This post contains spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to hear them, stop reading now.
Thomas Barrow, Downton Abbey‘s valet-turned-butler, whose dark journey during the series saw him take some wrenching steps to try and “cure” himself of homosexuality, received a much more hopeful treatment in the new feature film of the same name.
The film, which introduces Barrow to a world he has never seen before, a clandestine underground social scene where gay men can openly connect, where he’s led by Richard Ellis (Max Brown), part of the royal entourage that has come to visit Downton.
Barrow’s adventure with Ellis ends on a hopeful note, a kiss that promises, perhaps, a future, and a locket to remember him by.
But it almost ended much differently, director Michael Engler told Buzzfeed News: “There was a scene at the end where Thomas called Ellis and his wife answers the phone. And again, you know, that’s a very realistic thing and it doesn’t undercut necessarily anything about them.”
“The scene was cut, Engler said, because it felt ‘more like a defeat’ when their intention was to give Thomas ‘some hope and optimism, even though it was a little mixed,'” Buzzfeed adds.
Creator Julian Fellowes told EW: “We felt that Thomas had earned a degree of happiness over the years, and we didn’t want to take it away from him.”
Engler also spoke about the gay storyline with Indiewire, about some of the choices that were made when depicting the 1920s gay scene, in particular the gay ‘speakeasy’ that gets raided.
Said Engler: “In depicting that world, that gathering that he goes to, we had to find a way to tell it that didn’t feel anachronistic even though there’s almost no research that one could actually do about a place like that because there was no gay bars in York in 1927. We didn’t want it to be [a kind of sex club] even though those existed. This wasn’t portrayed as fundamentally a kind of sexual den, but a place of brotherhood, and camaraderie, and playfulness, and a place where people could let down their hair and just enjoy themselves. And that was important to us, to portray it that way, with more of a warmth to it and a friendship. So we just modeled it on other kinds of places, like early jazz dens, where people would meet in those places and just applied it to this. ‘What would it be like in York?'”
They also decided that the ‘speakeasy’ would be a place for all classes of men to mix: “We did have the idea that, first of all, it would be men of every social class and age because anybody at all who might be seeking a gathering like that would be open to it and to each other. It’s not like today, where it’s such a part of society. There’s people of color gay bars, and there’s guys who go to the gym and are muscle-y gay bars. And there’s a million different kinds of things for people to find the specific versions of what they relate to. But here, we wanted to make sure that it was clear that it was working-class men and gentlemen together.”
Check out the full interviews at Buzzfeed HERE and Indiewire HERE.