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Behind the Camera - Julian Fellowes

Behind the Camera - Julian Fellowes

In Behind the Camera we look at people who may not be seen on screen, but who are important for series. Today we take a behind-the-camera look at writer Julian Fellowes.
'From the creators of Downton Abbey' is a badge that any costume drama would love to have, and it certainly helped promote The Gilded Age, season two of which releases on October 29. But who is the person behind Downton Abbey and The Gilded Age? That's Julian Fellowes. Time to dive into his life in a new Behind the Camera!

Julian Fellowes was born in Cairo in 1949, the son of an English diplomat working from Egypt. Back in England, the Fellowes family befriended a family who ran a film production company, and that is where Fellowes' love for film, theater and television is said to have begun. His three older brothers also became active in the theater and film world and young Julian wanted that too.

After completing the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London (where Downton Abbey actor Hugh Bonneville would later also study), Fellowes moved to Los Angeles in 1981 to pursue an acting career. However, he failed to make a breakthrough and returned to England after a few years, where he had more success. In the eighties and nineties, he starred in the children's series Knights of God, the costume drama Aristocrats and in the miniseries Martin Chuzzlewit, based on the book of the same name by Charles Dickens.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, he also started writing for film, television and theater. He wrote the script for the 2001 film Gosford Park, for which he won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. More films followed, including The Young Victoria and Vanity Fair. It was clear that his favorite genre was costume drama. His first television project was 2004's Julian Fellowes Investigates, a docudrama in which he delves into five infamous unsolved murder cases.

Downton Abbey

However, his big television break came in 2010, when he created Downton Abbey for ITV. Downton Abbey followed the Crawley noble family and their staff at the turn of the twentieth century. The series was hugely successful, consistently achieving high ratings and winning numerous major television awards in both America and the United Kingdom. When the series ended in 2015 after six seasons, it turned out that there was still plenty of room to continue telling the story of the Crawley family. That is why two cinema films were released in 2019 and 2022 that served as a sequel to the series.

Although Fellowes continued to write film scripts, he also did more and more television projects. In 2012 he wrote a miniseries based on the Titanic, 100 years after the famous ship disaster. In 2016 he made Doctor Thorne, based on a book from 1858. Also in 2016, Fellowes wrote the novel Belgravia, about English nobility in the early nineteenth century. In 2020, Netflix turned this into a miniseries. And who wrote the script for that? Indeed, Julian Fellowes. That same year, The English Game was also released on Netflix, about the origins of English professional football around 1870.

The English Game

In addition to television and films, Fellowes is also involved in theater. He wrote the scripts for the stage versions of Mary Poppins, School of Rock and The Wind in the Willows. Fellowes is also active in politics. Since 2011, he has been part of the House of Lords on behalf of the British Conservative Party.

When Downton Abbey ended, Fellowes immediately had ideas for a prequel set in nineteenth-century New York. The series was titled The Gilded Age and was initially going to appear on NBC, but in 2019 the series moved to HBO. Ultimately, it was not a prequel to Downton Abbey, but a standalone series that would highlight the wealthy social circles of New York around 1880. This series premiered in early 2022 and received decent ratings and positive reviews. The second season was soon announced and will be available on HBO from October 29.
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