Phyllis Logan is rarely recognised as her TV alter-ego, Downton Abbey‘s Mrs. Hughes.
Having played the role of the Crawley estate housekeeper for six seasons, the seasoned character actor cherishes her relative-anonymity.
“People say to me ‘Oh my god you look 50 years older in the show!’” she tells TV Tonight.
“It’s the wig and the lack of make-up, I suppose, that makes her look a bit older than I am in reality.
“It suits me fine. I wouldn’t like to be looking like Mrs. Hughes all the time, as much as I am very fond of her, of course.
“It’s nice to know I can go out and not have people recognising me. Sometimes they do. It’s usually when they hear my voice.”
True enough. There is no mistaking her Scottish accent and reassuring tone.
Phyllis Logan is currently visiting Australia to promote Downton Abbey‘s DVD release, on only her second visit with husband, actor Kevin McNally (Pirates of the Caribbean, Turn: Washington’s Spies).
“Everybody got a nice crack of the whip, so to speak”
Logan has a theatrical background and a lengthy CV including Silent Witness, Heartbeat, A Touch of Frost, Vera, Wallander, Taggart, Spooks, Dalziel and Pascoe, Secrets and Lies, and Nineteen Eighty Four.
But the success of Downton Abbey by Julian Fellowes has brought international attention like never before.
“What was lovely about Julian’s writing was that everybody got a nice crack of the whip, so to speak, with the storylines. Whether they were lords and ladies upstairs or the lowest of the lows downstairs. Everybody got lovely storylines and character development, so I’m very appreciative of that. I feel very lucky to have been involved in something as prestigious and popular as Downton. There won’t be another coming up anytime soon, I would imagine,” she says.
Mrs. Hughes had her fair share of memorable storylines, four of which Logan recalls.
“Going back to the beginning she had a nice storyline with her ex-beau who appeared on the scene, wanting to have her hand in marriage. But I think it was only to have somebody to help run his farm after the death of his previous wife,” she notes.
“Then she had a bit of a cancer scare and the fact that she confided in Mrs. Patmore. From that point they became more allies then adversaries, which they had been up until that point.
“Then she got involved with the rape of Anna Bates and had to keep it from everybody. So that was a bit of challenging moment or two.
“Then the romance that developed between her and Mr. Carson. They’ve all been a gift, really.”
“There was almost a backlash, because of the popularity of it”
But with success sometimes comes a curious reaction from the press. Despite ongoing praise from the US, where Downton was regularly nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes, UK media often considered the show to be a period soap opera.
“Often that’s the case in Britain… you build something up only to knock it down. Not in all areas of the press but certainly there was almost a backlash, because of the popularity of it. Maybe some journalists deem that if something is popular then it must be trash, I don’t know,” Logan muses.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been nominated for a BAFTA.
“We won the National Television Awards (in the UK) but I think we probably did better in the States than we did back home.
“Maybe because it was ITV. Who knows?”
Since concluding filming last August, Phyllis Logan has been travelling with Kevin McNally, and whilst she has no firm plans to resume work on the small screen, the lure of performing still beckons.
“We’ve been having a very jolly time, but I will have to get back to work,” she admits.
“I will probably be going back to the theatre, back to my roots. I’ll probably give myself a fright, treading the boards again!”
Downton Abbey: Season 6 and Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection (with five hours of bonus material) are out now on Blu-ray™ and DVD.