Julian Fellowes Defends Downton Abbey Storyline

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October 9, 2013 | 3:55am EST

Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes has defended his decision to include a shocking rape storyline which prompted a backlash from viewers.
In Sunday’s episode of the quaint period drama, fans were left aghast when lady’s maid Anna May Bates was sexually assaulted by Lord Gillingham’s valet Mr Green, played by Nigel Harman.
The scene has prompted complaints to bosses at ITV network and the U.K.’s broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.
Now Fellowes has explained his decision to tackle the topic, which he believes was dealt with carefully and has allowed viewers to discover the depths of the characters.
He tells the BBC, “The whole point of the way we do things on Downton is we don’t do them gratuitously. We are interested in exploring the resultant emotions and the effect these things have on people.”
“If we’d wanted a sensational rape we could have stayed down in the kitchen with the camera during the whole thing and wrung it out.
“The point of our handling is not that we’re interested in sensationalising but we’re interested in exploring the mental damage and the emotional damage. Downton deals in subjecting a couple of characters per series to a very difficult situation and you get the emotions that come out of these traumas.
“When you handle very difficult and sensitive storylines, the minus is that they do expect more work from the audience but the plus is they can take you to a helpful place in terms of self-analysis.
“The fact that (fans) engage with it is sort of what you pray for as a programme maker, because with most series that’s not happening. It’s always a compliment that everyone gets so involved in the show.”
Actress Joanne Froggatt, who plays Bates, has also spoken out in support of the storyline, insisting Fellowes’ script dealt with the difficult subject with “responsibility”.