By Brian Brown, Ed Eaves, Andrew Hongo, and Jacob Pearson
No one is more surprised at the success of the sweeping television drama Downton Abbey than its own creator and writer, Julian Fellowes.
“You really seem to kind of ring the bell once or twice in a career if you’re lucky, and it was extraordinary,” said Fellowes of the hit, which just received three nominations for the 2013 Golden Globe awards and was nominated 16 times for the latest Emmy Awards. Produced by Carnival, a British unit of NBCUniversal, the lavish series depicts the loves, tragedies, and schemes of early 20th century British aristocracy—both above stairs and below.
Fellowes sat down with NBC’s Mary Carillo to talk about the inspiration for the series (which, believe it or not, came from an American protagonist); Fellowes’ own ascent to British nobility—through marriage—and the attendant privileges and responsibilities; and what he sees as the great equalizer in even the most hierarchical societies: love.
“[What] I like about love in the story is, love is an aspiration that is open to anyone,” said Fellowes. He later continued, “It doesn’t matter who you are, if you fall in love with someone then you’re sort of entitled.”
Fellowes recently signed on with NBC and Universal Television for his next major project—which again centers on the lives of the uber-wealthy, though this time on this side of the pond. He’s set to write and produce The Gilded Age, which takes audiences into the lives of the millionaire tycoons of late 19th century New York.
“This was a vivid time,” said Fellowes in a press release from NBCUniversal, “with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king.”
The third season of Fellowes’ Downton Abbey premieres in the U.S. on January 6th on Masterpiece Classic on PBS.