Michelle Dockery, best known as Lady Mary Crawley in the beloved long-running series “Downton Abbey,” looked elegant as royalty at a luncheon in Manhattan Tuesday to promote her new film, “The Sense of An Ending.”’ She was joined by co-stars Jim Broadbent – who will appear in season seven of “Game of Thrones” – esteemed stage actress Harriet Walter (Clementine Churchill in “The Crown”) and director Ritesh Batra (“The Lunchbox”). The trio mixed with guests and after lunch participated in a Q&A moderated by Dr. Amanda Foreman.
Adapted from Julian Barnes’ 2011 Man Booker Prize novel, “The Sense of an Ending” is a drama about Tony Webster, a man in his late 60’s, mainly retired, who leads a quiet, seemingly contented life in London as the owner of a small camera shop. The arrival of a mysterious letter and legacy jolts him into confronting uncomfortable truths about his life, including a past he had largely chosen to forget. (Charlotte Rampling plays his first love as an older woman, someone he takes an almost irrational interest in and even begins to stalk.)
Tony’s life revolves around his relationships with ex-wife Margaret (Walter), with whom he has an amicable divorce, and daughter Susie (Dockery), who is single, pregnant and somewhat chilly towards him. The letter, which arrives unexpectedly and disrupts his complacency, inspires him to examine his most meaningful relationships, especially with his daughter and soon to be born grandson and motivates him to move forward and become more present and engaged in life.
Dockery plays a character whose back story is mainly unexplained. We don’t know why she is single or about her profession or why her relationship with her father seems strained. Said the actress about her character, “I feel that the film, when I was first reading it and then watching it, you come away feeling like the audience can decide for themselves about her. She could have decided to have a baby on her own. She’s very much living and being in the moment,” she said. “For me that’s what the film’s about, being present and favoring the moment. If I have any regrets in my life it’s about not cherishing certain moments (as the occurred.”
Dockery’s new series, “Good Behavior” on TNT, has just been picked up for a second season. The 35-year-old actress, who plays a woman just released from prison and attempts to turn her life around and become a better person, noted how female roles are stronger on television. “With television you have a longer journey, similar with ‘Downton Abbey,’ I had six years of playing that role and lived with her and changed with her, and then hopefully I’ll do the same with ‘Good Behavior’ with Letty Raynes. I don’t often see characters like Letty Raynes in film. I read that pilot and was just floored by the character and the story and I haven’t seen that so much in film,” adding there were notable exceptions, citing Amy Adams in “Arrival” and Emma Stone in “La La Land.” “So I think it’s changing and I hope it continues and we see more of it.”
As for finding her way into the role of Susie, Dockery noted as in any part she brings with her a certain amount of herself and her experiences. “I don’t have children yet, so there is that age that I’m also at where I’m thinking one day I’ll have a child, so that’s something that I could bring to it.” Dockery added, “Working on this film it was exactly that, nothing was written in stone.” She turned to Broadbent and adding, “I felt with you Jim I thought a lot about my dad. And my dad is your age, and I have a very close relationship with my dad. There were moments during the delivery when I was lying on that hospital bed, with you next to me, and thinking a lot about. my dad, and his life and his memories and his journey.”
Other guests at the swanky luncheon at the Lotos Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side included Kathleen Turner, Julie Taymor, Tovah Feldshuh, Marina Rust, Mary Calvi, Magee Hickey, Elvy Yost and Victoria Bartlett.
“The Sense of an Ending” opened Friday, March 10.