The path continues to run anything but smoothly for Heidi Thomas's BBC revival of 1970s period drama classic Upstairs Downstairs. The second, longer series is currently filming on location in Cardiff but will not feature Dame Eileen Atkins as interfering but well-intentioned mother-in-law Lady Maude Holland or, initially, Jean Marsh as faithful housekeeper Rose Buck. Amidst rumours that she was unhappy with the direction that Thomas's scripts were taking, Dame Eileen has stepped down from her role whilst Ms Marsh is recovering from a minor stroke she suffered earlier this year and will miss the first episodes of the second series. The absence of the actresses, who were both nominated for Emmy Awards for their performances in the three-part starter that aired last Christmas, will be a major blow for UD when it returns to our screens in 2012. Hasty re-writes have been required and one hopes that the behind-the-scenes difficulties will not be evident in the up-and-coming goings-on at 165 Eaton Place.
Whilst Jean Marsh is due to return as the Holland household's right-hand woman at some stage, series two will begin with Lady Maude's funeral and the arrival of Alex Kingston as her much-younger sister and straight-talking spinster, Dr Blanche Mottershead. Other new additions to the cast include Laura Haddock as nursery maid and dark-secret harbourer Beryl Ballard, Michael Landes as American multi-millionaire Caspar Landry who takes a shine to the lady of the house and Kenneth Cranham as Sergeant Allworth who answers an emergency call at the famous London address. Ed Stoppard as Sir Hallam, Keeley Hawes as Lady Agnes, Little Dorrit herself Claire Foy as the troublesome Lady Persie, Anne Reid as cook Mrs Thackeray, Adrian Scarborough as butler Mr Pritchard, Nico Mirallegro as footman Johnny Proude and Neil Jackson as chauffeur Harry Spargo (pictured above on the job) will all feature once again as the dark days of World War Two are fast approaching. One hopes that the return of the return of Upstairs Downstairs can step out of a certain shadow and make a bigger impact than it did last year. It is strange to see such a cultural phenomenon being referred to as "a bit like Downton Abbey!"