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Downton Actor 'Humbled' by Response to Gay Character

Downton Actor 'Humbled' by Response to Gay Character

James-Robert Collier

Robert-James Collier says he's heard from closeted teens who identify with his DowntonAbbey character, Thomas Barrow.

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Robert-James Collier has been humbled by viewers' supportive response to the struggles of his Downtown Abbey character, gay under-butler Thomas Barrow.

Thomas, often involved in devious plots against other Downton servants, emerged as a more sympathetic character last season as he sought a "cure" for his homosexuality.

"We've dealt with Thomas's sexuality and he always appeared to be happy, but we found out last year that he wasn't," Collier told reporters at a recent press event in London, International Business Times U.K. reports. "He never resolved it last year -- he thought he could cure it by injecting himself [a common "treatment" in the 1920s]. 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."

Teenagers who haven't come out to their families have written to Collier about how Thomas's struggles resonated with them, the actor said. "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."

There will be much drama for Thomas in the upcoming season, Collier said. "You are going to see Thomas right at the brink," he told another U.K. outlet, the Sunday Mirror. The popular period series returns for its sixth and final season in the U.K. September 20 and in the U.S. in January. Watch a trailer below.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.