The Durrells in Corfu's Jeremy Swift

Tea Time Tidbit for the week of November 7, 2016

Tea Time Tidbit

As Spratt in Downton Abbey

Did you see who turned up in The Durrells in Corfu recently, playing the part of Dennis the butler to Leslie Caron’s Countess? It’s none other than Jeremy Swift, who was Maggie Smith’s butler Septimus Spratt, in Downton Abbey!

Serving-men seem to be a Swift specialty. He was a footman some years ago in the Julian Fellowes film Gosford Park, and when he was in his 20s he even starred alongside David Tennant and Richard Wilson in the National Theatre production of...wait for it...What the Butler Saw. (Swift didn’t actually play a butler, but was a policeman who ends up wearing a dress!)

Tea Time Tidbit

With Leslie Caron in The Durrells in Corfu

Gosford Park, which also starred Maggie Smith, is said to be the inspiration for Downton, but Fellowes was not inspired to cast Swift in Downton until season four. I think that may have been something of a mistake, because although Swift was initially hired for just two small scenes in one episode, his character proved so popular that he ended up being in almost every single episode until the series concluded with season six.

At the same time that Swift was working on Downton, he was also working on a couple of other series you may have seen him in; Foyle’s War, where he starred as Granvil Harris, and The Crimson Field, where he played QMS Reggie Soper. Although it’s taken until fairly recently that Swift, who turned 56 last month, is getting offered roles rather than having to seek them out, he’s been acting for all of his adult life. He first got the acting bug in 1971 when he enrolled at a local arts center in the town he grew up in, Stockton-on-Tees, and took some improvisation classes. He was member number 1! He then got into the school play and on leaving school he left County Durham for the south where he studied at the Guildford School of Acting from 1978-1981.

Tea Time Tidbit

In a production of The Railway Children

As well as acting, Swift has another passion: music. His parents were musicians and music teachers and Swift played in bands and folk clubs. He plays a number of instruments, (violin, mandolin, and guitar) and has written music for theatre and film projects. For the last couple of years he’s been working on writing and recording songs for an album which he hopes to release next year.

It looks like 2017 is lining up to be a busy one for Swift. The actor, who lives with his wife, actress Mary Roscoe, and two children in London, recently (November 3) announced on Twitter that he has "been offered a nice part in Mary Poppins Returns and it’s been confirmed that Spratt will be in the Downton film"!

Mary Poppins Returns is due to start filming soon with a very impressive cast, including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Colin Firth and the creator of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda. As for a big screen version of Downton, there’s been rumors circulating about the series being made into a film since it ended, so it’s nice to know that it’s finally in the works. As soon as I hear more, I’ll let you know.

The Durrells in Corfu airs Sunday nights at 8pm on MPT.

To contact Heather:
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Afternoon Tea is Maryland Public Television's weekday presentation of British programs.
Our host and Tea Lady is Heather Sanderson.
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