As VisionTV continues its back-to-back airings of Downton Abbey’s first three seasons, we’re looking back on the paths that the period drama’s most captivating characters have charted over the years, as well as the recent movements of the actors who bring them to life. So far, we’ve caught up with Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens, whose onscreen relationship created the dramatic underpinning to some of the series’ most memorable moments. This week, we’re looking to another character whose death cast a pall on Downton’s third season, Lady Sybil Crawley, and some of the new roles in which we can expect to see actress Jessica Brown Findlay.
In an episode that established a foreboding pattern on Downton Abbey, the birth of Lady Sybil and Tom Branson’s first child was followed by tragedy, when the new mother succumbed to a rare and largely unheard-of condition. It was a considerable blow to the estate’s residents (and fans), and was the first of several losses that plagued the series’ third season. However, Jessica Brown Findlay has been quick to jump into a variety of projects since her character’s departure, so we won’t have to wait long to see how she follows up her stint as one of Downton’s favourite ladies.
To start, American network the CW announced on January 13 that it would be picking up British miniseries Labyrinth, which means that although her Downton days may have come to a tear-jerking end, we’ll be seeing Jessica on the small screen again before long. Adapted from the Kate Mosse novel of the same name, and helmed by Ridley Scott’s production company, Labyrinth swings back and forth from the present day, to 13th century, where we see Jessica as Alaïs, the daughter of a crusader with a valuable secret. Following both Alaïs’s grail quest, and that of her 21st century counterpart, Labyrinth has already aired in Britain, but will get new life when it picks up again in the U.S.
And, since the miniseries format seems to be enjoying resurgences on both sides of the pond, we can expect to see her in another one later this year, as BBC One takes on Daphne de Maurier’s gothic novel, Jamaica Inn. Set in 1820s Cornwall, the three-part adaptation stars Jessica as its spirited heroine Mary Yellan who, when sent to stay with her aunt at the titular lodgings, discovers that it is actually a front for her uncle’s smuggling operation.
Don’t let her recent television roles fool you, though – 2014 is shaping up to be a breakthrough year for Jessica on the big screen as well and one of her most anticipated projects, the upcoming romantic fantasy Winter’s Tale, has had critics and movie buffs buzzing since shooting began late in 2012. Set in Manhattan between 1916 and the present day, the film features Jessica as a woman who, strangely, falls in love with a man attempting to burgle her house. Based on Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel of the same name, Winter’s Tale marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, and will see the former Lady Sybil starring opposite A-listers Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe. Plus, with a release date set for February 14, it’s likely to be a favourite for dinner-and-a-movie dates this Valentine’s Day.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Jessica kept busy with another film in 2013, meaning we can look forward to another appearance later this year in Lullaby. Also starring Amy Adams (coming off a big year with the success of American Hustle and Her), and Garrett Hedlund, the independent film tells the story of a young man who learns that his estranged father has requested to be taken off life support in only two days’ time.
But if there’s one role we’re particularly looking forward to, it’s Jessica’s turn as a trapeze artist in an upcoming update of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, headed by Sherlock director Paul McGuigan. Currently filming in London and Scotland, the movie will see her starring along with James McAvoy, as Dr. Frankenstein, and Daniel Radcliffe, as his hunchbacked assistant Igor (whose perspective forms the basis of the story). With a full slate of projects spanning multiple time periods, genres, and media, it’s safe to say that Jessica Brown Findlay has successfully avoided any post-Downton pigeonholing – something we can all be grateful for as we continue to watch her star rise.
WATCH: JESSICA BROWN FINDLAY STARS OPPOSITE COLIN FARRELL AND RUSSELL CROWE IN WINTER’S TALE.
– Kate Shepherd