The RMS Titanic maritime disaster has been given yet another on-screen treatment, this time from Julian Fellowes, the creator of hit British import “Downton Abbey.” In fact, due to Fellowes’ involvement and the fact that “Titanic” focuses on all the different classes that were on board the ill-fated ship, some people have taken to referring to “Titanic” as “Downton at Sea.” Star Linus Roache, who plays the upper-class Earl of Manton, tells Zap2it that’s not exactly what it is.
“It’s not ‘Downton at Sea.’ ‘Downton Abbey’ just deals mostly with two levels of society … whereas this ship, this story, deals with so many different layers,” says Roache. “You’ve got four or five layers. And you’re bringing in an international dimension because you’ve got the Irish, how they relate to the Italians. It’s really like viewing the world at that time.”
Another obvious comparison that has been made is to the 1997 James Cameron blockbuster of the same name, which Roache tells us they are not trying to be.
“It would be foolish to even try to compete with that. The Cameron movie is just fantastic in its own right – epic, romantic disaster movie-making,” says Roache. “This was a very different venture. It was an attempt to tell the story of the whole ship and how they all experienced that moment. It plays to the strengths of television. You can’t take that time in a movie. This is more of a character-driven piece.”
It was exactly that character-driven aspect of it that drew Roache to the project in the first place.
“I really responded to the idea of creating a piece of event television that would actually play on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic,” says Roache. “A unifying event that brings us together to remember that story, remember those lives. I just like the idea of it.”
“When you add names like Julian Fellowes,” he continues. “And when you put actors in there like Maria Doyle Kennedy, Geraldine Somerville, James Wilby and the great Steve Waddington, of course I want to be part of it. I’m honored to be asked to play on the team.”
We were curious what some of the challenges were of bringing such an enormous event to life on screen and Roache gave us a rather surprising answer.
“Not trying to be funny, but the challenges were practical. We’re shooting in the middle of summer, in Budapest, in a hot studio, wearing heavy costumes and we’ve just hit an iceberg in the north Atlantic. Trying to act cold is a challenge when your makeup’s running and sweat is pouring down your neck,” says Roache.
“Titanic” wraps up its two-night event Sunday, April 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.