Downton Abbey secured itself a sequel berth when the box office returns rocked industry watchers with record proceeds. The only obstacle — much like the first film — was the ensemble element. With a core cast of a dozen and a half actors, lining up schedules was always going to be a challenge. But oddly, the coronavirus pandemic turned out to be just the thing necessary to clear everyone's calendars, and series creator Julian Fellowes and company seized the opportunity. The production rounded up everyone at the top of the year, speeding through an official announcement Downton Abbey 2 was getting underway in April and now hitting filming all of two months later.
It's understandable Carnival Films and Focus Features did not want any unnecessary delays. Boris Johnson has yet to ease lockdown restrictions. A possible "summer wave" of cases is also currently being threatened, upending hopes of those who thought the crisis might finally be in the rearview mirror. But filming for the new movie has managed to get underway, and hopefully, with all precautions in place and a bit of luck, the film won't run into snags in the process of getting it to theaters by the end of the year.
Focus Features celebrated the beginning of filming by releasing a brand new photo from on set on Twitter. Check out the first official photo from Downton Abbey 2:
A few notes fans should consider: The scene behind the clapper is the downstairs set, which is not filmed on location at Highclere Castle but in the London studios. Also, eagle-eyed fans will note that to the left are Moseley (Kevin Doyle) and Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) sitting together, while Tom Branson (Allen Leech) appears to be at the head of the table. That's the position usually reserved for the butler, aka Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier). Branson, it should be noted, has not sat downstairs for a while now, at least not since deciding that marrying into the family meant he had to stay on the upstairs side of the divide, even after his wife passed.
That being said, this picture is all fans have to go on. The sequel, plainly titled Downton Abbey 2, gives away little of what to expect, and there's no official synopsis or logline for the film other than the continuing adventures of the Crawley family and those they employ. All fans know for sure is that the entire core cast from the TV series is coming back for the new film — and yes, that includes Maggie Smith — along with the recently added Imelda Staunton as Lady Maud Bagshaw. Guest stars for this installment will consist of the previously announced Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye, and Dominic West in roles that have not yet been disclosed.
Downton Abbey 2 is currently slated to arrive in theaters on Dec. 22, 2021. No word if there is a backup plan to release it both in theaters and streaming simultaneously in case pandemic cases rise again this winter, but fans should not consider it out of the question.