June 13, 2012 at 9:59 AM ET
Late last year, something happened to Joanne Froggatt for the first time: She was recognized. In America.
“I was in a deli in New York, and it was really weird for me!” remembered the woman who plays maid Anna on "Downton Abbey," one of the biggest cult sensations to leap across the pond in years. It happened during a break in the press junket for “Downton’s” second season last December, and she recalled, “I raced back to the hotel and told everyone!”
Froggatt’s Anna is, of course, half of the dynamic, romantic duo that also includes Mr. Bates. As viewers may remember, the valet has been incarcerated for allegedly killing his first wife – Anna is now his second. It’s one of the most popular stories on the PBS series, and part of that attraction comes from Anna's sweet disposition.
“She’s just a really nice person, and she’s not wishy-washy, either,” said Froggatt, who has been acting for 15 years in various British films and TV shows. “I’ve tried hard not to make her too angelic, though.”
So can Anna and Mr. Bates ever be truly happy together? He's still behind bars as season three begins, Froggatt revealed. “She’s still charged with trying to get him free, and that’s probably all I can tell you,” she said. “That, and that we have the lovely Shirley MacLaine.”
MacLaine is joining the cast as Lady Grantham’s mother, who is visiting from America. According to Froggatt, “(MacLaine) was incredible! Watching her on set was one of the most magical days. At one point her character sings -- she’s accompanied by the piano -- and I remember thinking how amazing she is.”
Even better, it looks like MacLaine’s character, Martha Levinson, is going to butt heads with the show’s beloved Maggie Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess. “She and Maggie get to have some spiky conversations between them, and the chemistry is amazing,” said Froggatt. “We called them ‘our dames.’ ”
Sharp-tongued Oscar-winning actresses! Who wouldn’t love that? But what about Anna? Does Froggatt ever wish she could break Anna out of her nice-girl demeanor and clock footman/valet Thomas in the head with a wine bottle? Surprisingly, no.
“Some people say playing a nice person is boring, but it’s a departure for me," Froggatt explained. "I’ve played a lot of traumatic and emotional roles before, so Anna has been a nice change. I love that she’s a well-grounded person.”
Still, Anna could blow her top one day. Froggatt teased, “Maybe she will go after Thomas after all. She can only be nice for so long!”
"Downton Abbey" will premiere its third season in the U.S. next year.
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