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Upstairs Downstairs: Playing Mr Pritchard

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Adrian Scarborough Adrian Scarborough | 09:00 UK time, Sunday, 26 December 2010

I came to play the role of Mr Pritchard by a curious turn of events.

I had worked on Cranford with both Heidi Thomas (the writer of this revival) and Eileen Atkins. They'd also seen me in a play at the National Theatre.

And the part kind of landed in my lap from that really.

It was totally unexpected and extremely flattering. I read the scripts and just fell in love with Mr Pritchard and I completely bought the whole idea of 165 Eaton Place being re-imagined.

So rather suddenly, but delightedly I was in Upstairs Downstairs.

I think being a downstairs character suits me as a person - I'm not good with airs and graces.

But the great thing about Mr Pritchard is that he spans both worlds - and very efficiently at that. It's called 'having your cake and eating it'.

One minute he can be opening the front door for Wallis Simpson and the next minute arranging flowers in a vase.

I love the frantic nature of downstairs where we are constantly on the go - preparing food, cleaning clothing - contrasted with the smoothness of upstairs, which has to look utterly effortless and calm.

Being in both worlds also means I get to spend time with everyone in the cast, which is a real treat.

The new version differs from the original as the characters (with the exception of Rose Buck) are all new to Eaton Place.

Heidi has used genuine historical events around 1936 to colour and chart the storylines.

Because of the way the original series had to be made, the camera shots were dictated by the settings. With the new series, a single camera crew made it possible to shoot the scenes any way the director wanted.

The detail of the sets and costumes are astonishing.

By the time I'd put my tail coat, wing collar, bow tie and watch chain on and walked onto the magnificent hall and stairs set, or the low-ceilinged warm and chintzy downstairs set, no acting was required - it all felt so real and convincing.

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I have enormous admiration for what the art, costume and make-up departments all created. It was the perfect playground.

My favourite room was the kitchen pantry. There were shelves and shelves of provisions, boxes and jars from the period along with home-made preserves and chutneys, bottled beetroot and pickled onions.

You only catch little glimpses of it in the show, but the art and props departments worked tirelessly to make it historically accurate as well as beautifully evocative.

I loved the all cast but I simply adored Anne Reid who plays Mrs Thackeray, the cook.

I've admired her work for years. Let's face it, she's a national institution.

We hit it off the minute we met. She is something of a minx on set. She can make me laugh simply by raising an eyebrow.

Her anecdotes are comedy gold, and she's never afraid to take a difficult path in a scene.

We travelled back from Cardiff (where we shot the series) on the same train a couple of times. My sides ached from laughing by the time we reached Paddington.

She's also partial to a glass of red wine, like my good self, especially on trains, which endears her to me even more.

Emma Clifford as Mrs Simpson and Eileen Atkins as Lady Holland

Eileen's character, Maud, has a pet monkey, which was remarkably professional on set.

There was one occasion however when I was serving coffee by the breakfast table and it wouldn't do what was required.

If I poured the coffee once I must have poured it a thousand times. Every time we went for another take we had to reset the cups, the milk, the coffee, the spills I'd made, the sugar tongs etc. By the end of the scene I wanted to swear at it.

Subsequently watching the scene, you can't really see me doing anything. The monkey steals it every time it's on screen.

I have had a terrific time working on Upstairs Downstairs. Not least because of Cardiff. I know the city pretty well because we filmed Gavin and Stacey there.

I love the shopping arcades and the warmth of the people. I'm desperate to see a rugby match at the Millennium Stadium though. Maybe next time around!

It's going to feel very strange not being around when the series starts.

I'm going on a road trip in the USA with my wife and kids, so I shall have to wait until I'm back to gauge the response and to see what my children think.

I'm always conscious that I have a lot of potential to embarrass them.

Gavin and Stacey gave me a cool quota mostly - I'm not certain of Mr Pritchard's cool leanings. Still, if my mum and her friends like it, that's all that matters.

Adrian Scarborough plays Mr Pritchard in Upstairs Downstairs.

Upstairs Downstairs starts on Sunday, 26 December at 9pm on BBC One and BBC One HD.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Adrian Scarborough also appears in Miranda. Watch Adrian's interview with Miranda Hart on the BBC Comedy website.

Comments made by writers on the TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    Just a heads up to the original series on Independant TV with the role of house butler wonderfully played by Gordon Jackson

  • Comment number 2.

    "Favourite room is the kitchen pantry"
    How very cluish of you - it was Mr Pritchard in the pantry with the butter knife!

  • Comment number 3.

    Pity there is no where on the BBC website to comment about programmes, so I am adding this here. I was and still am a big fan of the original. I am enjoying this new Upstairs Downstairs. But I do think that this drama feels somewhat rushed. It's a shame, it could easily have been made into a longer series so that we could get to know the characters as many of us did with the original.

    There is room for a good quality drama on the BBC, one which can grow over time. Why bring this back to life in three parts, when it could have been the new period drama for 2011 as a series. It feels like pieces of the story are missing, the jumps ahead in time to fit the story line in, is a bit of a shame.

    The characters are good enough to have been given time to develop and grow for a new generation to enjoy, the set as amazing as the original - just more polished. It is good, but it could have been so much better if not rushed. I hope someone sees what they have here and develops this for the new year.

  • Comment number 4.

    Upstairs Downstairs great to have it back but it is a pity only 3 episodes. I hope that the BBC makes more episodes in the future.

  • Comment number 5.

    I totally agree with Betty's comment on here regarding Upstairs Downstairs, its just as good as the original. I hope the BBC will make more episodes for the future, its been beautifully written again by Jean Marsh..please please can we have some more!

  • Comment number 6.

    i have watched up down since i was 11 years old and still watch all the re runs !!. I never tire of this series. I was so excited to discover the sequel to the original was in the making, i have seen the first 2 episodes and i am loving it, however the only thing i can say negitively is the relationship of the upstairs towards the downstairs. In the original series the bellamy family were always kind and empathetic to the servants, the holland youngers are not so, i feel this spoils my enjoyment it lends to an air of so much us and those down there. On the positive, it is wonderful and the cast couldn't be better, absolutely love dame eileen atkins, she and rose, oops ms marsh bring the whole drama together. I do hope a new series is made but with much more empathy rather than shouting at the staff, after all this was part of the magic of the original series...so glad you are back.

  • Comment number 7.

    In agreement with Betty, I would like to see some examination of the issues highlighted in the programme. Episode 2 was overtly political, showing Mosley's vile Blackshirts. We should know more about this, as Mosley is now seen as a buffoon, holding meetings and rallies in the teeth of opposition up to the 1960s. How interesting that Chauffeurs in both Downton and Upstairs/Downstairs are Left-wing political activists. But how many know that the political differences between them are wafer thin, despite one being a Socialist and the other a Fascist?

    In the 1930s, Fascism was sweeping Europe and Mosley was a serious threat, appealing to elements of both the working class and to some of the intelligentsia. But how many know that Mosley left the Labour Party in protest at its the move to the Right to deal with the Depression? How many know the almost identical totalitarian Socialist programme that Fascists and Communists shared? How many know that we have in the BNP an almost identical movement today? Armed with hindsight, our current elite abhor the BNP, yet give far more time and consideration than would seem prudent to others who espouse not too dissimilar agendas. May I recommend "Liberal Fascism" for further illumination.

  • Comment number 8.

    The background music to these 3 episodes has been appauling. Far too loud, almost constantly playing, and a dreadful oboe/clarinet drowing out the speech. Why is it necessary to fill every gap with some sort of music?

  • Comment number 9.

    Please BBC, make more of this fantastic series. I want more!!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this revival. I loved the new series.

    I used to watch Upstairs, Downstairs as a child in Portugal in the late 1970's. It was called A família Bellamy. The whole household, well, just my parents and I really, used to stop everything to watch this quaintest of shows, so far removed from our daily reality, our history, our culture, but yet so close to us, in all the humanity that poured through the screen.

    The new series was simply perfect. The actors fantastic and the story lines enthralling. It had been a long time since I had enjoyed myself so much in front of a TV set, which I usually only turn on to watch the news or films I choose. I particularly enjoyed the more serious take on history - the situation in Germany just before War World II and the spectre of fascism hanging also in the English air.

    I was getting used to the characters, but after three days the entertainment stopped. I suppose it's better that way. Better to miss them than eventually get bored by it. Anyway, it was a perfect moment of TV and I must confess that I would not mind a few more episodes coming our way.

  • Comment number 11.

    Just watched Upstairs Downstairs on BBC One HD on Freesat in Spain.

    Impressed is not the word - In fact, this is wonderful. I cannot fault it at all & I am the type to notice little things, like in Downton Abbey Episode 2, opening credits - TV aerial spotted yet it is 1912 (TV came about around 1922), hey ho... but I digress!

    Upstairs Downstairs is fabulous! It is faithful to it's predecessor, has all the elements the original had, yet so swish & the sets are excuisite.

    I shed a few tears, not just due to the great storylines, but this took me back to when I was a kiddie in St. Albans, UK. I used to do my homework & it would be on.

    Please, please, please commission a full series & absolutely pass on my congratulations to Jean Marsh & Aileen Atkins for bringing us such a beauftiful masterpiece.

    Well done BBC for taking it on, I forgot we are all in such a downturn, for tonight, I feel like a million dollars.

    Best regards from sunny Spain.

    Looking forward to the Blu Ray release (I hope) & a full season!

    Happy new year, may it be all UP, & now at all down!

    Diego Lopez,
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 12.

    Well, It has to be said. We have just really enjoyed watching the 'New', "Upstairs-Downstairs" on BBC1.. As normal. If you want costume drama done properly, leave it to the BBC... It was Superb Telly.. And Warrants a Series!! Well done BBC

  • Comment number 13.

    I totally agree with comment 8 from Rogers, I had to constantly turn the volume up and down, the music was indeed appalling and totally unnecessary, in fact it completely ruined the series for me, I think this ought to be brought to the attention of the producers, if the next series is the same I just won´t watch it.

  • Comment number 14.

    In total agreement with Betty Above. My wife, mother-in-law and I have just finished watching this drama. It was brilliant. We all all fans of the original series and this has all the hallmarks of the original. Excellent. Please follow it up with a new series. The characters are very believable and in my opinion a new series would be riveting. Well done Jean Marsh.

  • Comment number 15.

    Fantastic drama. Excellent cast. Really should be consider for a series in the future. My husband who wouldn't normally watch this type of drama enjoyed it also. Not sure what the fuss is about the background music though because we didn't even notice there was any! Having said that we are used to watching TV with the background noise of 2 young children, so maybe we've become expert at filtering out surplus sounds!

  • Comment number 16.

    Why. oh why does the bbc have to have that awful screechy supposedly 'background' music going on when the characters are speaking?
    This is not the only program where the 'music' drowns the voices, but it is one of the worst!
    For people with hearing difficulties this is a real problem, and spoils their enjoyment of the series.

  • Comment number 17.

    I was so captivated by the three episodes. Please, please do more. Each character was so endearing, believable and at times brought me to tears. Extremely well done beautifully written and presented I was glued from start to finish. Love to Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins truly brilliant. I leave holding my breath for more......

  • Comment number 18.

    Thank you BBC for entertaining me over the past 3 evenings. I absolutely adored Upstairs/Downstairs - I never saw the original series - wish I had now. Please, please try to give us more of this high quality drama. The costumes, language, sets and story line were truly superb. I feel sad that it was just a mini series - more please!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    Thoroughly enjoyed this new mini series, having enjoyed the "original" Upstairs Downstairs. I do hope very much there will be a sequel.

  • Comment number 20.

    We really enjoyed this series probably even more than the original, as it kept all of the charm of the original but added even more, with equally wonderful actors, great story lines and good sets. Very good and we would love to see more. Please continue the series. It was superb! Hats off to Jean Marsh!

  • Comment number 21.

    I loved the original-and was so loyal to it. Traditionally these come backs are so dissappointing,however and emphatic' not so'. This was amazing-I sincerely hope that this was just a pilot for the future return of 'updown'Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins have an unique talent for preserving the beauty of the original and yet bringing it forward to appeal to the current audience. Incidentally as a ardent fan of the 'original series' ,it was lovely to have 'Rose ' back and some small references to the original residents 'The Bellamies' put in this version. It was a great plot too.

    Congratulations to all the cast and crew as they say-please can we have some more!!! I hope many others agree and you do

  • Comment number 22.

    Like the annoying background music, variations on a theme

    Great idea and well executed but some of the storyline sounded as if it was retrieved from Julian Fellowes litter bin

    Someone must have dug up Glazunov to write the background music; more of a 19th century ballet score

    Great acting and attention to detail, but the general storyline was a little far-fetched for prime time TV

    Nonetheless, great viewing. Well done but please turn the music volume down in the sequels. We'll want to hear the Blitz, not the BBC Concert Orchestra

  • Comment number 23.

    Greatly enjoyed this new Upstairs Downstairs. Very well done.

    How can I find out if I am related to Adrian who plays Mr Pritchard - my surname is also Scarborough?

  • Comment number 24.

    I hope the BBC read this web site as we need a good drama series, fed up with all the blood and guts stuff on telly or depressing things, bring back the old light hearted stuff PLEASE.

  • Comment number 25.


    Like Betty, Keith, Nessiegirl and so many of the above I intend to use your Blog to communicate my best wishes to the cast and production staff of this rendition of Upstairs, Downstairs.

    Indeed my only regret was that the overly cautious BBC restricted this series to three episodes (in keeping with the radical Sherlock Holmes). I felt that there must have been enough potential in the outline alone to have produced six or even eight episodes to cover the same amount of time.
    The cast were brilliant from the mainstays Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh to the perennial favourites such as Anne Reid, Art Malik and Keeley Hawes.
    I thought that the production values were very good and of course Wales is the BBC's version of NBC et al using Canada for certain US shows.
    I hope that the viewing figures convince the timorous and Budget ruled BBC Management Team to run a further batch of entertaining episodes.
    Like so many other viewers I wish that the Grey Suits of Ladbroke Grove would try to entertain us more instead of depress us even more than real life is managing to at present.

    Good Luck and I hope to see more of the Holland family together with their faithful retainers Buck, Pritchard etc.

    Remember that you only have three years until WWII changes the social strata of the British Empire forever, so a slower pace of plot will be required.

  • Comment number 26.

    Upstairs Downstairs - excellent drama. Particularly enjoyed Adrian Scarborough's portrayal of Mr Pritchard, great mix of characters with Jean Marsh and Anne Reid.
    Understand a new series is in hand, great news, Lark Rise to Candleford, Downton Abbey, Pillars of the Earth, quality period dramas in abundance - bring it on.

  • Comment number 27.

    I taped all these together over the Christmas period and loved them. Brilliantly acted and the 1936 storyline all interwoven to make a great drama. Much prefer this to Downton Abbey which I gave up on after the 2nd episode. I think this is far more superior and can't wait for another series. I do remember the original Upstairs too very fondly and I think this is a worthy successor.

  • Comment number 28.

    Here here to the annoying background music comment. The programme just like Garrow's law & most other programmes & films is severely spoiled by being drenched with the irritating contrived twee background music.
    As bad as canned laughter except instead of telling people when to laugh, it's to tell people when to feel sad or happy. Frankly it's patronising & sanitises the programme of any chance of having a natural feel.
    Producers are prone to feeling they haven't completed their craft unless hours of time & lots of money have been spent on music. Well they're wrong.
    No music would be good please Just like the 5pm Sunday BBC Dickens serialisations broadcast 30 or 40 years ago that had no background music & were much the better & more realistic for it.

  • Comment number 29.

    Excellent! Please, please extend to full series - and more. Storyline of the three Christmas episodes could well have been extended to at least eight.

    Background music is atrocious and unnecessary. Intrusion over the abdication speech was totally unacceptable. Please reduce it to a bare minimum in any future series.

    Please spread the events of the next three years leading up to WW2 over at least one series of eight episodes.

    Well done! Beat Downton Abbey into a cocked hat!

  • Comment number 30.

    I don't usually watch period dramas these days but as I have been on holiday over Christmas I did watch the first episode of Upstairs Downstairs and ended up watching all three as I felt that they were so good.

    The twist in the final episode with the long dead sister being found alive and well in an institution was particularly poignant. Possibly, Pamela's character could be developed further as this is an opportunity for some really innovative drama around how Pamela's family interact with her now that she has been restored to them.

  • Comment number 31.

    I watched the original Upstairs Downstairs when it was screened in Australia, and every week my family would be glued to the screen. I have since purchased the complete series on DVD and watched it again and had wished it was still being made. I recently heard that there was a remake of Upstairs Downstairs and I have to say that I was concerned that it would fall short of the original. However, I was delighted with this new series even though only three episodes. The costumes, the sets, the cast were all wonderful. With Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins still involved, the new series has lived up to the reputation of original Upstairs Downstairs. Congratulations to all involved.
    I can only hope that this was a small taste of what should become a wonderful new series for BBC.

  • Comment number 32.

    Absolutely brilliant every bit as good as the old series. Very well done with excellent actors, sets and storyline. Can't wait for the new series.

  • Comment number 33.

    That's five or six bloggers here annoyed by the music but no one asking for more music. Please take note producers. People complain about too much loud background music. Especially older folk who are left unable to discern some of the dialogue due to the intrusive corny music. No one here's asking for more or louder music are they.
    So unless I'm mistaken that's a no brainer for less music please.
    After all, it's supposed to be us licence fee subscribers that you serve.
    Not your desire to make period dramas in the style of over produced Hollywood melodramas.

  • Comment number 34.

    What happened to the closing music? In the original series the opening music perfectly reflected the grace of the "Upstairs" life, and the closing music the very different life "Downstairs". This point was completely missed and in my opinion a serious error. I also agree that the background music was inappropriate and unnecessary.

  • Comment number 35.

    I watched all 3 episodes and to be honest I think it was rather boring and the characters were too predictable such as the stuffy mr pritchard...and the mosley bit was most unconvincing.
    I cannot see it coming back as a series again somehow.

  • Comment number 36.

    I watched the programmes with interest. It had been heralded as a new sumptious BBC Production. Jean March must have decided that it could only be put on if she could be in it! Part of her contract! What a shame her contribution along with the poor script which had echoes of Downton Abbey was very disappointing. What a waste of license payers money! Dame Eileen Atkins was outstanding but if she had to just stand there in a black bin bag she would still be outstanding! The BBC were obviously out to score a few points against Downton Abbey ( a wonderful production) sadly nil points from me.........

  • Comment number 37.

    I WAS really looking forward to this series. It is a shame feedback cannot be done on a general titled blog for what we all think of BBC productions.

    It was beautifully filmed and the story did weave through the screenplay very well.
    But! to be honest my heart sank when the very over orchestrated music started up over a twirling chandelier. This emphasis seemed to be on an aspirational 'wealthy' lifestyle (perhaps to appeal to USA sales) and why or why all the terrible cheesy 'mood music' all through it? the original did not need this and it worked!

    It would have been lovely just as a fond nod of appreciation, for all the fans of the original to make some solid reference to the characters from the original...even if it was a post card from Mr Hudson and Mrs Bridges in Hastings!

    Great writers like Fay Weldon got accurate gritty working class details from first hand sources...and that really showed. Not so in this version plus a lot of the staff had very dodgy London accents. Christopher Beeny, Jaquiline Tong, Gareth Hunt,
    added authentic LONDON accents, truly vital for a very London storytelling drama.


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