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Downton Abbey Catch Up: Joanne Froggatt Steps into the Spotlight

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. Over several weeks, we’ve explored the personal and familial struggles faced by members of the Crawley family, as they’ve artfully sidestepped social scandal and financial ruin in their attempts to keep their legacy – Downton itself – intact. But while theirs may seem to be the weightiest troubles on the series, the lives of their staff are just as compelling, and at times subtly influential, as those upstairs.

WARNING: IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN SEASON 3 OF DOWNTON ABBEY, THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD.

In many ways, lady’s maid Anna (Smith) Bates is an essential liaison between the individuals that inhabit those two distinct, yet connected worlds. Over several years working for the family as head housemaid, Anna gained the trust of each of its members. She’s demonstrated immense loyalty to Lady Mary in particular, guarding a potentially ruinous secret for the eldest Crawley sister, and acting as a trusted confidante once promoted to the role of lady’s maid.

Joanne Froggatt sported a sleek, black jumpsuit at the British Independent Film Awards back in December.

Joanne’s ruffled skirt had heads turning on the red carpet at October’s BFI London Film Festival Awards.

Her ability to maintain close relationships with the family has mirrored the lasting friendships that she’s forged with fellow staff members, and her initially tentative romance with Lord Grantham’s mysterious new valet, John Bates, was as nuanced and dramatic as any of the Crawley ladies’ courtships. When they were finally married, Anna was forced to weather an onslaught of accusations against her new husband, and was tireless in her pursuit of the evidence that would eventually clear his name. All of those efforts transformed Anna from a likeable character in the series’ early days, into one that viewers could truly admire and root for.

With her husband free from prison, season three ended with the promise that Anna might, at long last, have the opportunity to enjoy married life. With a promotion within the staff’s ranks, and Mr. Bates safe from harm, we’ll have to wait and see what challenges season four will bring for one of Downton’s favourite faces. In the meantime, though, actress Joanne Froggatt has had plenty on her plate to keep her busy between seasons of the beloved period drama.

Like her co-star and onscreen antagonist Rob James-Collier, Joanne got her start in the entertainment industry with a stint on Coronation Street in 1996, followed by an impressive string of television, radio, stage and film roles in the years leading up to her casting in Downton Abbey. While the filming of the series has been a top priority since its debut in 2010, Joanne has also turned her talents to other parts as well.

At the 2013 Venice International Film Festival, Joanne hit the red carpet for a photo call for the indie movie, Still Life.

Joanne was joined by director Jon S. Baird and costar James McAvoy at the London premiere of Filth.

Now, she’s coming off a particularly productive year in 2013, after a turn in the Uberto Pasolini-directed indie flick Still Life, and the comedy-drama Filth, where she appeared alongside James McAvoy, Jamie Bell and Jim Broadbent. Those outings, coupled with her work on Downton might seem like a difficult combination to top, but this year is already promising to be no less interesting for Joanne. She was recently announced as a cast member of the upcoming BBC One drama series, The Secrets, helmed by BAFTA-winning director Dominic Savage. Signed on for one of five standalone episodes, she’s slated to play the wife of a man who, unbeknownst to her, is married to another woman.

From the sounds of it, that latest project will feature more than enough intrigue and domestic turmoil to keep even diehard Downton fans entertained, and could be a sign that Joanne’s talent for challenging roles and dynamic storylines will continue to be in high demand. But until then, we’re more than happy to see her return to television’s most talked-about estate for the series’ fourth season, starting Wednesday, May 28 at 9pm ET/6 PT right here on VisionTV!

– Kate Shepherd

WATCH: JOANNE FROGGATT AND MICHELLE DOCKERY DISCUSS THEIR ON AND OFF-SCREEN FRIENDSHIP AT THE 2012 EMMYS.