'Downton Abbey's' Hugh Bonneville on Season 3: 'Plenty of surprises in store'

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hugh-bonneville-downton-abbey.jpgPBS Masterpiece Classic has begun a series of chats with the stars of "Downton Abbey" and the first one was with none other than Lord Grantham himself, Hugh Bonneville. He talks about his character arc in Season 2 and what we can look forward to in Season 3, touching first on the heartbreaking death of William on this past Sunday's episode.

" Well the death of William was heart-breaking for us too, particularly since it meant losing Thomas Howes, who plays him so touchingly," says Bonneville. "We have the readthru for S3 next Monday - yikes! - and start filming a week later. As for life beyond S3 - who knows?!"

When asked about the appeal of "Downton" in a time when scandalous reality shows are all the rage, Bonneville writes, " I think elements like good story-telling, interesting characters, carefully constructed plots must have something to do with it. Reality shows have their place of course but nothing beats a good drama!"

Throughout Season 2, we've seen Lord Grantham go on a bit of a downward spiral. He was told the army doesn't want him to fight, he and Lady Grantham seem to be a bit distant. Bonneville says he thinks Robert has become a little depressed.

Robert becomes a bit of a lost soul - his raison d'être is the house and what it stands for. When that gets taken over for the war effort, when his heir goes off to fight, when the certainties of the life he knew start to crumble, then I think introspection and even depression begins to circle him," says Bonneville. "At least that's how I saw it."

When asked if Lord Grantham has a favorite daughter, Bonneville is quite diplomatic, as if worried he'll hurt his fictional daughters' feelings.

While he disapproves of Sybil's antics, he admires her outspokenness; where in S1 Mary's temperament was sometimes selfish, in S2 he warms to her growing compassion and womanhood; and Edith, well, she never gets the breaks does she, so of course Dad looks out for her!" says Bonneville.

The chat participants could not resist asking him about the incomparable Maggie Smith as Lady Violet.

Bonneville says, "
Dame Mummy has won 2 Oscars and played opposite Olivier, for heaven's sake - I'm in acting Nirvana on a daily basis. There is no doubt Julian saves the best lines for her (rightly so!) and I long to hear them zinging their way over the net at the recipient. Game, set and match."

And as for Season 3, this is what Bonneville can divulge:

S3 - well it starts in the spring of 1920, that's a few months after the end of S2 and spans about 18 months. After the urgency of the war years, things calm down a bit... but only a bit! ... There are plenty of surprises in store, put it that way."

We can hardly wait to find out. "Downton Abbey" airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS. If you'd like to get in on the next chat, Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith) is chatting Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. ET and Allen Leech (Branson) is chatting Feb. 13 at 1 p.m. ET.

Photo/Video credit: PBS