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Allen Leech didn't want his Downton character to be Irish

Downton Abbey star Allen Leech has told how he didn’t want to audition for the show with an Irish accent.

The Dublin actor, who plays Tom Branson in the award winning show, admitted that he wanted to audition in an English accent, but creator Julian Fellows forced him to read the lines with his own accent.

He said: “Julian did a movie called From Time To Time. He gave me a role in that playing the gardener, funnily enough to Hugh Bonneville who plays lord Grantham in Downton.

“So eventually I got moved up from his gardener to his chauffer in Downton.

“He always had me in mind for his next project, and his next project happened to be Downton Abbey. I went in for the audition.

“And then he said ‘play it Irish’. But I was really reluctant to. As an actor I wanted to show my range. But he said no, he wanted me to keep it Irish.

“And thankfully, I was lucky that I didn’t push it any further, because then Julian jumped on the idea of having an Irish character.

“Because of the time setting he knew it was going to come into 1916 and the troubles, so it gave me a lot to play with.”


Allen, 32, explained that he was only meant to be on the show for three episodes.

He said: “Initially all he hired me for was three episodes. The show hadn’t been fully commissioned, some people did have contracts. But Downton was only meant to be a show of eight episodes and that was it.”

Allen, who also starred in Irish movies Mad About Dog, Cowboys and Angels and Rewind, said he felt a responsibility when Julian made is character Tom Branson, involved in the fight for an Irish free state.

He said: “He brought what was happening in Ireland at the time in what is quintessentially a very British show, and I was proud of that.

“I definitely felt a responsibility because, no offence to Julian, but as an Irish person when you have someone writing about your culture and your history, you want to make sure.”

However Allen was worried about his job when co-star Jessica Brown Findlay, who played his wife Lady Sybil, quit the series.

He said: “Contracts were up and Jessica Brown Findlay decided she didn’t want to do it anymore so I thought that was it for me.

“I thought they’re not going to have the Irish husband still be here if the Lady is gone. But thankfully Julian actually said ‘no I think that’s a better story, let’s see his struggles and how he adapts to life.’

“I only brought it up with Julian recently. I said, ‘But you know, now that Ireland is a free state, he could just go home. And he said “and do you want to go home? I’ll deal with it’.”

While Allen wouldn’t reveal how long his character will last in the show, he revealed that he is moving behind the camera, and writing and directing his own movie.

He said: “I actually wrote a script with a friend of mine. It looks like a deal is being made right now. It’s set in New York, we wrote it over the last year and a half.

“But I’m also going to direct my first short called Quiz Night in about six weeks. Rob James-Collier, who plays Thomas in Downton is in it, I’m stealing him. We’re good friends so he’s going to be a nightmare to direct.

“It’s a lovely little script that we decided to make. I’ve never tried it, and if you don’t try, you don’t know.”


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