in season 2.
“She gives him the little toy to bring to war with him. I love that scene and the music,” she says. “I can’t remember how many takes it took but it was such a beautifully written scene. He was going off to war and she thought she would never see him again. It was such a beautiful scene and it’s the moment when Mary realizes how much she loves him.”
Following Matthew’s death, Mary would go on to wed Henry Talbot, played by Matthew Goode. Both of Mary’s wedding dresses can now be seen up close in Downton Abbey: The Exhibition in NYC.
“Both were so beautiful. But the first one — the beading was just incredible. It was handmade, every single bead. And the lace was French lace brought in by Paris. They are incredible. I had to sort of be followed around all day when we were shooting those scenes because everything had to be picked up because it was so delicate. And even sitting down I was worried about tearing it. The work that went into those costumes were amazing,” Dockery tells Us. “I loved both of them because they were both so different. They were both beautiful in there own way. The first one was really special though.”
For more, read the rest in our Now and Then series:
US: Where were you when you landed the role of Lady Mary?
MD: I was sharing a house with three other girls in South London and I was in my bedroom when I got the call from my agent. I remember exactly where I was sitting and everything.
US: What was some of you favorite Mary outfits?
MD: I loved anything that she wore at the estate. I loved any of her riding outfits. The evening dresses were absolutely amazing. There is this green one with this gold ornate lace, which you can see at the exhibition. That one sort of has a prized position because of how beautiful it is and its delicacy. It was a scene at The Ritz with Henry. It was a big dinner scene in the last season. Even for me walking in and seeing my costumes — it was incredibly nostalgic.
US: Mary wasn’t the nicest to Edith. Did you ever jokingly feel bad about that?
MD: People love hearing how close me and Laura are in real life. It’s the extreme opposite from our characters. We loved any of those scenes. The more vile to one another the better for us because we just had a lot of fun playing those scenes. We’d almost get disappointed if we didn’t see any of those sort of things between Edith and Mary. It was just a lot of fun to play. Laura [Carmichael] and I have the exact same sense of humor so we would often be trying not to laugh during takes. Just because the sort of irony of it because we loved each other so much in real life and yet the characters were at war.
US: What was your favorite scene between the characters?
MD: It has to be that last scene in the series where she calls her a bitch. I mean, the thing is it was such a build up for me and Laura because we knew it was coming and obviously because we read the script. But it was such a big moment. It sort of all had to come to a head with those two. It’s such a powerful scene and a real victory moment for Edith. And Mary was often the one who always got one over Edith and it completely turned it on its head. And I just loved that episode particularly because Mary was just on a rampage really to destroy everyone because she was so unhappy. You see Edith finally loses it with her. It’s a really powerful scene and I thought Laura was so brilliant in that moment.
US: Is the cast in a group text?
MD: No, we’re not in a group text but we all do keep in touch and always interested in what each other is up to. And we always try to meet up as much as we can.
US: I read that you didn’t take memorabilia home.
MD: No, I haven’t! And I hear some of my other cast members are all thieves. And they stole things and I didn’t get a chance to. If we do do the movie I’m going to seize the opportunity.
US: How would you like Mary’s story to continue if the rumored movie happens?
MD: I don’t really have any expectations. Julian [Fellowes] is the one with the pen. But the rumors keep continuing and I think it’s only a positive sign that people aren’t quite done with it.
Downton Abbey: The Exhibition runs for a limited time. For more information, go here.
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