Downton Abbey's Rob James-Collier Says New Film Shines A Light On 'Horrific' Treatment Of Gay People In 1920s

He says Thomas Barrow gets to explore "a whole new world", but things do take a darker turn.

Warning: This article contains minor spoilers for the Downton Abbey film.

Downton Abbey actor Rob James-Collier has revealed how the new film explores the “horrific” treatment of gay people in the early 20th century.

Rob has played Downton staff member Thomas Barrow in the ITV period drama since its debut in 2010, with the character eventually promoted to head butler in its final series.

Barrow was revealed to be gay early on in the show’s run, which is explored further in the new film.

Rob James-Collier as Thomas Barrow
Rob James-Collier as Thomas Barrow
Focus Features

Speaking to PA news agency, Rob said Barrow’s storyline almost feels like a “separate film”, revealing: “You see Thomas discover a whole new world, and that is closer to who he is and there is a joy there, but then that joy may get taken away but it’s a very emotional, Thomas’s journey.”

He continued: “It also hammers home what it was like to be a gay man in those times, it was horrific and it’s brought back and it just shows how different it was.

“It must have been so hard for him and that is why the people warm to him and root for Thomas now, and they certainly will in the film if you watch it.”

Rob at the Downton Abbey premiere
Rob at the Downton Abbey premiere
SOPA Images via Getty Images

The Downton Abbey film centres around a royal visit to the Crawley family’s estate, and the effect this furore has on both its residents and staff.

All of the show’s original cast members have returned for the new film, including Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham and Dame Maggie Smith as the always-iconic Dowager Countess.

Downton Abbey which hits UK cinemas on Friday 13 September.


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