Michelle Dockery spent a decade living 100 years in the past – as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey. Now she’s gearing up for a dazzling future.
Out of her period dress, Michelle Dockery is one of those stars who is at first difficult to place, so familiar are we with her trussed up as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey. For Tatler’s cover shoot for the February issue, Fashion Director Sophie Pera dressed her in slick tailoring from Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton, wearing a chic yellow Chanel jacket on the cover with a generous dose of diamonds thrown in for good measure: there wasn’t a flapper hemline or elbow-length glove in sight.
Sitting down with Tom Lamont at one of her favourite local restaurants in north London, she opened up about getting used to the fame that came with being on Downton. ‘People want to know a bit more about you, because you’re on their television screens,’ she explains. ‘It’s the nature of the business. That’s something I accept now. I’ve learnt that it’s a privilege to have the power to cheer people up. When somebody asks you for a picture, answering yes is the right way to go.’
She’s certainly grateful for the impact Downton has had on her career. ‘I feel grateful,’ she says. ‘I’d achieved a lot by the time I was 30. I was in one of the biggest shows in the world. It’s very rare something like that happens. I certainly wasn’t expecting it. But it’s put me in a position now where I can slow down. This business, it never really stops. You do something, you promote it, you’re on to the next job. I’m at a point where I’m learning: I need to find ways to switch off. Unwind.’
Her latest role is something of a volte-face: dropping F-bombs alongside Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant in Guy Ritchie’s latest, The Gentlemen. ‘It came quite naturally,’ she says of dropping the plummy accent she honed on Downton. ‘I grew up in Essex. There’s a way of talking I grew up around. And finally being able to play a character whose accent has an Essex sound, as mine does – I loved that. I’ve been playing well-spoken for so long, to do something closer to my roots was so much fun.’
She’s recently been linked to Jasper Waller-Bridge, the brother of Phoebe. When asked about her relationship with her boyfriend’s famous sister, and if she’s ever offered her any advice, she’s reticent, saying: ‘This is something that’s personal.’ She does offer some advice though, adding: ‘I guess what I’ve learnt is to keep talking about the work. There are a lot of other things that come along with success and that would be my advice for anyone: keep your head down, make it about the job.’