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When events in Downton Abbey took a sinister turn in Sunday’s episode, the show suddenly found itself at the centre of controversy. The scene where housemaid Anna Bates – aka Joanne Froggatt – was attacked by valet Mr Green – played by Nigel Harman – drew over 90 complaints and hit headlines for its brutality.
! Online caught up with the show’s creator Julian Fellowes At the BFI Luminous charity gala event where he responded to critism the series has faced over the new storyline.
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Are more than 90 complaints a lot, in your opinion, for the attack scene in Downton
“You know, not in an audience of, I think it’s now about 12 million. I think if 90 people are unhappy then 11,999,990 are ok.
“I want them to be unhappy. I don’t want this to be a minor event in the history of the show. This is a character we love who has been seriously attacked and the response should be unhappiness and, I hope, involvement.
“I hope as she makes this journey we will follow her and I hope it is useful and helpful.
“I’m sorry of course if people are unhappy but we were very careful not to do it in the ordinary television way of having some gruesome scene where you see everything. “you saw nothing, but you know it’s happened and that’s what we’re interested in – the emotional response to what happened.”
Joanne Froggatt in character
it is sign that Downton Abbey is so much in the national consciousness that there would be such an outcry
“On a certain level it’s very flattering to think… These things happen three times a night every day of the week on television and you don’t read about them.
“So there is something kind of rewarding in feeling that the characters are so taken into the public’s heart that they are really personally aggrieved by what has happened, and I love them for that. So I just hope they’ll keep faith with us.
“Anna’s in a terrible position because apart from everything else she thinks that if Mr Bates finds out he’ll do something stupid and possibly ruin his life, so how does she deal with that
“And again I think that’s a situation modern people have to face: to what extent are they ‘entitled’ to plunge everyone they know into this People talk very simply on chat shows about how, ‘oh you must immediately report everything to the police’ but in fact it’s terribly complicated when you’re caught in the middle of all that and are trying to do what’s right, but are very shocked and hurt.
“And I hope, if it’s not too ambitious to say it, that how Anna deals with it will be useful. I mean if we help one person then it’s worth it.”