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Doctor Thorne: Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes talks new series

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The Weinstein Company/Amazon Studios

Put the kettle on — Julian Fellowes is back. His latest project, Doctor Thorne, follows Mary Thorne (Stefanie Martini), a woman who is shunned by society’s elite over her lineage, especially when it comes to marriage. Fellowes filled us in on the four-part miniseries (streaming on Amazon Prime starting May 20) — based on Anthony Trollope’s 1858 novel — that’s bound to fill your Downton-size void. Read on for all the revelations.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you decide to adapt Doctor Thorne?

JULIAN FELLOWES: Trollope is one of my favorite writers of all time. His emotional position is very similar to my own in that nobody is all good or all bad. His characters have a mixture of ruthlessness and toughness with inner decency. I’ve always wanted to see more of him on television, instead of it always being Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.

What made Mary Thorne your next leading lady?

Mary learns all these terrible things about her past — she was abandoned by her mother, her father was murdered … None of it could be worse, really. But she doesn’t turn into a victim. I admired her strength all the way through.

How did you decide on Stefanie Martini as Mary?

Our casting director brought her to our attention. We wanted a girl that nobody had seen before. Then, suddenly this incredibly beautiful young woman came and read for us so marvelously. We were so excited to find the next star.

Are there any parallels between Mary Thorne and Downton‘s Mary Crawley?

They’re both strong women. One of the things about periods is that women were so circumscribed — there were endless rules. But of course, there were clever women who wanted to have good lives, get around the rules, and find ways of expressing themselves.

With all those Brits, why cast Alison Brie as the wealthy woman all the men are trying to marry?

In the book, Miss Dunstable is English, but it would’ve been harder to dramatize her as an outsider if she was English. Alison was marvelous at seeing the games being played around her. She completely justified our decision to make her American.

What can you tell us about the spectacular settings?

The main home is in Buckinghamshire. It’s where the Hellfire Club was held — a group of 18th-century aristocrats who used to get drunk, dress up as monks, and have…not quite orgies, but certainly improper parties!

We couldn’t help but notice many of the women wore flower crowns, oddly reminiscent of Coachella wear…

They were popular before the 1850s. I thought it was a very charming look!

RELATED: Doctor Thorne tops this week’s Must List

A version of this story originally appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1416, on newsstands now or available here. Subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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