09 2 / 2012

Features; Profiles and Interviews
26 November 2011
The Times

Michelle Dockery fiddles with the diamonds around her wrist and looks thoughtful. She’s wearing more than £1 million worth of stunningly beautiful vintage Boodles jewellery, but it should be around her neck.

"I absolutely appreciate how beautiful it is, but it also looks great on the wrist; it gives it a bit of edge."

Giving things edge is important to the actress best known as Lady Mary from Downton Abbey. She has recently been to pretty much every awards ceremony there is, from the Emmys downwards, which is all very well but she runs the risk of looking permanently like Lady Mary.

"Those long awards dresses can look like you’re in a period drama, so I do try not to go for something that looks too Downton Abbey," she says.

'I wore and my “I wore Burberry to the Emmys because it's sexy and stylish, and my own modern gold earrings by Mexican designer Marta Carmela. If I'm wearing something classic, I like to make it a little bit more edgy. When I borrow jewellery, I tend to be drawn to gold and beads.

I wouldn’t really buy jewellery for myself, and I think diamonds are a gift you receive from someone.”

She says that wherever she’s going, whether an awards ceremony or not, she aims to look elegant, not to push the fashion boundaries, “though I admire actresses who can do that, like Jaime Winstone. I feel they can pull it off, but I can’t. I like French styles - Charlotte Gainsbourg is one of my style icons. I love that she looks like she’s just thrown it on. Simplicity is true elegance.”

Dockery is of a generation that wouldn’t wear serious, real jewellery, even if she could afford it. As a baby, she was given a gold christening bracelet, and a friend from home in Essex gave her a Tiffany padlock bracelet for her 18th birthday.

But her favourite item is a pair of big, gold Whistles hoop earrings with stars on them, while the most valuable piece she owns - a Tiffany key necklace - was a gift from a magazine.

"I’ve got some silver and marcasite earrings that my mum gave me which I love," she says. "They’re quite vintage, nothing extravagant price-wise. I imagine she found them in Greenwich market. And I have a cameo that my auntie gave me. That’s pretty much it."

She’s 29, so might her architect boyfriend, with whom she lives in Clerkenwell, present her with some 30th birthday bling? “Who knows? I hope so.”

Dockery has worked consistently, mainly in period dramas, since graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Brought up in Chadwell Heath, the youngest of three girls, her mother delivered meals on wheels and her father was a surveyor. After Guildhall, she spent 18 months at the National Theatre and won rave reviews in 2008 for Pygmalion, which was seen by a Downton producer.

Lady Mary, the part that has made her famous on both sides of the Atlantic, followed soon after. Since then, she has been photographed for British and US Vogue (“I find it incredible I’ve actually been in Vogue”) and in the wake of the show’s recent triumph at the Emmys - it picked up four awards - she was spotted by fans in New York. “They just said: ‘We love the show,’ and I texted some of the cast and said, ‘God, I wish you’d been here to witness that! In a tea shop in the middle of Greenwich Village!’”

With filming due to start in February on the third, and possibly final, series of Downton, Dockery’s diary is full. She has loved filming it because of the camaraderie and teamwork that actors usually experience only in the theatre. “You get such enjoyment out of that as an actor. With Downton, I feel part of the family. And I’m thrilled there’s going to be a third series, because the Twenties are a fascinating period, especially for women.”

In the meantime, she’s filming Anna Karenina, alongside Jude Law and Keira Knightley. After that, however, her next move might well be to Los Angeles.

"I’m a huge fan of HBO and Showtime and PBS," she says. "Those stations that churn out such fantastic dramas like The Sopranos and Nurse Jackie. That’s something I’d love to do… something in jeans. I seem to be in corsets a lot of the time."

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