Downton Abbey series 3 – Siobhan Finneran and Matt Milne discuss the newest member of staff, O’Brien’s nephew, Alfred!
With the new series of Downton Abbey about to hit our screens next month, there has been a vacant position in the great house as Mr Bates has been incarcerated, making his valet duties pretty hard to complete.
No prizes for guessing who steps into his shoes with the ease of the serpent in the garden of Eden selling apples,Thomas, but that leaves the door open for a new footman, and who better to fill the position of the slimiest snake in the jungle, than a family member of his partner in crime, O’Brien.
Introducing Alfred Nugent!
Here, Matt Milne, who plays Alfred, explains his character’s part in the new series:
“Alfred’s O’Brien’s nephew – that’s how he got the job.
“His great aim is to be a cook, but he’s following his family’s wishes and doing what they want him to do. His mum wants him to be a butler so that’s where he’s headed.
Milne goes on to explain that it’s not an easy job his character is embarking on, especially when you are a big, clumsy newcomer who is not in with the clique of Downstairs culture (though we suspect with O’Brien on his side it shouldn’t be that hard to adjust!):
“He’s trying as hard as he can. He was working in a hotel before he was given this job. But as he’s constantly reminded, the skills that he was taught to work in the hotel are nowhere near the sort of level that he needs to work in the house. He just doesn’t have the training – usually how it would happen is young lads would come in aged about 11 or 12 and be trained as hall boys. Then they would work their way up acquiring new skills over time. But Alfred has come in by a side route, so he’s always playing catch-up.”
To make matters more complicated, whilst trying to fit in with everyone, Alfred finds himself in a pickle with the ladies, Milne explains:
“There’s this sort of bizarre kitchen love triangle because Daisy fancies Alfred, but Alfred likes the look of the new girl, Ivy. And Ivy flirts with Alfred but the one she really likes is Jimmy.”
Siobhan Finneran, who plays Alfred’s Aunt, O’Brien, had this to say of how she got her nephew the job:
“She manages to plant that little seed with Cora- as she always does – and hence Alfred. Her nephew gets the position. She is just trying to help Alfred the best way she can. She wants him to do well in the house.”
However, her meddling in the Downton Abbey staffing structure causes a bit of friction in the house:
“She tries to enlist the help of her best friend, Thomas. But he is really not up for helping Alfred – he doesn’t want someone getting in the way of his career – and so Thomas and O’Brien become sparring partners. It starts as a bit of a battle of wits, just game play to see who falls first really. But actually it gets quite nasty when it kicks off.”
However, there is no need to worry that the loss of her partner in crime will make her character mellow:
“I had a great line in the first series which was, ‘Sarah O’Brien, this is not you.’ And that is telling – she comes from a damaged place, doesn’t she, otherwise she wouldn’t behave the way she does. Basically she has given her whole life over to the house, to somebody else and so to then change that path would be impossible. What could she possibly do? Where could she go? So she has to remain brilliant at her job and keep fighting for it.”
But does Finneran enjoy playing the devious ladies maid?
“I love her. She is funny and witty, also I think a lot of the time what gets misconstrued as being rude or unhelpful in a lot of ways is her making sure jobs are properly. Yes she is cruel and all of those things but also a lot of things she does are for the good of the house, and for the good of the whole of the staff. I love her because she is not backwards at coming forwards about saying something. I admire that quality in a lot of people in real life.”
The new series on Downton Abbey begins next month on ITV1/ITV1 hd.