Downtown Abbey has been one of the most popular and distinctive television programmes of recent times. The loves and losses of Lady Mary, the Earl of Grantham struggling to come to terms with the changing world, and the waspish asides of the dowager Countess all delighted fans across the world. But below stairs, the undoubted star of the show in the Yorkshire-set programme was the county’s own Jim Carter as the stern,deep-voiced Mr.Carson, Downtown’s butler.
Born in Harrogate 68 years ago – the son of an Air Ministry official and a school secretary – Jim Carter first intended to go into the law. He studied law at the University of Sussex after education at Harrogate’s Ashville College, where he ended up as head boy, but an encounter with a fringe theatre group in Brighton ended all that. Lured by a wage of a fiver a week, he dropped out of university and went into acting. ‘Since then, I’ve never earned a penny doing anything else,’ he recalls.
Aside from his role in Downtown, Jim has rarely been in need of work and has been seen in films such as ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ ‘The Madness of King George,’ ‘102 Dalmatians’ and, more recently ‘My Week with Marilyn,’ as well has hit tv programmes like ‘Minder,’ ‘Cracker’ and ‘Cranford.’
Not known by some is that Jim is half of one of acting’s celebrity couples – his wife is actress Imelda Staunton, particularly known for her roles in the film ‘Vera Drake’ and the Harry Potter movies. The pair met at rehearsals for ‘Guys and Dolls’ at the National Theatre, married a year later, and have a daughter Bessie who followed them into the acting profession. A proud moment for the couple came earlier this year when Imelda received the CBE at Buckingham Palace for her services to acting.
As you might expect from a proud Yorkshireman, one of Jim’s passions is cricket. He’s chairman of Hampstead Cricket Club near the couple’s London home. And, hailing from a county where cycling has become massively popular after the success of the Tour de France ‘grand depart’ here in 2014, it’s maybe no great surprise that this is another enthusiasm. Indeed he’s done several charity bike rides in countries as far afield as Argentina and Vietnam to raise funds for the National Deaf Childrens Society (NDCS) and another in Ghana to help fund a clean water scheme for an impoverished villeage - click HERE to find out more about NDCS. A big man – at 6ft 2in he towers over his wife who’s barely five feet tall! – with a big heart… and immensely proud he was ‘Made in Yorkshire.’