No barriers in love

No barriers in love

Attention, Downton Abbey fans: Lady Sybil Crawley is alive and well and living in New York. Or at least someone uncannily like her. In the film Winter’s Tale, Jessica Brown Findlay, her ravishing tresses and plummy vowels intact, portrays Beverly Penn, the high-spirited consumptive daughter of an early-20th-century mogul. Colin Farrell plays the thief who breaks into her mansion to steal the silver — and absconds with her heart. And Russell Crowe, rejoining Akiva Goldsman — the writer for A Beautiful Mind, making his film directorial debut — is the gangster intent on putting their love asunder.

Lady Sybil’s death, just hours after giving birth to the daughter of a former chauffeur, was one of those moments that viewers find almost unforgivable. But for Brown Findlay, 24, the decision to leave the series at the height of her popularity wasn’t a difficult one.

 “It was the right time, the end of a contract, and I just went with my gut,” she recalled.

A teenage ballerina whose career was sidelined by an unsuccessful ankle surgery, Brown Findlay doesn’t believe in looking back, at least not for long. “I think it’s good to look at what you’ve done and to learn from it,” she said. “But never more than twice.”

In a phone interview from London, fresh from an excursion with her dachshund, John, she spoke with Kathryn Shattuck about her television watching habits and her latest obsession, the trapeze. Excerpts:
Trapeze training? What on earth for?

It’s for the film I’m doing at the moment, Frankenstein. I’m doing static trapeze, so you climb a rope and do lots of insane things up very, very high with only one arm or one leg on the bar. When we film it, I’m relying on the fact that there will be a net.
How was working with Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe?

Colin understood on the initial meeting that I was perhaps thinking, “What is happening?” But when we were filming, we were always allowed to do a take where we could just enjoy it and be silly, and that made it easy to be free with one another. And Russell was just — he’s Russell Crowe. I was standing there the whole time thinking, “You’re Russell Crowe.” I’d love to say there were other thoughts in my head but, really, there weren’t.
You died very beautifully in ‘Downton Abbey’. Any tricks of the trade?

I tend to find it quite hard not to laugh. Because it’s so serious, something comes across my face like a beaming smile, and I’m like: “No, you’re meant to be dead. Stop it.” It’s quite fun, a dramatic death.
You do so many period pieces. Do you have a fondness for corsets?

It’s all been about going toward where the good stories are. But definitely the next thing I do will not involve a corset. Corsets are sent from the devil.
Filming Winter’s Tale in New York, were you recognised from your Downton days?

No, not once. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. I think maybe because I was a ginger. I also tend to be rather scruffy, and I suppose if I was to be recognised from Downton, I’m often coifed and put in rather a marvelous dress.
Do you watch a lot of television?

I don’t have a telly. So I need to find someone who has Sky (the satellite broadcaster that offers HBO in Britain), make friends with them and then go over to their house only once a week and insist that they don’t talk, so I can watch Girls. I just think it’s incredible. I admire Lena Dunham so much.
Maybe HBO can offer you a guest part.Ah. (Sighs.) Go on. I’d lose my mind. I’d retire. I’d be like: “I’ve made it. I’m done.”

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