Michelle Dockery stars in our winter issue

As she returns to the National Theatre, the ‘Downton Abbey’ actress talks to T&C about life after Lady Mary

Photographs by Richard Phibbs and styled by Miranda Almond. Shot on location at Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham

Every day, on her way to rehearsals at the National Theatre, Michelle Dockery boards a bus near her home in north London. Dockery likes the bus. It’s better for people-watching, and more relaxed than the Tube. She’s never bothered by anyone, rarely even recognised. “I don’t think anyone cares,” she says, as we trundle across the city after the photo-shoot for this article. “I don’t think they expect to see Lady Mary on a bus.”

Above and top: crystal-embellished gown; matching cape, both Zaeem Jamal

Dockery has just spent the day posing with a menagerie of creatures – white dogs, an owl and a majestic white horse with whom she’d acted before (she remembered him first). Now, she’s back in her jeans and boots, clutching a silver-foil-wrapped parcel of cake as if it contained the secret to existence. Dockery’s a little tired and needs a sugar hit, but wired, too, after eight hours of performing for the camera in the fairy-tale eccentricity of Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham. Earlier, dressed in a floor-length gown and standing by a window in the neo-Gothic library, she had looked rather like Lady Mary again – the severe, vulnerable, enraging and yet oddly lovable character, if anyone needs reminding, that she portrayed for six seasons in the television juggernaut Downton Abbey. Does she miss her? “I do, I do,” says Dockery. “I loved playing her. I have genuine love for Mary.”

Satin and velvet dress, Elie Saab Haute Couture. White gold and diamond ring (right hand), £10,740; white gold, ruby and diamond ring, both William & Son

If you inhabit a character for that long, they become part of your life, part of yourself. As do the people you’re acting alongside. “Laura [Carmichael], Allen [Leech] – they’re still really good friends… We’ve all moved on to do other things, but we’ll be part of each others’ lives for ever.” Jim Carter, who played the butler Carson, has taken to organising an annual reunion for the Downton cast to catch up and keep in touch, like school-leavers who don’t quite want to let go. Dockery says that now it’s over, she finds herself reflecting on the show more and more. “Just taking a step back and seeing the enormity of it,” she says. “When you’re filming, everything else around it – the success of the show, the travelling, the red carpets, the press and all of that – it all sort of happens very, very fast and you’re caught up in it… We’ve all had an opportunity to take a step back and see it as a spectator – because it’s still talked about in culture.” It certainly is. Mostly, the discussion revolves around if and when there will be a movie. “I just don’t think the anticipation for the film is going to go away until we do it,” admits Dockery. “So it’s really just a question of time, and getting together so many actors. It’s tricky. I’m really hopeful that something will happen but maybe it’s not meant to be. We’ll see.”

This is an extract of Sophie Elmhirst’s interview with Michelle Dockery. The full article appears in the winter issue of Town & Country, on sale from 16 November.

Additional credits: Hair by Earl Simms at Caren, using Hair by Sam McKnight. Make-up by Sharon Dowsett at CLM Hair and Make-Up, using Chanel. Manicure by Ami Streets at LMC Worldwide, using Dior. Set design by Matthew Duguid. Flower design by Worm London. Stylist’s assistant: Rosie Arkell-Palmer.  Layla, Kyia, Kika and Anja the Samoyed dogs, and Dexter the owl courtesy of Animals Work. Caspian the horse courtesy of AB Film Horses



Jenna Coleman stars in our autumn issue

Gabriella Wilde stars in our summer issue

Gemma Arterton stars in our spring issue