Interview: DOWNTON ABBEY'S Matt Milne and Lesley Nicol



The Great War is over and a long-awaited engagement is on, but all is not tranquil at DOWNTON ABBEY as wrenching social changes, romantic intrigues, and personal crises grip the majestic English country estate for a third thrilling season.

With the return of its all-star cast plus guest star Academy Award®-winner Shirley MacLaine, DOWNTON ABBEY, Season 3 airs over seven Sundays on PBS beginning on January 6, 2013. BWW brings you a series of interviews with the award-winning cast of this popular PBS series. Next up, actors Matt Milne and Lesley Nicol.  


With the death of William Mason, Downton Abbey has been in need of a new footman for some time. He arrives at the beginning of series three in the form of Alfred, played by Matt Milne.

“Alfred’s O’Brien’s nephew – that’s how he got the job,” says Milne, with a wry smile that suggests that being O’Brien’s nephew might be a mixed blessing.

“His great aim is to be a cook, but he’s following his family’s wishes and doing what they want him to do. His mum wants him to be a butler so that’s where he’s headed.”

It’s not an easy job, especially when you’re gawky, diffident and trying to come to terms with a below stairs culture that’s always fraught with manoeuvring.

“He’s trying as hard as he can. He was working in a hotel before he was given this job. But as he’s constantly reminded, the skills that he was taught to work in the hotel are nowhere near the sort of level that he needs to work in the house. He just doesn’t have the training - usually how it would happen is young lads would come in aged about 11 or 12 and be trained as hall boys. Then they would work their way up acquiring new skills over time. But Alfred has come in by a side route, so he’s always playing catch-up.”

It means that Alfred is not only resented for having got the job via O’Brien, but for potentially not being up to the job at all. And he has other problems, too.

“There’s this sort of bizarre kitchen love triangle because Daisy fancies Alfred but Alfred likes the look of the new girl, Ivy. And Ivy flirts with Alfred but the one she really likes is Jimmy.”

Hereford-born Milne, 21, has had a busy year – it began with him being “plucked from nothing” in his words, to appear in Steven Spielberg’s First World War epic War Horse.

“I was still studying drama at the University of East Anglia when that came up. Now this has come along I can’t believe it. It’s been an amazing twelve months or so.”

More On: Shirley MacLaine, Matt Milne, William Mason, Steven Spielberg, War Horse, Sophie McShera.

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