She plays an interfering mom in Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (December 7): "I relate to how frazzled she is, but I don’t try to be as instrumental in my own two daughters’ fates."
She starts in a third season of Downton Abbey (January 6): "My character, Lady Cora Crawley, works the system very subtly. What I like about her is that she represents an old-fashioned feminine ideal."
Digging in: "Once I set my mind to something, there’s no taking no for an answer. I’ve always been steely about my work and fought hard for my roles. I knew I wanted to be part of Downton Abbey before I even read the script. I had seen films that [series creator] Julian Fellowes had worked on, and I knew he was a talent to be reckoned with."
Downton developments: "This season Shirley MacLaine plays my mother, and she is so engaging and fun that everyone was truly thrilled to have her there. Acting with Shirley helped me see what a long way my character had come in terms of indoctrinating herself into the aristocratic way, because Cora clearly does not come from that world herself. Shirley is only in the first two episodes, but when I think of working with her, I break into a smile. We all loved her so much."
Second skin: "Seven years ago, I started a band that I named Sadie and the Hotheads, and we’re really getting good now. I sing and play the guitar and write the songs. I named myself Sadie because I wanted to create an alter ego totally different from myself. Sadie has a lot of confidence, grabbing a microphone, jumping onstage and just singing. That’s not me. But it’s fun being her."
Life abroad: "I’m American, but my husband [British producer-director Simon Curtis] had a job with the BBC when I got pregnant with our first child, and it seemed pragmatic to live in England. I knew that I’d have some rainy, gray London days to deal with, but what I longed for most was a good cup of coffee. Someone heard my prayers, because now there must be three Starbucks on every block!"
First published in the Decmeber 2012/January 2013 issue