Refreshingly honest and humorous, the exclusive event with Laura Carmichael and Samantha Bond was wonderful to be a part of.
Laura Carmichael and Samantha Bond (Lady Edith Crawley and Lady Rosamund Painswick from Downton Abbey, respectively), as Associate Actors for the Nuffield, brought with them an evening of candid anecdotes, charm and a general air of grace.
The event was rife with plugs, with Nuffield Director Sam Hodges opening by telling us of the Nuffield’s upcoming projects, all of which wore a little thin towards the end. That being said, as a fundraising event for the theatre, it was probably necessary.
Both Carmichael and Bond attended the Old Vic theatre school in Bristol, and have nostalgic ties to the Nuffield as well. Carmichael grew up in Southampton, and was credited for her charming portrayal of a street urchin as a youngster, whilst Bond passed her driving test here and spent a nine month season on the stage from August 1982.
Meanwhile Sally Taylor was a wonderful interviewer. The atmosphere was relaxed, and both the questions and answers flowed easily, allowing for comical anecdotes from all parties. Said anecdotes delved into everything from Samantha Bond’s kiss with Pierce Brosnan as Miss Moneypenny, to Laura Carmichael doing the ‘Single Ladies’ dance in her Downton corset. It was a refreshingly open evening, that as well as covering everything that the two women have been involved with in terms of television, film and theatre, also raised some interesting issues. It wasn’t just a plug for the Nuffield or for the careers of the two women – though the latter was obviously a point of interest. Instead, there was quite a lot of focus on women in the ‘acting world’ and the changes that need to be made. Samantha Bond called out the lack of representation of middle aged women – ‘where are our stories?’- acknowledging that it’s probably men making most of the decisions behind the scenes. It’s an issue that not only the acting world falls prey to, but all of entertainment itself: making the age old ‘what is it like to be a female in the industry’ question, still an important one to ask. Downton Abbey isn’t a place where this is such a problem though: as both actresses praised the fairly equal gender ratio of its cast.
Their roles in Downton Abbey were perhaps those that audience members were most interested in. Carmichael referred to getting the part of Lady Edith after leaving drama school without an agent or a job as ‘miraculous’. Talk centred strongly on the strength of female characters in the series, particularly noting Lady Edith as a modern woman. They gave a warming insight into the world of Downton, from working with Dame Maggie Smith, to the difficulty of putting gloves on, to the cheekiness of Allen Leech. Something that was lovely to hear is that, as recent as two weeks ago, the Downton ladies got together for supper, hosted by Maggie Smith.
The generational difference between Samantha Bond and Laura Carmichael gave a nice tint to the evening. Downton Abbey meant very different things to the two of them at such different stages in their careers, and there was a real sense of camaraderie between the two. The end of the evening saw both actors present in the Nuffield’s bar, signing autographs, chatting to fans and taking photos. They were refreshingly humble, and rounded off the evening perfectly.
The evening was, in a word, lovely. Laura Carmichael and Samantha Bond were honest, charming and effortless. They are a credit to the Nuffield as Associate Actors.
Laura Carmichael is currently starring alongside Orange Is The New Black’s Uzo Aduba and Fresh Meat’s Zawe Ashton in The Maids at the Trafalgar Studios, London.
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