Of all the characters in the best drama actress category, yours is the only one who exists in another period entirely, Lady Mary is surrounded by modern-day women.
I don’t really think about the actual period, it’s more about the story and what is actually happening to the character as I’m playing her each year. And with Julian Fellowes’ writing, it has a slightly modern narrative. It’s not as alienating as some period dramas can be. I think that Mary comes up against similar dilemmas that a modern woman could have. And when it comes to love, not really much has changed. I feel very much that I’m part of a special time in television with these great roles being written for women. For me, even in Mad Men, it’s more about the women than it is about the male characters.
A lot happened to Lady Mary at the climax of Season 3. She gives birth to a son, and her husband, Matthew (Dan Stevens), is killed, practically in the same cinematic instant. When did you know that was going to happen?
We knew that Dan Stevens was leaving, so it was inevitable really that the character had to be killed off, because Matthew was the heir to Downton Abbey. So he couldn’t very well just disappear, never to be seen again. I think it had to be that final, which seems very brutal, I think, to the audience, but it had to be that way. But it opened up opportunities for Julian to write such a great storyline, a kind of next chapter for Mary. The fourth series begins six months on from Matthew’s death. There isn’t a scene where she finds out; it just jumps ahead.
Is there anyone you’d really like to talk to at the Emmys?
I love Nurse Jackie, and I really admire Edie Falco. So I wouldn’t mind an encounter with her at some point this year. I think she’s wonderful.
Michelle Dockery for AwardsLine magazine — August 14, 2013