Downton Abbey star Rob James-Collier has revealed that kissing his co-star Ed Speleers in the scene where his character Thomas got caught stealing into Jimmy’s room and planting a kiss on the sleeping servant, was a pleasure to play.
"That guy Ed Speleers (who plays Jimmy) has got really soft lips," he joked.
"If you're going to kiss a man, let it be a beautiful man like Ed Speleers. I'm not going to demand a beautiful guy. I'd kiss ugly guys as well, but if they're good looking... it's a bonus."
Of the stealing into the room under cover of darkness, he joked, "I don't know what's going on in Julian Fellowes' head, if that's one of his twisted fantasies."
He added, "It was a great scene to play - you saw a guy completely bamboozled by O'Brien, because he wanted it to be true so much. You saw that really sensitive, naive side of Thomas, really."
Rob James-Collier (Thomas) enjoyed playing the scene where he tried to steal a kiss from Jimmy (Ed Speleers)
However, he took issue with the idea that, had Alfred not walked in on them, Jimmy might have responded to Thomas’s advances.
“You can’t do that,” he shouted at an audience member who suggested it. “Walking round kissing people while they’re asleep, that’s illegal.
"Thomas is a broken man" says actor Rob James-Collier
“Even if it was Jessica Alba kissing me while I was asleep, I’d be cross. I’d tell her, ‘Hey, I was having a really nice dream back there.’”
The actor, who has become an instantly recognisable face both in the UK and abroad through his sensitive portrayal of the complex butler, has enjoyed bringing out Thomas’s more vulnerable side in the most recent series.
Of the celebrated kissing scene, he described his character as "going through a whole mill of emotions, essentially destroyed by the manipulation of O'Brien".
"I got a lot of response," he said. "People were feeling sorry for Thomas and that's never happened. He's been undone by love. People identify with being heartbroken. We've all been heartbroken, haven't we? I've been dumped, and it feels horrible.
"Thomas is a broken man," explains the actor behind him
“He’s not evil, he’s misunderstood,” he told the audience at the Apple store in London, and gave an impassioned defence of his character, both because Thomas was gay during a closeted Edwardian age, and because of his behaviour during the First World War as depicted in Series 2.
Even the lighter scenes during that same series, when Thomas tried and failed to sell bags of flour on the black market, James-Collier was convinced shed some light on the ethereal butler.
“He wanted to better himself,” he explained, pointing out that, only then, would Thomas be able to be his true self – “he’s not ashamed of who he is, but he bears the burden of secrecy.”
While viewers might have thought Thomas was a coward, shooting his own hand to get out of the trenches, James-Collier gave a completely different view, reflecting on “the act of courage it took to shoot your own hand, and the bravery of being there for two years, when I couldn’t have lasted a day”.
He revealed he’d had the benefit of some profound conversations with the show’s historian Alastair Bruce, also a Falkands veteran, “which were very important and made me look at things differently”.
This was the serious part of the evening. James-Collier also showed a much lighter side, joking with the audience, pulling faces, holding hands with his co-star Allen Leech (who plays Tom Branson), and putting his arm round him when the crowd were being shown clips from the award-winning series. And that was before he managed to break his chair in front of the packed crowd. “Out of the 21-strong cast, that would only happen to me,” he added.
Downton Abbey Series 3 finishes on Sunday evening. Downton Abbey, Series three is out on Blu-Ray and DVD on 5 November, courtesy of Universal Pictures (UK). Watch the characters in action below…