Daisy Pulls It off; Sophie McShera, 26, Portrays Downton's Scullery Maid and Is in Hit Play Jerusalem. She Talks to Liz Hoggard about Bad Hair Days, Smelly Costumes and How the Downstairs Cast Have More Fun

The Evening Standard (London, England), December 16, 2011 | Go to article overview

Daisy Pulls It off; Sophie McShera, 26, Portrays Downton's Scullery Maid and Is in Hit Play Jerusalem. She Talks to Liz Hoggard about Bad Hair Days, Smelly Costumes and How the Downstairs Cast Have More Fun


Byline: Liz Hoggard

[bar] Y HAIR is the bane of my life, whichever part I play," Sophie McShera tells me with a burst of laughter. McShera, 26, is best known for her role as Daisy the scullery maid in ITV's Downton Abbey, a character she loves.

But she can't love Daisy's wardrobe. As the most junior member of the household returning to our screen on Christmas Day for a two-hour special, she is usually only ever seen in one dress.

"She's a complete dogsbody, the lowest of the low. And I have to have all this eczema put on my hands and dirt under my nails when she's been doing the fires."

When she got the role last year she was instructed to grow her bob out and leave her hair unwashed. During filming they apply wax to make it long and greasy.

"It's kind of good," she says with relish, "because you don't care any more. I can never look quite so awful in real life. I'd hate to be really beautiful on telly and then have everyone go, 'It's all make-up and lighting'."

She and her friend Siobhan Finneran (who plays the fearsome lady's maid, O'Brien) constantly moan about their appearance. "People say it's only the character but you think, 'That's my face, that's my body'."

She reveals that her fellow servants also smell pretty strong. "We all stink because they can't wash the clothes that often. They can unpick dresses to remove the armpits and wash them but that's it. I think that's why we are such good friends, we're all so gross. It's a real bond."

In person, McShera is warm and hilarious -- and delicately pretty. No wonder she is never recognised wandering around the West End. She greets me in a leopardskin coat at the stage door of the Apollo Theatre, where she's appearing in Jez Butterworth's hit play Jerusalem.

She can pass for a 15-year-old, which is why she's playing wild-haired teenager Pea alongside Mark Rylance's hellraiser, Rooster Byron. Instead of polishing the silver, we get to see her down sambuca shots and snort fake cocaine. "It's like glucose, really horrible, you can feel it in your nose three hours later."

She got the role after filming the second series of Downton, and for the run of Jerusalem she's sharing a flat in West Hampstead with "Lady Lavinia" (her Downton co-star Zoe Boyle, who played Matthew Crawley's fiancee) who died of the Great Flu at the end of series two.

For the Christmas special, the country house drama has reached 1919, and Downton is hosting a lavish Christmas party, but Bates's arrest for his wife's murder casts a shadow over festivities. Lady Mary is forced to consider her future with Sir Richard and the Dowager Countess has concerns about her daughter Rosamund's new suitor, played by Nigel Havers.

As for Daisy, she's still filled with guilt about being coerced into marrying 'I think the are completely in a castle now. more excited come to film Ealing because raucous, a bit dying soldier William -- which causes tensions with Mrs Patmore.

"Brian Percival the director said, 'I really want you to grow up on screen, I want to see you act like a stroppy teenager'. But then she matures because she wants to become an assistant cook. She's never be allowed to become a lady's maid, though, because she's too coarse."

Any chance of another romance? "I know, I keep saying to Julian, 'Can Daisy take someone's eye, like an earl? …

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