How ‘Downton Abbey’ Pulled Off Lord Grantham’s Shockingly Bloody Medical Scare

Whether it’s a World War I trench scene, a sex scandal turned deadly, or a horrific car accident, Downton Abbey has never been afraid to include violence in its storylines. However, the period drama has always kept blood and gore out of the picture, at least until now. In the latest episode, fans watched a particularly bloody event unfold after Lord Grantham’s (Hugh Bonneville) dining room medical scare. Why and how did the show pull off such a bloody scene?

In an interview with Vanity Fair, producer Liz Trubridge discussed the scene in detail and described some of the motivations behind their decision to include the scene and just how Bonneville was able to pull it off without the aid of special effects.

For starters, Trubridge revealed how they wanted to make the scene as historically accurate as possible. The medical consultant for the show researched a burst ulcer and discovered that a lot of blood was needed. However, there were a few obstacles that almost prevented the scene from being a bloody affair.

The scene was shot inside Highclere Castle, which contained a lot of historic linens that needed to be protected from the fake blood spatter. In order to get around this, producers had to carefully calculate how far the blood would go in the room and then make the appropriate steps to prevent the blood from staining the items.

Lord Grantham's ulcer burst while at dinner with his family. [Image via PBS]
That said, their calculations didn’t exactly pan out. Apparently, Bonneville’s ability to project blood was higher than anyone had expected. Blood hit just about everything and everyone standing in the way.

“When it came [time] to do the first take with the blood, Hugh stood up, we gave him the blood, and then we said, ‘Action.’ That was when it went much farther than any of us expected,” Trubridge stated. “It went all over [Elizabeth McGovern’s character,] Cora, and came within an inch or so of the edge of the protective covering we had put on the carpet at Highclere. Thankfully it was within it. We thought, ‘Wow.'”

Unfortunately, Cora’s blood stained costume created problems because they did not have a backup dress on hand and they still had one scene to film. With the dress being vintage lamé, it started to fall apart when they attempted to clean it. The Downton Abbey costume team had to glue parts of the dress together just to complete filming for the day.

Grantham's absence will mean Mary and Tom will have to step up to run Downton. [Image via PBS]
Meanwhile, Trubridge went on to reveal that they shot several takes of the scene, but ended up going with the first take because the actors were in “genuine shock” at the quantity and distance that the blood had flown.

“Hugh is one of the most cleverly technical actors I’ve ever worked with,” Trubridge explained. “He had a capacity to somehow not have all of that blood come out at once. I don’t know how he did that, but he did.”

While some fans may have shocked at the content of Lord Grantham’s burst ulcer scene, Hollywood Life is reporting that his surgery went well, and it appears that he will make it through the ordeal. However, with his life spared, Tom and Mary are now in a position to run the business of his estate, leaving his future in flux.

According to New York Times, Robert’s absence places Mary at the forefront of Downton Abbey. Even more, with all the everyday decisions resting on Mary and Tom’s shoulders, Tom’s desire to see Mary find a partner is ramped up. However, whether or not Mary concedes that point is yet to be seen.

The sixth season of Downton Abbey airs Sunday nights on PBS.

Tell us! Were you shocked by the bloody scene in the latest episode of Downton Abbey? Let us know in the comments and check out the scene below if you haven’t scene it yet.

[Image via PBS]