By MESFIN FEKADU, Associated Press
LONDON — There are secret romances, wars and endless back-stabbing on “Downton Abbey,” the British TV series that follows the lives of the aristocratic Grantham family and their servants in the early 20th century.
But off-screen, there is music.
Elizabeth McGovern and Michelle Dockery, who co-star in the Emmy-nominated drama, are collaborating musically, and Dockery is hoping to sing on McGovern’s next project with her folk rock band, Sadie and the Hotheads.
“She asked me to sing in the band and I’m hoping to be more involved in the second album that she’s bringing out,” Dockery says.
The band, which features McGovern on vocals and acoustic guitar, released their debut album, “I Can Wait,” in 2007. Dockery, who has sung jazz, has performed backup with the group.
Dockery stars as McGovern’s eldest daughter, Lady Mary Crawley, on the hit PBS “Masterpiece” series, which is nominated for 11 Emmy Awards, including one for outstanding miniseries or movie. McGovern is nominated for outstanding lead actress for her role as American heiress Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham.
Dockery and McGovern first worked together on music on the “Downton” set.
“It’s quite a picture, actually, of us sitting in our trailers with our dresses hiked up playing the guitar all afternoon,” Dockery says in a recent interview at Highclere Castle, a Victorian castle in the English countryside of Berkshire that sits amid 1,000 acres of breathtaking parkland. Highclere, often used for film shoots, doubles as the Downton Abbey estate.
Dockery, who starred as Eliza Doolittle in an Old Vic production of “Pygmalion” and played Ophelia in “Hamlet” at the Crucible Theatre, made her TV debut in the British miniseries “Hogfather” in 2006. McGovern, 50, has appeared onstage in New York and London, and earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress for her role in the 1981 movie “Ragtime.” She was in last year’s “Kick-Ass” and “Clash of the Titans.”
“Downton” _ which airs on PBS in the U.S. and ITV in the U.K. _ is set in the late 1900s, shortly after the Titanic sinks. Its first season, which ended on the cusp of World War I, was a success. Each of its four episodes averaged more than 6 million viewers to rank with other “Masterpiece” successes, such as 2008′s “Sense and Sensibility,” according to Nielsen Co. ratings. It was also the U.K.’s top new drama of 2010.
The 30-year-old Dockery says if her acting career wasn’t going so well, she’d be singing full time.
“I love music and I really think it’s something I would have done had acting not worked out,” says the British actress, who says she is mostly influenced by such jazz singers as Diana Krall, Peggy Lee and Blossom Dearie, as well as top-selling pop diva Adele.
“I find Adele a huge inspiration, not that my voice is anywhere near the range that she has,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve always been able to sing, but I’ve only found my confidence with singing live over the last few years, maybe because I’m a bit more grown up.”
“Downton Abbey,” which co-stars Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, returns to ITV in the fall and to PBS in winter 2012.
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