Published On: Mon, Sep 9th, 2019

Alastair Bruce details how ‘Downton Abbey’ avoids religion, even praying over food

The latest example of a cultural phenomenon which has a secret and subtle anti-religion bigotry is Downton Abbey, something that’s come to light ahead of the upcoming Downton Abbey film, a widescreen followup to the six-season drama.

In fact, Alastair Bruce, the mind behind the historical accuracy of Downton Abbey, has revealed that he was ordered by producers to “leave religion out of it”.

Speaking to the Telegraph, he explained why the show never depicts the Crawley family sitting down for dinner: because historical accuracy would compel the producers to show them saying grace before they ate.

“In essence you hardly ever see a table that isn’t already sat at,” Bruce said. “We never see the beginning of a luncheon or a dinner, because no one was ever allowed to see a grace being said, and I would never allow them to sit down without having said grace[.] … I suggested a Latin grace, but they decided that was too far, and no one would’ve known what was going on.”

At one point Bruce was even banned from showing napkins folded in the shape of a Bishop’s Mitre, for fear of breaching the religious edict.

“Everyone panics when you try to do anything religious on the telly,” he added. “I still wish we could’ve got some decent napkin folds, but I was always left with my triangle.”

Life Site News mocked the anti-religious sentiment: “Consider that for a moment: a TV show that kicked off with a romantic scene between two men felt that showing a family saying grace ‘was too far’ and too inappropriate for audiences. What a profound statement about our culture’s plunge: prayers are now considered virtually obscene, while behaviors that would have been considered biblically immoral a very short time ago are front, centre, and celebrated. Sexual behavior can be depicted — even explicitly — without qualm, but TV audiences have to be shielded from something that was once an almost universal practice: praying before meals.”

Don’t expect that prayer in the new movie either, the sensitivity to religion was absurd at times.

“I can remember discussions that almost seem comical now. We talked about the word Abbey. Would people think it would have nuns or monks in it and be a religious series?”

Peter Fincham, ITV’s director of television, revealed earlier in the year that the channel had considered renaming the series, because it featured the word ‘Abbey’ in the title.

Bruce said that apart from the religious avoidance, his greatest challenge while filming the final series was to stop the cast from lapsing back into their modern manners.

He said: “They just wanted to sit back a bit, literally that. I was just there, always saying ‘no’.”

“There’s always this thing with actors who come into the show, they want to be more as we are today, and it can be a struggle, because actors want to look good, but they also want to be loyal to their own integrity while performing. Sometimes I have to stand in the way of that private integrity.”

The new film The film stars Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, David Haig, Geraldine James, Robert James-Collier, Simon Jones, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Tuppence Middleton, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lesley Nicol, Kate Phillips, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, and Penelope Wilton.
Downton Abbey opens in theaters on September 20th.

‘Running For Grace’ Review: A historic look at triumph over racism, but lacks depth for a wide audience

Cast talks ‘Downton Abbey’ season 4, sushi and life with Dan Stevens

First photos ‘Downton Abbey’ season 4 feature Michelle Dockery, Allen Leech and growing cast

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