HARPER’S BAZAAR – When Lily James joined the cast of ITV’s period drama Downton Abbey in 2012’s Christmas special, no one could have guessed that she would be its next breakout star, following in the footsteps of Michelle Dockery, Jessica Brown Findlay and Dan Stevens.

Fast-forward 2 years and she’s not only the lead in Kenneth Branagh’s live action remake of Cinderella, but she’s also taking on Jane Austen’s popular heroine Elizabeth Bennet, albeit in the big screen adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

“Cinderella felt quite ensemble, like Downton,” she says, on the tangible jump she’s made from a cast of 20-plus people to the lead in a film. “It’s such an amazing cast that I didn’t feel like I was bearing the brunt of the movie at all, working with people like Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter. I was very intimidated about going on to a big show like Downton, but if you can just get your focus there on the day you can drown out the rest of that stuff. I just approach everything the same way.”

It’s certainly an exciting time to be a British actor, with a new wave of our homegrown talent taking Hollywood by storm. Indeed, two of this year’s most Oscar-worthy films feature English leads: The Theory of Everything starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, and The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch and fellow Downton alum, Allen Leech.

“There are so many British actors who I think are incredible and talented who I’d love to work with,” she explains. “There’s a really cool crew of us at the moment. British actors don’t worry about what they look like – they’re uninhibited and less glamorous. It’s nice because there’s no feeling of competition.”
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Cinderella Interviews Movies

DAILYMAIL – Cinderella, as embodied by Downton Abbey star Lily James in a blockbuster new movie version, is no victim. She’s equal to any man, according to director Kenneth Branagh. ‘We wanted it not to be the film where a girl waits for a man to come along before she can be happy. She’s happy inside before he comes along,’ Branagh told me.

Disney’s epic version of the Cinders story opens on March 27, with Lily in the central role and Richard Madden as the Prince who falls in love with her when they dance at a ball. ‘Our Cinderella isn’t afraid of the love and romance between them — but she’s an equal in it,’ Branagh explained.

When I visited the set during filming, Lily told me that Cinderella had a superpower. ‘It’s something inside her,’ the actress teased. What could it be, I wondered? ‘It’s goodness,’ she said.

‘Good can also equal smart, funny and happy,’ Branagh agreed later. ‘Goodness is not about being pretty, precious, self-righteous, holier than thou. Lily as Cinderella makes goodness cool.’

The actor-director was speaking to me from Sweden, where he’s filming the last three of 12 full-length Wallander detective dramas. He said he, too, saw goodness as the ‘ultimate superpower’, able to outdo the more deliberate manipulations of Cate Blanchett’s character, Cinderella’s stepmother Lady Tremaine.

Branagh said that Cinderella’s step-family — which also features Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera (Lily’s co-star from Downton) as the step-sisters — are not the pantomime villains usually associated with this fairy tale. ‘Cate Blanchett!’ he said. ‘Once you have her, you already know that you’re moving away from the one-dimensional, the two-dimensional . . . and you’re into the multi-dimensional. She’s an absolute thoroughbred as an artist. She has a skill level just off the charts.’
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Cinderella Downton Abbey Interviews Movies Television

DAILY MAIL – Talking to Lily James is a bit like being with a toddler in a toy shop. She’s so excited she can barely keep still in her chair. Her hands are constantly waving up in the air and her toothy grin’s almost as wide as her face. But who can blame her? Joining the cast of Downton Abbey two years ago as the rebellious Lady Rose has catapulted her straight onto the A-list.

She’s just finished making her first Disney film – as Cinderella in a Kenneth Branagh production of the fairy tale no less – and from there she’ll be fighting zombies as Elizabeth Bennet in a very modern version of Pride And Prejudice before taking one of the leads, Natasha Rostova, in the BBC’s new costume drama mini-series War And Peace.

Oh, and she’s dating former Doctor Who star Matt Smith to boot. ‘Every girl wants to be a princess but the reality of playing a Disney one is, “OH MY GOD!”‘ she practically screeches.

‘I’m having so many dream-come-true moments I can’t even count them. Getting Downton was one of them. I’d watched the show from the start and loved it so I couldn’t believe it when I got the job. Now to play a Disney princess is just silly really. It’s hard to comprehend. I don’t want to be one of those actors who can’t admit it’s exciting.’

Downton creator Julian Fellowes has said he’s going to have to write the next series of Downton around Lily’s other commitments, but unlike other former cast members Dan Stevens and Jessica Brown Findlay who left the show after Hollywood photographs: alisa connan/camera press, nick briggs, wireimage beckoned, he won’t have to kill her off. ‘I don’t want to leave; I’ll stay forever if I can,’ she insists. ‘I love it, my mum loves it and my gran loves it. That’s part of the enjoyment of it for me, knowing how much my family enjoy seeing me in it. It feels very special.’
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Cinderella Downton Abbey Interviews Movies Television

THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD – Stepping into Jessica Findlay Brown’s shoes on Downton Abbey was never going to be easy. Lady Rose MacClare first appeared in the 2012 Christmas Special and was taken under the Crawleys’ wing after their middle daughter Sybil (Brown) died in childbirth.

Now, as Lily James prepares to enter her second season on the popular costume drama playing the rebellious socialite, she is beginning to find her feet.

“I feel completely settled,” she says. “It’s like it’s my home and my family and I feel like I’ve always been there. But it’s less difficult than people would imagine, as everyone is so incredibly warm and welcoming and I felt instantly like I was part of the gang.”

Downton boasts one of the largest ensemble casts on British television, with more than 20 core characters, but James believes the camaraderie between the actors creates an intimate and relaxed environment. “It really is like that and that’s why the show has done well and why it continues to do well, because everyone gets on.”

“It’s like everyone has their place and their role, so they bring a different dynamic to the various aspects of the piece, a different flavour, if you like. I felt like Rose came in and really evoked something specific, so it was like I had something to grasp on to. ‘What is the point of me?’ was something I asked myself often.”
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Downton Abbey Interviews Television Videos

Downton Abbey Interviews Television Videos


COVER MEDIA – Lily James thinks Cate Blanchett is “everything you want her to be and more”.

The 25-year-old actress stars alongside the screen icon in upcoming movie Cinderella, in which Lily takes on the title role.

She rose to prominence in period drama Downton Abbey and feels the TV show helped set her up for the big part in the real-life Disney remake.

“[Cate is] amazing. She is the coolest woman. [Downton] has so prepared me because, had I not squared up to Maggie Smith, I think that it would have been even more intimidating,” Lily laughed to British magazine Look. “I went straight from Downton Abbey with a weekend off, so I was in a groove. Cate is everything you want her to be and more. She’s the most amazing woman and the most incredible actress.”

This feature will mark Lily’s biggest to date, and means she will be recognized a lot more following its release. But the brunette beauty isn’t worried about the rise in attention and hopes it won’t alter her everyday routine dramatically.

“I don’t really know how much you can prepare for something like that because I feel that it won’t change my life that much. Around the time of the film, it might be a big deal, but after that, I think it will go back to normal,” she added. “I don’t think I am very recognizable, which is probably a purposeful decision because I’m not very good at it. I find it unnerving when someone comes up and knows me and then I feel like I’m being mean because I’m shocked.”

Downton Abbey Interviews Television

TVRAGE – Whilst attending the official press launch for the new series, I was able to catch up with Lily James and find out more about the show and learn her views as to why she thinks the show is so popular.

Downton Abbey is back on itv on Sunday, September 21st at 9pm.

Can we expect any romance for Rose this year?
Maybe, I’m very coy about this. The girls used to find a man, start a life and that was your future. That is inevitably part of Rose’s journey this year.

Can we expect some new alliances this year?
I think there are lots of alliances that build this year and Lady Rose and Lady Mary have a lovely relationship that gets even more strong. Rose really feels Branson and really wants to encourage him to be his own man and put two fingers up to the family. That storyline is really fun to play.

Now that you are starring to appear in films do you think your career will go off in another direction?
It is weird because I don’t feel like it going to change but maybe that is naive. I fell like that you keep plodding along and the best thing about all of this is I’m getting work and as an actor that is all you want.
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