The Feb. 2 episode of Downton Abbey introduced a new man to Lady Mary’s circle, Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden). Mary thought he’d be staying at Downton as he completes a report on how family estates can be saved, while he’s actually there to determine what effect their demise would have on the food source. Neither one seems to think much of the other now, but that could change. “I immediately take a very strong dislike to Lady Mary partly, I think, because we’re very similar — quite alpha personalities,” Ovenden says of Blake. “I see her as someone living in the past, not living in the present. I’m a modern thinker: I believe in equality, not downstairs and upstairs. I think the aristocracy should take much more of a responsibility with their privilege, and that doesn’t sit so well with Mary, which is great to play because Michelle [Dockery] has created such a great, strong character. I wanted to push the character as much as I could, so it would take her into a different realm. Often men fall at her feet pretty easily, proposing after two minutes. I wanted to work against that.”
Whether Mary and Charles make nice is something Ovenden had to keep a secret, first from his sister, who pressed him for spoilers, and then from someone he met at Showtime late last year. “She said, ‘Look, I’m desperate. You can tell me. We’re in the same industry.’ I was like, ‘This is what we’ll do: You tell me about Homeland, and I’ll tell you about Downton Abbey.’ No deal,” he reports, laughing. He will, however, tell you how the Downton cast entertain themselves: “Those dinner scenes are interminable, because there’s so many people to shoot. So you’re siting there for hours eating the same bit of mackerel or whatever. You have to devise games to play, so we’d be playing Wink Murder: Someone’s got to be the murderer, and the way you kill somebody is you wink. Someone dies, and someone has to guess who the murderer is. A lot of times that’s quite funny,” he says. “Sometimes during takes.”
To get to know Ovenden better, we gave him an EW Pop Culture Personality Test. Watch it below.