AS the third series of acclaimed period drama Downton Abbey hit the TV screens on Sunday night, one very important member of the ‘team’ was putting her feet up in Portadown and taking a well-earned break.
Costume designer Caroline McCall (35), who last year won an Emmy for her work on the first series, is having a “complete rest” after nine months dedicated solely to the couture of the Crawley family and their army of servants.
Caroline, who lives in London and hasn’t been back to her Corcullentragh Road home since Easter, only began work on designing the intricate costumes eight weeks before filming started, when the scripts were revealed.
And the former Portadown College pupil was presented with a real challenge from the outset as the first episode began in style with the will-they-won’t-they marriage of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley finally taking place.
Said Caroline, speaking from her mother Rosemary’s home on Monday, “There are 26 principals in the cast and they all had to be dressed for the wedding, which was a major undertaking. The series is such a success now and when there is a big event most of the cast are at that event
“The wedding scene was shot three weeks into filming and to start the series with someone as famous as Shirley MacLaine (who plays Matthew’s mother, the straight-talking American) was quite daunting. I had never met her before but they flew me to Los Angeles and she was fantastic.
“Maggie Smith (who plays the Dowager and matriarch of the Crawley family) is also incredible, It’s a privilege to work with her.”
Caroline, who revealed that there will be other major events throughout the nine-week series, also had to be on hand for the 26 weeks of filming, which took place between Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) in Hampshire and Ealing Film Studios, the set of the servants’ hall.
She explained, “I needed to be there for every new scene, to check the look and choose the jewellery and gloves and satisfy myself that everything was okay.”
Careful attention is paid to keeping the style of the outfits as true to the period as possible, although Caroline adds that there was some “artistic licence” involved in the style of Lady Mary’s wedding dress.
Caroline does watch the show and for some scenes and episodes seeing it on television may be the first time she has seen it.
She added, “Working on Downton was all-consuming. It’s only now when you start to watch it that you take in what you had to do.”
The daughter of Rosemary and the late Kenneth, Caroline is looking forward to spending some time with her mum and sister Sheila.
Caroline, who was assistant designer on the first series, declined the offer to work on series two, choosing instead to design for the crowd scenes of the blockbuster film ‘Clash of the Titan 2’ starring Ballymena man Liam Neeson.
However, when chief Downton designer Susannah Buxton moved on to other projects, Caroline was offered the change to be chief designer on the third series and took it.
Other shows where she has acted as costume designer include TV’s Doctor Who and Little Dorrit.
Caroline, who studied art at Portadown college under teachers Mrs Stella McCann and Mrs Rita McKeivor, went to art college in Belfast, and from there to Wimbledon School of Art, followed by training at the BBC.