Downton Abbey is currently being repeated on ITV3 during the coronavirus lockdown, and fans have been enjoying a nostalgic rewatch of the 2010 series. However, the latest few episodes of the popular period drama, which was controversial when it originally aired, followed an assault storyline, which saw Anna attacked by a visiting valet while alone in the servants' quarters.
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Joanne Froggatt, who played Anna in the show and movie, previously reflected on filming those scenes, and the strong response the storyline received from viewers.
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Speaking about the reaction to the storyline in a 2015 interview with American chat show Tavis Smiley, Joanne explained, "I said in my speech at the Globes, I did receive a small number of letters from women that are survivors... I just felt extremely touched that these women had felt able to write to me and trust me with their stories and be so candid about their experiences. And they were all very positive about the storyline being in the show and also about my performance which I was very grateful for that.
"So I obviously wrote back to each lady individually. But that was probably one of the most moving experiences of my career to receive those letters that somebody felt compelled to write."
There was a mixed reaction to the scenes
Following complaints, a spokesman for the show said: "The complex and loving journey of Anna and Bates has been central to the narrative of the show. The events in episode three were, we believe, acted and directed with great sensitivity. Viewers will see in the forthcoming episodes how Anna and Bates struggle to come to terms with what has happened."
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Speaking of where she drew the inspiration for the tough storyline, Joanne explained that a friend of her's grandmother has shared her own experience while in service in the 1930s. Talking about the scenes during her Golden Globes acceptance speech in 2015 she said: "A friend of mine said his grandmother on her deathbed had mentioned this incident that happened when she was in service. There’s just her and this man in a room and she was never able to talk about it.
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"She never felt she would be believed. Or if she would be, it would have literally, you know, ruined her reputation and she would never have been able to work again. So I sort of felt a responsibility to those women I’ve never met from that time and from this time. You know Anna’s fictional, but you’re telling a story that is so close to some peoples’ hearts."