Downton Abbey Christmas Special: Newcomer, Peter Egan, discusses crawling through poo with Hugh Bonneville as Shrimpie Flintshire!

by Anna Howell

With this year’s Christmas instalment of Downton Abbey comes the introduction of some new characters.

We reported a few weeks ago how the Crawley family were headed for Scotland to visit Robert’s (Hugh Bonneville) cousin, Shrimpie Flintshire, at his Glen Eagle castle estate. Shrimpie is the father of wayward Rose, who we met last series when she came to stay with her god mother the Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie Smith) and ended up dragging Matthew (Dan Stevens) and Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) through a flapper nightclub hot in pursuit after she gave them the slip to carry on with a married man.

The family are set to be pinnacle in this year’s festive episode, which isn’t actually festive at all as it is set in summer, and the Radio Times has had a chat with Peter Egan, who plays Lady Rose’s father Shrimpie Flintshire, to find out what he has made of his Downton debut:

With regards to his first impressions on set, Egan explained:

“It was hard work! Myself and Hugh Bonneville spent the first day of filming on our bellies for eight hours, crawling through muddy heather and animal poo. We were stalking – getting up close to the stag that Lord Grantham shoots.

“I had a pain across the middle of my chest for three days afterwards and thought I was going to have a heart attack. And I had the thighs of a woman in love. I earned my money on that day, I can tell you.”

With regards to his character, Shrimpie, and his family, he went on:

“Shrimpie is a very warm, caring man who has a terrible relationship with his wife and difficulty in dealing with his daughter. He’s very much in the palm of Lady Rose’s hand and very concerned by her future.

“We filmed in Inveraray Castle, which is the seat of the Duke of Argyll – Chief of the Clan of Campbell – who’s very high in the political echelons of Scottish society. I found out I would be wearing a kilt, which gave me the horrors – but the Duke was thrilled to see that I’m wearing a Campbell cloth.”

On being cast, he continued:

“I begged. No, it was just one of those nice presents. I was absolutely thrilled to be asked. If you ask any actor in Britain or America, they all want to be in Downton because it’s such a beautifully produced television series. We lost our way with television in the nineties after the Broadcasting Act when the quality control was taken out of bidding for franchises – and the door was opened to so much chewing gum for the eyeballs.

“Downton is putting [British] television back into the centre of the arena: HBO has done fantastic television for many years; the Scandinavians are doing fantastic television; and we had fallen behind for many, many years. I think that Downton has really upped the ante for British television.”

Discussing his new cast-mate, the legendary Dame Maggie Smith, Egan admitted:

“She’s one of my heroines from when I was a student and used to see her at the National, so it was a great thrill having a relative in the series as wonderful as Maggie Smith. She’s a total professional and the most wonderful presence – she he brings a history to that character that is remarkable, I think.”

And finally, with regards as to whether the family will also feature in next year’s much-anticipated series four, he concluded:

“I shall try begging. I’d love it if that were the case.”

The Christmas special of Downton Abbey will be shown on Christmas Day, 8.45pm, ITV1/ITV1 HD, watch the trailer for it in the clip below: