Yahoo! TV Q&A: 'Downton Abbey's' Joanne Froggatt on Anna's Season 3 detective work, aka 'Anna Bates Investigates'
A lot of “Downton Abbey’s” appeal lies in the glamorous Edwardian costumes and high-class romantic entanglements of the Crawley family. But viewers are also hooked on a less fashionable storyline going on downstairs: the humble romance that’s blossomed between valet John Bates (Brendan Coyle) and maid Anna (Joanne Froggatt). As Anna fell in love with Mr. Bates, only to see him framed and locked up for murdering his estranged wife Vera last season, Froggatt won our hearts… as well as an Emmy nomination.
With Season 3 of “Downton” about to debut here in America, we spoke with Froggatt about the detective work Anna does this season to exonerate her love (she calls it “Anna Bates Investigates”), the day she arrived on the set to find Shirley MacLaine singing, and why she doesn’t mind being stuck in a maid’s uniform while the Crawley daughters get to lounge around in beautiful gowns.
Last we saw Anna, her beloved Mr. Bates was in prison facing a life sentence. What’s Anna’s mental state heading into Season 3?
I think she starts Season 3 much more positive. At the end of Season 2, Mr. Bates has been reprieved from the death sentence; her world is about to collapse, and then they have this hope there. So at least she’s got something to work towards, which is to free her man and clear his name. She’s trying to find evidence and find some crack in the story that will clear his name. Once she has a purpose, she feels good about that, because at least she can move forward in some way.
So Anna’s playing detective a little bit this season?
Yes, it’s “Anna Bates Investigates.” [Laughs] That’s what I like to call it. Yeah, she is a little bit. Obviously, you see the struggles she and Mr. Bates are going through, being apart from each other. And you do see a bit of a dark side to Mr. Bates this season as well. So there are some interesting things for them this season.
Viewers have really fallen for Anna and Mr. Bates. Why do you think they get so swept up by that romance?
Oh, I don’t know; it’s just an absolute pleasure that they do. I think the Anna-and-Bates love story mirrors the upstairs Matthew-and-Mary story. But it was a pleasant surprise to me that people have taken them to heart so much, because they’re not the glamorous couple, you know? But I think what they do have, and what we try to put across, is their relationship is built on the real deal. It’s built on a mutual respect, a friendship, a complete faith in each other. And their love has grown out of that. They’re the kind of qualities you’d hope would make a lifelong relationship. There’s something quite endearing about that, the love and loyalty they have for each other, through thick and thin and all of these challenges that life throws at them.
[Related: 'Downton Abbey's' Rob James-Collier on What Makes Thomas So Evil]
Season 3 also brings the very real possibility of financial ruin for the Crawleys. Does the downstairs crew get any sense of that at all?
Anna does, because of her role in the house. She’s very close to Lady Mary and to the goings-on upstairs as well as downstairs. But there are only a select few that have an idea that there may be trouble ahead. It’s not common knowledge. Julian’s writing mirrors what was happening at that time. Lots of estates, like our fictional Downton, were really struggling to keep going after the war. Things had changed so much, financially and just in terms of the loss of people during the war, the loss of our men. Their world had been flipped upside down, and quite a few estates really struggled to move on from that.
Of course we’ve heard about Shirley MacLaine joining the cast. What does she add to the show this season?
We were just so thrilled; it’s so amazing. To have Dame Maggie [Smith] with us, and then to add Shirley MacLaine to that mix, we were all so excited. And she is such a great lady. She seemed to really enjoy her time with us. She was vibrant and fun to be around, and her and Maggie were great together. The scenes they did together are just incredible. They got on so well. She was a great addition to the family, and we hope she comes back!
We spoke to Rob James-Collier, and he said he wasn’t even in scenes with the two of them, but he came to set just to watch them shoot their scenes together.