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7 September 2012

Downton Abbey: An interview with Phyllis Logan (Mrs Hughes)

Mrs Hughes
(Phyllis Logan)
© ITV
So how much of a chore is it for Phyllis Logan, aka Mrs Hughes, to come to work on Downton Abbey?

“Excuse me,” she says, pointing out of her trailer’s open door at the view over Highclere Castle’s wild flower meadows. “Look at that. I’ve got the room with a view. What’s not to like? Every time I come up here it is still breathtaking, beautiful and wonderful.”

The same could not be said for her character Mrs Hughes, the head housekeeper. “She has some issues of her own to be dealing with at the start of this series,” says Logan. “They do get resolved but it is a bit challenging and I think it does give her a different sort of perspective on things - on life.”

It leads to an unlikely alliance with Mrs Patmore. “They become a little more of a partnership let’s say. There’s always been a little bit of tension between them because of the store cupboard key business in series one. But in these circumstances that all seems to go by the board when they realise that they could actually be succour for each other in certain circumstances. So yes, that’s a nice development too.”

As head housekeeper, Mrs Hughes and Mr Carson, the Butler, have a relationship founded on mutual respect and decorum. But Mrs Hughes may turn out to be a little more progressive than her counterpart.

“They still have that nice warmth and respect between them but he still is very much Mr Play-it-by-the- book. Whereas Mrs Hughes is more progressive, in as much as a head housekeeper ever can be. I mean she is still in her corset but you know, apart from that, I think she is a little more of a lefty than he would ever consider right or proper.”

And her path through the third series is to become even more forward thinking.

“As we go on through the series, she looks out for someone who you wouldn’t think she would be supportive of in any way - she actually shows some kindness and support for this unlikely person. There’s a part of her that doesn’t accept fools gladly but I think she realises that we all have our foibles - and perhaps she’s seen more of life than people might think.”

Logan says it’s been refreshing to have a storyline that takes her character out of the house for a change.

“Rather than just wandering about looking vicious with a set of keys jangling off my hip! Yes, it is nice to give another dimension to it.”

Playing a character whose stock in trade is restraint means that when the director says cut, the fun starts. “Screaming and laughing - that has been going on. Anyone who comes down to the set in Ealing where we film the below stairs segments will know that it’s very ribald. I mean this is what is so lovely about it. You are looking like this, all buttoned up, but then yesterday we were all pretending to moon the camera! So we do have a laugh. Siobhan and Rob I would say are the main protagonists in that department...”

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