Downton Abbey star ‘humbled’ by response to ‘gay cure’ plot

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Downton Abbey star Rob James-Collier has opened up about a controversial storyline which saw his character attempting to ‘cure’ his homosexuality.

The actor plays villainous gay under-butler Thomas Barrow on the ITV period drama, who has become central to the show.
Downton Abbey star ‘humbled’ by response to ‘gay cure’ plot
Speaking to IBT UK ahead of the launch of the sixth and final run next week, the actor spoke about a controversial storyline that saw the character ailing as he attempted to make himself straight by injecting toxic ‘medicine’ – a genuine approach to homosexuality at the time the show is set.

He said: “We’ve dealt with Thomas’ sexuality and he always appeared to be happy but we found out last year that he wasn’t.

“He never resolved it last year, he thought he could cure it by injecting himself. It’s always underlying that he always has to reconcile who he is with himself, good or bad. That’s what this series is all about for Thomas.”

Of portraying the character, he said: “It’s a privilege because this conflict about who he is, that’s why you get the good side and the bad side. Society condemns him so that’s why he’s like, ‘I am whatever you say I am’.

He also revealed that people tell him the character’s struggles help them in real life.
Downton Abbey star ‘humbled’ by response to ‘gay cure’ plot

The actor said: “I’ve had teenagers who haven’t come out to their families and it was how Thomas’ struggles resonated.

“The worry about getting exposed and they’re yet to come out to their families and friends, their insecurities like: ‘Am I going to get accepted, how are my family going to deal with this?’ It’s a huge thing.

“To see something on the TV in a main show that they can identify with is quite rare so I really tapped into that.

“It’s really humbling when you see letters like that because Thomas is moving people and that’s what drama’s supposed to do. It’s supposed to evoke emotion.

“It’s lovely when you get that, it’s the greatest compliment of all. Very humbling, poignant and heartfelt.”
Downton Abbey star ‘humbled’ by response to ‘gay cure’ plot
James-Collier told the Mirror that the upcoming run will unlock “the answer” to the character’s ways – after wearing him down.

He said: “You are going to see Thomas right at the brink.

“He’s been worn down by years and years of society saying you can’t be who you are and this series deals with that tragic journey.

“The answer which explains why Thomas is the way he has been the past six years will be unlocked – for good or bad – at the end of the series.”