The creator of Upstairs Downstairs, Jean Marsh, is riding high with an Emmy nomination and new series on the way, writes Roz Laws.
Writer and actress Jean Marsh doesn’t want to sound like she’s showing off when she mentions flying off to Hollywood.
What would maid-turned-housekeeper Rose Buck think? Rose knows her place, which is firmly below stairs, thank you ma’am, and not at Los Angeles award ceremonies.
But the fact remains that Jean, who created Upstairs Downstairs, has been nominated for an Emmy award for her role as Rose in the period drama, successfully revived by the BBC last Christmas.
It’s actually the fourth time she has received the Outstanding Lead Actress nod for the same role. She was also nominated three years running, from 1974 to 1976, for the original series and won it in 1975.
But the LA ceremony when she picked up the gong was all a blur, literally. She could hardly see what was going on because of problems with her eyesight.
After recent operations, she’s looking forward to being able to see the glittering event properly on September 18.
“I do have a sense of deja vu,” says the 77-year-old, who is first visiting Cotswold House Hotel next week for a lunch event.
“It’s wonderful to be nominated again after all this time. In those days I couldn’t see, so I’m not sure who was there! I was over-excited anyway and wouldn’t have been able to take it all in.
“I had glaucoma, which I’ve had an operation to correct, and I was also short-sighted. But obviously I couldn’t wear my glasses with an evening dress.
“I’ve now had double implants in my eyes to correct my vision. I was incredibly excited to be able to see for the first time in my life without glasses. People must have thought I was very conceited, as I was always looking at myself in shop windows.”
In her Emmy category, Jean is up against Elizabeth McGovern for Downtown Abbey, the rival ITV1 costume drama which beat Upstairs Downstairs to the punch when it broadcast first and which garnered more viewers.
The BBC was pleased enough with its revival to commission a second series, which starts filming in October.
It is partly shot in Leamington Spa, where PF Robinson – who designed the terraced townhouses in Belgravia’s Eaton Place – also built an identical terrace in Clarendon Square.
Set in the 1930s, it stars Keeley Hawes, Ed Stoppard and Anne Reid.
But the second series will not feature Dame Eileen Atkins, Jean’s great friend with whom she created the series, and who played Lady Maud Holland last year. She is reported to have quit because she was unhappy with the script.
Jean says: “It’s true she isn’t going to be in it, but I’m not going to talk about it, if you don’t mind. We are still very good friends and always will be, whatever happens with work.