The gushing fans might well have been tweens swooning over “Twilight” ’s Robert Pattinson . But the starstruck belonged to a slightly different demographic. They were members of WGBH’s Ralph Lowell Society (supporters who give $1,500 or more annually to the station) and their guests.
Their heels were largely sensible, their hair was often silver, many were men, but bosoms were heaving at
WGBH’s Brighton studios on Saturday. Two of the biggest stars of “Downton Abbey ” had come to town: Lord Grantham (OK, the actor Hugh Bonneville ) and Thomas (really Rob James-Collier , wearing decidedly non-Thomas-like coral high-top Nikes, facial stubble, and shaggy hair).
The day’s second event kicked off at 6 p.m. with a 35-minute tease of the show’s two-hour Jan. 6 US premiere, then it was on to the Q&A, with the actors, “Masterpiece” executive producer Rebecca Eaton , and “Downton Abbey” executive producer Gareth Neame .
Among the highlights: Is Dame Maggie Smith , who plays the Dowager Countess of Grantham, as clever as she appears? Yes! James-Collier told a story: When shooting started, he nervously asked the legend to sign a DVD for charity. “Who’s that?” Smith retorted. “Your sister?”
Another crowd pleaser: To gasps from the audience, Bonneville was asked which daughter was his favorite. “I have to be the diplomat and say I can’t choose,” he said, praising Mary and Sybil. “One feels a sympathy for Edith,” he allowed. “It’s Mary,” James-Collier said to loud laughter. “There’s something about Mary.”
And then it was time for cocktails, smoked salmon, and photos with the stars in front of a Highclere Castle backdrop. Look who’s in line: Norm Abram , master carpenter of “This Old House.” He was asked if he had advice for the upkeep of the castle. “I need to check it out first- hand,” he said, angling for an invite.
Off to the side, Henry Becton , vice chair of WGBH’s Board of Trustees, and its former president, was directing the photo shoot. He suggested a picture of Abram with Bonneville alone. “Is it because I’m a servant?” James-Collier shot back.
Then came photos with the donors. “So good to see you,” the gracious Bonneville said, greeting a complete stranger. James-Collier was working a different angle. “Sexy Daryl,” he cooed harmlessly to a staffer. “Sexy Daryl with the sexy glasses.”
And then, around 9 o’clock, Lord Grantham and Thomas stepped into a waiting car, and master and servant drove off into the Boston night.Beth Teitell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.