Q&A: Dr Thorne starring Julian Fellowes, Rebecca Front & Tom Hollander

WHERE?: BFI

WHEN: 2/3

Compere Gyles Brandreth describes his childhood friend Julian Fellowes as ‘the only Oscar winner I’ve shared a bath with’ as he introduces us to the Downton Abbey author and members of the cast of his new show.

  • Read on to find out why Dr Thorne isn’t the new Downton and Downton Abbey – the movie latest

It’s clear the two men know each other extremely well as Brandreth asks Fellowes why the Downton author adapted one of his favourite novels by Anthony Trollope.

‘He’s always been one of my favourite novelists and I think he’s underrated. He was popular and thought populist but I don’t agree. His characters are never all good or all bad but a nuanced grey. You can start disliking someone and then warming to them,’ says Fellowes.

The Radio Times recently dubbed Dr Thorne ‘the new Downton‘ and Fellowes is at pains to point out that this isn’t the case. ‘It isn’t. It’s a little three-part love story. I want people to enjoy it with a bottle of wine and to cry at the end. It’s a smaller thing. I don’t people to think it’s the next Downton and they’ll still be there seven years later. You just won’t.’

Fellowes describes Downton – the movie as ‘a possibility’. ‘My own belief is that it probably will happen. It’s not yet happening but I’m up for it. I think it would be fun to tell the story in a different way. A lot of it is to do with whether the actors can do it and are available. We’ve got to get the team in place before we have lift off.’

Dr Thorne is a three-part drama which airs first on ITV in Downton‘s old 9pm Sunday slot from 6/3. It’s a whirlwind tour of what are now National Trust stately homes but is essentially a love story between two of the young leads. It starts in 1835 with a death and Lovejoy‘s Ian McShane chewing the scenery.  We watched the first episode and there’s terrific chemistry between the titular Dr Thorne played by Tom Hollander and Rebecca Front’s Lady Arabella Gresham who are both with us for the Q&A.

Front went back to the novel to inform her character. ‘I didn’t read the whole thing but I read my bits. Quite a lot of stuff wasn’t in the scripts. My character is described as a hypochondriac which I can absolutely relate to who is generally terrified that she has cancer and Dr Thorne is her physician.’

Fellowes doesn’t think Trollope dislikes Front’s character. Front herself says: ‘Her husband’s useless and she’s trying to keep the show on the road. I didn’t want her to be a Cruella De Vil-type character. She’s just someone in a horrible predicament.’

Hollander remembers working with Fellowes 20 years ago on Gosford Park. ‘Julian polices the set. I’ve only worked on two of his projects but he did it on both. 20 years ago I thought I’d done a good take and didn’t want to have to do it again and he told me to take my hands out of my pockets. 20 years later he gave the same note to another member of the cast. No one had their hands in their pockets in the 1840s.’

Fellowes bats away any fears about clashing with BBC1’s big Sunday night ratings success The Night Manager also starring Hollander. ‘My son is 25 and when a show is on means nothing to him. It’s like a release date. He never watches it when it’s going out. there are so many ways to watch television these days.’

  • Dr Thorne is in three parts and starts on ITV at 9pm on 6/3. Picture via Facebook courtesy ITV Drama.
  • Enjoyed this TV preview? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham

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