Almost 13 years have passed since the British TV series Downton Abbey premiered and became a cultural sensation on both sides of the pond. It first aired in the UK on in September, 2010 and then premiered in the U.S. on PBS, as part of its Masterpiece Classic anthology, in January, 2011. The show ran for six seasons and fifty-two episodes, including five Christmas specials. Millions of Americans were instantly hooked and tuned in every week to watch the Downton Abbey cast bring the glitz, glamour and charm of the early 20th century characters to life. So much so, that after the end of the series, two feature films were made, Downton Abbey (2019) and Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022). Here, we catch up with the beloved Downton Abbey cast, and discover what they’ve been doing away from the Crawley estate.
The premise of Downton Abbey
Downton Abbey follows the lives of Britain’s aristocratic Crawley family and the life downstairs among their servants. The show begins after the Titanic sinks, in April 1912. Fans quickly fell in love with the drama, the dry British humor, the banter and the chemistry between characters. The superb acting, character development and incredible costumes didn’t hurt.
The show has a mix of humor and tragedy and series creator Julian Fellowes (who recently also produced the hit show Gilded Age for HBO, which has a similar premise but set in Manhattan around the same time period) integrated real-life, tragic world events with everyday living. Whether you’ve never seen the show or you’d love to return to the Downton Abbey world again and again, you can stream it on PBS Passport and Amazon Prime.
Catch up with the Downton Abbey cast
Here is what some key members of the all-star cast of Downton Abbey are doing today:
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Talbot
The character of Lady Mary Talbot, oldest daughter of the Earl of Grantham, started off the series as a bitter and mean woman, but as time went on, a softer side emerged.
British actress Michelle Dockery is married to Jasper Waller-Bridge (many Downton Abbey stars attended their September 2023 wedding). Since the series has ended, Dockery reprised her role in the movies Downton Abbey (2019) and Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022), and a few TV series including Netflix’s Godless.
But a key role in her post-Abbey career is a crossover into the singing world. Dockery and Abbey co-star Michael C. Fox (who played Andrew Parker in the fifth and sixth season) have teamed up and formed the musical duo Michelle & Michael. They released an album The Watching Silence in 2022. Their new album Don’t Go Alone will be released in December.
Dame Maggie Smith as Lady Violet Crawley
Ah, Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham – and the British spitfire Maggie Smith who plays her. What would Abbey be without its finest comic relief? Violet’s zingers and dry wit are legendary.
After Downtown Abbey ended, Smith returned for both Abbey movies. She also did voiceovers for Sherlock Gnomes and the video game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. She also had parts in A Boy Called Christmas and The Miracle Club. After overcoming breast cancer, Smith is in good health today and is thriving at age 88 and recently became the spokesperson for Loewe luxury fashion line.
Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley
In his role as Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville — a British actor known for live theater performances with Royal Shakespeare Company and other companies — shines. Since the Downton Abbey series ended, Bonneville starred in movies including Paddington 2 and both Abbey movies.
Bonneville has also found success in voiceover work, and has credits in The Greatest Auction and Silent Night: A Song for the World. At the beginning of October, Bonneville announced his split from his wife, Lulu, after 25 years of marriage.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Pelham
The Lady Edith Pelham character was unlucky in love until she married Bertie Pelham, and she had a fierce rivalry with her sister. English actress Laura Carmichael earned worldwide recognition for her acting in the series.
She reprised her role in both Abbey movies. Carmichael played the role of Agatha Fyfle in the TV series The Secrets She Keeps, and Maggie Pole on The Spanish Princess. She is married to Abbey co-star Michael C Fox, and they had a son in 2021.
Joanne Froggett as Anna Bates
Head housemaid Anna Bates, who is fiercely loyal and kind to the Crawley aristocrats, played an important role in the Abbey cast, and British actress Joanne Froggett was perfectly cast in the Golden Globe-winning role.
Since the Abbey series ended, Froggett returned for both movies, voiced the Wendy character in Bob the Builder and played various other roles in other TV series including Liar, Angela Black, North Shore and The Commons.
Brendon Coyle as John Bates
Robert Crawley’s valet, John Bates, who has a disability from a war injury and is treated badly by most of the staff initially, is polite and kind but has a dark side. (Then again, don’t they all in a good TV drama?) British-Irish actor Brendan Coyle has a role in Netflix’s upcoming four-part series called Toxic Town.
Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley
The beloved character Matthew Crawley may have – spoiler alert – died in the third season of Abbey, but the character played by British actor Dan Stevens drove major plots in the first few seasons. In the past few years, Stevens has done many voiceover and live-action roles, including in the TV series Solar Opposites, Gaslit and The Prince. He even played the beast in the Beauty and the Beast (2017) live action movie with Emma Watson.
Lily James as Lady Rose Aldridge
As Lady Rose Aldridge, English actress Lily James is bubbly, cheerful, and a bit rebellious. James is slated to act in a 10-week stint in Lyonesse, by playwright Penelope Skinner, at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London. Other than the stage, James has appeared in several movies and TV shows, including Pam & Tommy, The Pursuit of Love and War & Peace.
Allen Leech as Tom Branson
Irish actor Allen Leech portrays Tom Branson, the former chauffeur and estate manager for the Abbey who loves history and politics, and is quite blunt in the early seasons. Leech has since starred in The Vanishing Triangle, a series inspired by the disappearance of several Irish women during the 1990s. He also appeared in the Oscar-winning movie Bohemian Rhapsody.
Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley
One of the most heartbreaking storylines on the series — spoiler alert – came when Lady Sybil Crawley, played by Jessica Brown Findlay, dies suddenly in season 3 – the first Abbey character who was killed off. Findlay went on to act in shows including Castlevania, Harlots, and The Flatshare.
Jim Carter as Charles Carson
The Charles Carson character, the Abbey’s butler, is strict, no-nonsense, serious, and a stickler for rules. After Abbey, Jim Carter played Pope Boniface in the TV series Knightfall. He also does voiceover work, most recently as the King in The Sea Beast. Carter has been married to actress Imelda Staunton (who played Delores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Queen Elizabeth on the Crown) for 40 years.
Robert James-Collier as Thomas Barrow
British actor Robert James-Collier won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Thomas Barrow – a former Abbey butler and longtime servant who is a bitter, closeted gay man during an intolerant time. James-Collier has since acted in several TV series, including The Long Shadow, Fate: The Winx Saga and Ackley Bridge.
Phyllis Logan as Mrs. Hughes
Scottish actress Phyllis Logan played the head Abbey housekeeper Mrs. Hughes, who is stoic and serious, but also kind-hearted and ethical. Logan has acted in the series Girlfriends and The Good Karma Hospital. She also played Maggie in the TV series Guilt. In April 2023, Logan was filming for the eighth series of BBC mystery series Shetland.
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley
An American actress in a British-heavy cast, Elizabeth McGovern played Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham – known for seeing the best in people, and sometimes ignoring their dark sides – very well. Since Abbey, McGovern has played roles in shows including War of the Worlds and A Name Without a Place. She is married to film director Simon Curtis.
Kevin Doyle as Joesph Molesley
British actor Kevin Doyle plays the everyman, hard on his luck, character Joseph Molesley, who had various jobs, including butler and valet. Since then, he has appeared in many shows, including Sherwood, Silent Witness, and Miss Scarlet & the Duke.
Penelope Wilton as Isobel Crawley
Abbey’s cast of characters had a royal quality about them, and English actress Penelope Wilton – who played the bold, strong-willed Isobel Crawley – continued with a royalty role after Abbey, playing the Queen role in The BFG. Other appearances include The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and After Life. On October 27th, 2023 she took the stage in London’s West End as the Queen Mother with Luke Evans in a play called Backstage Billy.
Lesley Nicol as Beryl Patmore
The motherly and bossy Abbey cook Beryl Patmore, played by British actress Lesley Nicol, is strict but caring and has a wry sense of humor. Nichol won three Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for the role.
In recent years, Nicol voiced characters on Summer Camp Island, Jellystone and Animaniacs. In December, Nicol will be performing with The Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, Utah, for Christmas concerts.
Sophie McShera as Daisy Mason
British actress Sophie McShera went on to star in another historical show, Galavant, after Abbey. McShera – who played the scatterbrained Daisy Mason, first a kitchen maid and then an assistant cook – has appeared in several TV series, including The Gallows Poll.
For more glamorous period drama, read on…