[Beware: Season 5 spoilers lie ahead.]
Season 5 of Downton Abbey brought the upstairs-downstairs drama, which made it all the more difficult to choose one episode to submit for Emmy consideration in the Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series category.
This season alone, Mary (Michelle Dockery) slept with Tony Gillingham (Tom Cullen) but ultimately decided they weren’t right for each other; Edith (Laura Carmichael) struggled to keep the real story behind Marigold, the child she had out of wedlock with the late Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), a secret; Violet (Maggie Smith) saw the return of a former suitor from Russia, Prince Kuragin (Rade Sherbedgia), whom she nearly left her late husband for decades prior; and Tom (Allen Leech) prepared to leave for America—and that’s just the beginning.
But the episode that Julian Fellowes—the creator, sole writer, and executive producer of the period drama, which is heading into its sixth and final season—was particularly drawn to, and ultimately selected to submit in the writing category, was episode 8.
In the episode, Rose (Lily James) and Atticus (Matt Barber) prepare to tie the knot, but the prejudices of two family members in particular—Lady Flintshire (Phoebe Nicholls), Rose’s mother, does not approve of Atticus’ Jewish background, and Lord Sinderby (James Faulkner), Atticus’ father, similarly frowns down on Rose’s Anglican roots—get in the way.
Here, Fellowes—who won an Emmy in 2011 for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special, and was nominated for an Emmy in 2012 and 2013 for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series—explains how these prejudices, especially British anti-semitism, factored into his decision to submit this particular episode for writing consideration:
“I’ve always been interested in that sort of slight anti-semitism that’s almost unconscious,” Fellowes says. “We’ve had lots of films about concentration camps and murder and so on, but the real danger, I think anyway, are those slight but generally accepted prejudices where people, they hardly know that they believe it. They subscribe to it—anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, anti-whatever it is.”
“It’s slight,” he continues. “They don’t want anyone dragged off to concentration camps, but there is a slight exclusion going on all the time and I’ve seen it. Indeed, when I was a young man as a Catholic, I felt it and so it interested me to do that. I thought the cast did it very well, and [I was also interested in] the pressures of being one of those ennobled, successful Jewish bankers of whom there were quite a pack actually. They were inside, but they weren’t quite inside. I thought it was quite a strong episode.”
Emmy nominations will be announced on July 16 at 11:30 a.m. ET. Winners will be announced during the Emmys telecast, which will air live on Fox at 8 p.m. ET on Sept. 20.