Having died a dramatic and tear-inducing death as Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey, 24-year-old Jessica Brown Findlay endures a similar fate on the big screen in Winter’s Tale as the beautiful but consumptive heiress Beverly Penn.
The similarities don’t end there because in Downton Abbey she eloped with a working class Irishman played by Allen Leech and in Winter’s Tale she elopes with a working class Irish thief, played by Colin Farrell.
Although the sappy and schmaltz-ridden Winter’s Tale, which also stars Russell Crowe, has received scathing reviews and has flopped at the box-office, it is a major step on the way to stardom for the British actress.
She recently finished filming Paul McGuigan’s Frankenstein remake, with Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy and she has the movies Posh and Lullaby awaiting release.
“I just wasn’t ready to get comfy in Downton Abbey,” she told me when we talked in New York recently. “I desperately wanted to try new things and see if I was even able to play another part. The idea scared me more than anything and it motivated me to want to do it. So far it’s been an exciting roller-coaster since then and I’m enjoying it so much and learning every day which is really wonderful.
“When I made the decision to leave Downton Abbey after the third season, a mate of mine messaged me to say’ Do you have any idea what’s going on and how much stir it’s causing?’ And I didn’t because I didn’t want to know and I didn’t want to feel awful and wonder if I had done the right thing.
“I had to tell myself, ‘Do this and have a whole new experience and just don’t think.’ That’s my rule.”
Jessica, from Cookham, Berkshire, lives in a rented flat in London and insists her life has changed very little since her days as an acting student at the Central St. Martin’s College of Arts.