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Which member of 'Upstairs Downstairs' harbored a secret crush on a castmate?

March 14, 2011 | 11:12 am

UD Get ready to be scandalized: As "Upstairs Downstairs" returns to PBS for the first time since 1977, cast members are revealing that they might not have been quite so proper and reserved as they seemed on TV.

While the English period drama helped establish the reputation of "Masterpiece Theatre" during the 1970s, the cast members were busy distancing themselves from their fussy on-screen personalities. Lesley-Anne Down, who played Lady Georgina, remembers a lot of tipsy fun happening after hours.

"Back then, the IRA was still a force in England, and there were bomb scares galore all over London,"  the actress recalls. "We lived amidst terrorism, and we rehearsed at the Territorial Army Center." Luckily, the drill hall opposite their practice space housed a wine bar, perfectly situated to soothe their nerves. "We'd get done with rehearsal by three o'clock, and by five after three until nine o'clock we were all in the bar.”

Down says she shared the most late-night drinks with Simon Williams, who played James Bellamy, Lady Georgina's step-cousin. Both of the actors were in relationships at the time. "We didn’t have an affair," Down insists. "But we did tell the writers, 'Why don’t James and Georgina have an affair?' And they said, 'We can’t do that! They're cousins!'"

She laughs. "I had such a crush on him," she admits. "It was a chemical reaction -- instant twinkly eyes!"

For more behind-the-scenes revelations about "Upstairs Downstairs," which comes back to PBS on April 10 and will be packaged as a box set on March 29, read "'Upstairs Downstairs,' the occupants move back in."

-- Melissa Maerz

Photo: Lesley-Anne Down (middle row, far left) and the cast of "Upstairs Downstairs." Credit: Acorn Media.