Downton Abbey is entering its third series…er season by heading into the Post-WWI era of British history. For those in the US, this is called the third season, in the UK, it’s the third series. The question of Thomas the footman’s sexuality will be brought up again, apparently. Rob James-Collier, who plays Thomas, let everyone know that his character’s sexuality would be making another appearance next season.
In the first season, Thomas had an affair with a Duke and had a disastrous time with a Turkish envoy. The second season was set between 1914 and 1918, and that pretty much put the kibosh on any stories revolving around Thomas’ sexuality. World War I was an horrific time for the British people, and British television series often make reference to both WWI and WWII.
With regards to Thomas, at one point, James-Collier even joked that he was not sure if his character was “still gay”; however, he did talk to series creator Julian Fellowes about the issue and was promised that Thomas’ sexuality would be explored more in future episodes. According to James-Collier:
“The gay thing comes back in this series – he stopped being gay in series two. I had to ring upstairs and ask Julian, ‘Am I still gay?’
“Seriously, in series two the drama focused on the First World War and the huge impact it had on people back home in Britain, in dealing with the dead and wounded. The gay thing was largely ignored.
“But Thomas has a beautiful storyline which evolves right through the new series and there has a massive pay-off.”
James-Collier also noted that issues for Thomas are not easy, and that he hopes that “the audience will identify with why Thomas is the way he is – he has this secret which he can’t tell anyone about because [homosexuality was] illegal.”
Homosexuality in Britain would not begin to be decriminalized until 1967, and not fully decriminalized in all parts of the United Kingdom until 1982. Men who were convicted of engaging in homosexual acts were often treated inhumanely, jailed, fined or even put on hormone therapy to try to ‘cure’ them of being gay.
The third season of Downton Abbey starts in the UK this autumn, and will hit the US sometime after that.