RADIO TIMES – Sophie McShera, who plays dowdy Daisy in Downton Abbey, has undergone quite the transformation as Drisella, one of the nasty stepsisters in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (out on Friday 27th March).

But while she’s had the chance to go mad in the dressing-up box, her co-star Lily James, Downton’s elegant Lady Rose, has given up her fabulous frocks to take the starring role as put-upon orphan Ella, looking for her Prince Charming.

Lily James (Cinderella)
“It’s such a hoot that Sophie is one of the stepsisters. She is so brilliant and it’s great to see her with a bit of make-up on and wearing fancy dresses, because in Downton she doesn’t exactly get to dress up!

It was daunting to play Cinderella. And at first I did think, “Oh God, can I ever live up to this?” One of the themes of the story is loss and one of the things Ken talked to me about was that if this wasn’t a fairy tale, it could be a really painful, hard-hitting drama about a girl who loses her family and is virtually pushed into slavery.

At the heart of these fairy tales, there’s a message and it’s often about equipping children to deal with pain.

I loved working with Richard [Madden, who played Robb Stark in Game of Thrones]. I know two Richards – there’s the Prince with the lovely accent who looks like an old movie star; and then there’s the bearded, naughty Scottish lad. On-screen chemistry is a funny thing, but what made it work was that we immediately became matey and silly, and it took the pressure off.

do get to wear the most fantastic powder- blue gown and glass slippers when Cinderella goes to the ball. They squeezed me into the dress and I wore a corset and I could hardly breathe. But it all helped to evoke the magic. The glass slipper is made out of Swarovski crystal and is probably worth more than my flat!

I couldn’t actually wear the real one, so in the shots where I’m dancing at the ball or running to my carriage, I wear a “double” made of acrylic. The dress is also covered in 10,000 tiny Swarovski crystals that were also hand-stuck on my chest and in my hair. I still keep finding crystals at home in my shower in Peckham.

Sophie McShera (Drisella)
I didn’t know Lils had gone up for Anastasia until after I got the part of Drisella, but she was always Cinderella for me.

It was so nice to be able to work with Lils. I don’t think a lot of people realise but when we film Downton, we are often in separate places – all of the servants’ scenes downstairs are filmed at Ealing Studios and the big house scenes are filmed at Highclere Castle. So often our paths don’t cross.

It was a big role reversal for us, obviously! The most exciting thing for me was that I had 13 different costumes and I absolutely relished wearing those dresses!

Poor Lils is the “Daisy” of the piece, although she still looked really beautiful even in her “dowdy” Ella dress. It was such fun to play that upstairs role and get to wear all the fancy frocks and for somebody else to do all the work! It was also such fun bossing her around and being horrible to her!

There were some scenes where Holliday [Granger, who plays fellow stepsister Anastasia] and I would be really mean to her and then we’d feel bad. So as soon as they said “cut”, we’d run over and apologise because she looked so sad. But most of the time we had a laugh with it.

The stepsisters wear these big, bluey-green, over-the-top dresses to the ball. It was hilarious because we couldn’t walk through a door. The corset was fine, though – I’m used to that from years of Downton.
Lils is breathtaking in the ballroom scene – it was magical and it sounds silly, but it made me cry thinking, “There’s Lils and she is Cinderella!”


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