‘It wasn’t right’ Upstairs, Downstairs’ Eileen Atkins slams revival ‘A lost cause’

Nicola Pagett appears in 1977 drama Anna Karenina

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Upstairs, Downstairs’ acclaimed actress Eileen Atkins has recently spoken about her time on the drama series following her stint in the 2010 revival of the ITV drama. Stage commitments meant she couldn’t appear in the original series, but Atkins still caused quite a splash when she appeared on-screen in the long-running drama.

Atkins biggest success came from ITV’s Upstairs, Downstairs which was created with her friend and co-writer Jean Marsh.

The pair went back and forth for a while about the show, and how it would be perceived. 

However, when asked about its success, she exclaimed: “It was a b****y brilliant idea.”

Atkins went on to talk about the revival of the show to Radio Times and said: “I just didn’t think it was right for Upstairs, Downstairs to be revived in the way it was, [but] I couldn’t say no because too many careers were on the line.

“Too many people would make money, and too many people were longing to do it again,” she expressed.

“I had a gun at my head and was made lady of the house even though I was begging to be the cook, so I went onto it in a very bad temper and behaved quite badly.”

She relayed how she had heard Julian Fellows had done the same thing with Downton Abbey and knew “it was a lost cause” when they got ahead building sets.

Atkins branded the thought of joining the revival as “deadly”, however after reconsidering her reluctance, she joined the cast.

Atkins, who played Lady Holland, left the show just one year after the revival kicked off due to creative differences with the writing.

A BBC statement said: “It’s with much sadness that we say goodbye to her wonderful characters, the straight speaking mother-in-law Lady Holland.”

The show follows the intertwined fortunes of a diplomat’s family and their servants in a grand London townhouse.

Atkins is the proud winner of an Emmy, a BAFTA and three Olivier awards and has played everything from Edward Albee and Harold Pinter to Checkov and Shakespeare.

She previously told The Guardian: “My kind of career happens hardly at all now, today I would go into Eastenders or something and then get stuck.

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“I’m not putting EastEnders down, I’m just saying that’s the way it is,” she explained.

Earlier this year saw the death of Upstairs, Downstairs actress Nicola Pagett, who suffered from a brain tumour at 75.

Her daughter Eve Swannell confirmed she passed “very peacefully” and added she was “extremely saddened, [but] I was by her side.”

She was best known for playing Elizabeth Bellamy, the daughter of Richard and Lady Marjorie in the 1970 series.

The star had previously opened up on her role in the hit TV series, explaining: “There weren’t any stars really — that was the beauty of it. Everyone had an equal importance in the thing.

“The product was more important than the people in it in those days, so, if it was a success, it was a success because everyone in it was good rather than because the actor in it was well known.”

Pagett decided to leave the drama after the second series, as she was concerned about being known for just one role at the time.

She also acted opposite Only Fools and Horses actor David Jason in comedy-drama A Bit Of A Do in 1989.
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