While Mary was off sexing Mr. Pamuk and Cybil was eloping with the hot family chaffeur, Lady Edith has been the Crawley family dork on Downton Abbey— sandwiched between her parents at breakfast and playing parlor games with the Dowager after dinner. Until now. In season four, already airing in the UK, Edith goes to London for a job, wears flapper dresses and has an illicit affair with her boss. "It felt like a different world," Laura Carmichael, who plays Edith, tells Cosmo.
Cosmo: Edith's working at a newspaper in London during the Roaring Twenties—how did she become such a feminist?
Laura Carmichael: I think it was her circumstances. There's a scene after Edith is jilted at the altar where she talks about the voting rules, which at the time were if you were over 30 you could vote, or if you're married you could vote. She caught in that "no voice" place. That's what starts her off. It's been an evolution of the character and I feel so lucky that it's gone that way. The Twenties have this sort of attitude where you never know what's around the corner.
Cosmo: She's also dating her married boss, Gregson. Between him and the farmer, Edith has a thing for married dudes. What's up with that?
I don't know! The thing I love about the relationship (with Gregson) is that they met at work. It feels really modern. They weren't set up in any way. He's not this guy with a great big house. He read her letter and invited her to write for him and then they kind of flirt over articles. It's so different. At the time, there was a swarm of writers in the city that were so bohemian that I think that we kind of touch on that.
Cosmo: Were you frustrated during the times when Edith was stuck at home with her parents while her sisters were getting their freaks on?
She definitely did start as kind of a dorky character. She was quite happy to sit with her parents. But I loved that and I love that she learned to cut anyone down with a line.
Cosmo: Would it be jumping the shark if Edith did end up getting married and having kids at this point?
I love that after being jilted, she's kind of let go of the idea of having to be married. She might just have fun without the pressure of having to be married. She might just be really modern. I want to get her in trousers.
Cosmo: How do you think Edith would fare in 2013?
I do think that she would find a way to write. She'd have some sort of journalistic career. As for working at Cosmo, I don't know if she's that cool!
Cosmo: How is Edith going to handle Mary mourning Matthew? Because clearly she and Mary aren't the best of friends...
It's not modern where they're going to cry and hug it out. This is an aristocracy, and their relationship is just a maze. It's difficult. My favorite scene of the first episode is when you see Edith and Mary alone together. We had a nice moment where they are dealing with the grief. But I don't want to tell you all about it!
Cosmo: That sounds fascinating because sometimes it seems like Edith and Mary genuinely hate each other.
Mary is so bad! I think she's so much worse!
Cosmo: This is a dangerous time because the show is airing in England already, but not in the U.S. The Internet is a minefield of spoilers.
We wish it would air at the same time. It would make it easier. I don't know who is resisting that but I want to find them and sit them down.
Cosmo: You're on Twitter sporadically... would you consider amping up your Twitter game?
I'm going to try. I'm rubbish at Twitter. But I owe it to the 11,000 people who are following me as I say nothing. Quite often, I want to put my phone down and ignore it. If I'm tweeting about being somewhere and I haven't replied to somebody's email from three days ago, that's quite rude.
Cosmo: Are cell phones banned on the Downton set?
No. One time Maggie (Smith) said 'I want to show you something on my phone, but I left it at home in London.' I thought that was nice. But our WiFi out there is terrible. Half the time we're just refreshing our phones trying to get service. We've become obsessed with this word game, this Scrabble game. Maggie is really good. But I'm also really good.
Cosmo: Are you scared to beat her?
Cosmo: You look very different in your modern clothes. Do people recognize you on the street as Edith?
I was just stopped in the elevator by a big fan of the show. It's funny because in the UK, I don't get recognized that much. If I am, people aren't as good at saying "hi." Somebody's just staring at you. It's weird... I feel like I have something on my face. I much prefer it here. I did get recognized in Haiti, which was really weird, by Americans over there. They've been living in Haiti for twenty years, but they watched the show on their laptops.
IRL, Edith does not pin her hair up into a basket of curls! Who the hell knew?
Cosmo: You're not going to leave Downton, right? When people leave Downton, the world comes crashing down.
I know! They're still reeling from last season. It was a big one... If the desire is there, we will do another season.
Follow Michelle on Twitter.