Downton Abbey shocked the nation on Sunday night when it tackled the shocking violent rape and attack of housemaid Anna Bates at the hands of guest servant 'Green'. Hundreds of viewers took to Twitter to either vent their disappointment, or to applaud actress Joanne Froggatt, with most deeming the actress' skills 'phenomenal' during the ordeal.
Ex-Eastenders star Nigel Harman, who made a cameo as cruel Green in Sunday's episode, appeared on This Morning yesterday to talk about the controversial plot, telling Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby: 'It was a shocking and bold storyline, and something that when I was sent the script and read it I was, like, amazed and excited by it, if that makes sense, because for a show like Downton it really leaped out as a bold and risky idea... and I'd worked with Joanne Froggat and Brendan Coyle before and we had a rehearsal and went for it.'
He added: 'And what we wanted to do was to try and not signal about what was to come.'
There are only three times in Downton Abbey's history when preview episodes of Sunday's show have been held from the press, and this weekend was one of those occasions. The others, were when Lady Sybil died, and when Matthew Crawley had his car accident. ITV's decision to keep Sunday's plot line a secret prompted speculation that a major character would be killed off. But the real reason was just as upsetting.
Previews from next week's episode show Anna struggling to come to terms with her ordeal, as she keeps the attack a secret from her husband, John Bates.
Nigel said: 'We went for something – as it would be in real life – very shocking. It was exciting to play, especially in the context of Downton... to have a female voice was still a new idea [in that era].'
And the star explained that he hadn't always intended on playing the villain. He added: 'When I went for my audition it was for Tom Cullen's role as Lord Gillingham and I went in and did my best Lord audition – I even ironed my shirt and I had perfect hair.
'I charmed the socks off the bosses, or so I thought, and I was thinking: "That went well"… and my phone went the next day and it was my agent to say: "They loved you at Downton, but they think you're much more suited to being downstairs', so that's how it came about!"'
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