Sep. 26, 2010
90 min.
ITV TV Network

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Downton Abbey (UK)

Downton Abbey is a historical drama written by Julian Fellowes. The series follows the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them in an Edwardian country house just after the turn of the 20th century.

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Tom Branson Downton Abbey (UK)
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Tom Branson

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  Played by:
Allen LeechAllen Leech
Allen Leech was born in Killiney, County Dublin, Ireland to David Leech, the CEO of a computer systems ...

Character Bio

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Tom Branson was initially the family chauffeur, employed midway through Series 1. He aspires to a career in politics, and is a socialist Irish nationalist and republican. It becomes clear that he is political and very determined, much like Lady Sybil. Once in conversation with Sybil he makes no secret of his distaste for the aristocracy and the ruling class, but is quick to add that he respects Lord Grantham and his family for their fairness towards their employees and only disapproves of him as a "representative of the oppressive class". Sybil forces him to take her to the announcement of the by-election results but a group of thugs stir up trouble and they barely escape the chaos, with the help of Matthew. He forms a strong friendship with Lady Sybil, which develops into romantic feelings, but both are afraid to act due to the difference in social class and the potential loss of his job. He refuses to fight for Britain in the First World War but the conflict shows both him and Sybil that the class boundaries are breaking down. After sharing a kiss the pair decide to elope to Gretna Green, but are persuaded to return by Mary and Edith. After breaking the news of their love to the Grantham family and being fired by Lord Grantham in disgrace, Branson finally gets a muted blessing for their wedding and the promise of a small dowry. They travel to Dublin where Tom has found a job as a journalist at a newspaper and are married in a small ceremony which Sybil's sisters attend. However, Cora, Robert and Violet do not go. In December 1919, Sybil writes a letter to her family telling them that she is pregnant.

Tom and Sybil return to Downton Abbey to attend Mary´s and Matthew´s wedding in 1920, Violet having sent them the money to cover their travel expenses because she thinks that their attendance would create less of a topic of conversation in the county than if they were excluded. While the older generation upstairs with the exception of Cora and Isobel and most of the servants except Mrs. Hughes and Anna find it hard to accept Tom in his new role as a member of the Crawley family, Mary, Edith and Matthew welcome him as their brother-in-law.

Due to his anti-aristocrat feelings and illegal political activities, Tom is a witness and co-conspirator as fellow Irish Republicans burn the house of a wealthy Anglo-Irish nobleman. Hunted by the police, he escapes with Sybil and finds refuge at Downton. He admits that he was involved in the planning of the attack and present at its execution but felt sorry for the wealthy nobleman's family. Robert, though outraged, pleads his case with the Home Secretary but only manages to obtain Tom's freedom; he is barred from ever returning to Ireland. When Sybil dies during childbirth in series 3, Tom becomes a widower. He wishes his daughter to be baptised as a Catholic, which Robert does not agree with. But Mary and the rest of the family defend Tom's decision because Sybil had no objection to it. At the end of the series, as suggested by Violet and strongly supported by Cora, Tom becomes the land agent for the estate who will help Matthew to turn Downton into a modern profit making estate. He asks Cora if he and his daughter can stay at Downton while she is young. Cora happily agrees, knowing that it is what Sybil would have wanted. The final image of the series is Tom, Robert, and Matthew happily enjoying a cricket match together, showing that Tom has finally been accepted by Robert into the family.

In the Christmas Special, set one year later, he is shown as the object of affections for the new maid, Edna Braithwaite, who tries to make him feel ashamed of his new position and life in the house. After Edna kisses him and is fired because of it, Tom is shown breaking down in grief over Sybil before Mrs. Hughes. Mrs. Hughes touchingly tells him that he should not be ashamed of his achievements in his new station of life and that he is no longer a "downstairs person." Sybil, she believes, would be proud of his accomplishments "above stairs" (being the manager of Downton Abbey) and as a member of the family.

Edna later returns to Downton to be Lady Grantham's new lady's maid in 1922, using the glowing reference that Mrs Hughes wrote of her at Tom's request, following the sudden departure of Miss O'Brien. Tom consults with Carson and Mrs Hughes when her imminent return is made known to him. Carson, reasoning that there is no way they can refuse her the job without revealing the reason for her firing, which he feels would almost certainly break the hearts of the rest of the Crawley household, decides to allow Edna to take the role, and advises Tom to keep his distance. Tom endeavours to do so, but following a trying time at a party at Downton where many of the Crawleys' old friends make him feel hopelessly out of place, is seduced by Edna offscreen after she gives him a large whiskey. Edna then attempts to blackmail Tom into forcing him to marry her if she is carrying his child, trying to make him feel like he is guilty when in truth she is the guilty party. Tom confides in Mrs Hughes (after Mary urges him to confide in someone, seeing something is wrong with him and he refuses to talk to her), who finds a book in Edna's room regarding contraception, and uses it to call Edna's bluff: she would only have gotten pregnant once she got him to agree to marry her, and he would not have been the father. This results in Edna leaving Downton Abbey again, after Mrs Hughes threatens to have her examined by a doctor and not give a reference if she does not stop with her lie or keep quiet.

Though he has come to love his in-laws very much, Tom feels more than ever that he could never fit in at Downton. He feels now he cannot go back to Ireland because they have changed him too much. He does not even know what his beliefs are anymore. He considers leaving for America, where some of his relatives have already gone, feeling also it would be better for his daughter to have a clean start as well, rather than having to live in constant reminder that her father is an "uppity chauffeur". Isobel tries to rekindle his interest in politics. She gets him to go to a political rally, where he meets schoolteacher Sarah Bunting (played by Daisy Lewis). Their friendship is a source of tension in Downton, as she has several altercations with Lord Grantham over politics and the Great War. When she leaves for a job elsewhere, Branson is reminded of his choice to saty in Downton, or go to America with Sybbie. Finally, at the end of series 5, he decides to join his cousin in a venture to invest in farming machinery in Boston, Massachusetts, resolving to leave Downton after spending one last Christmas there.

Tom Branson was supposed to appear in only three episodes of the first series, and Branson was originally Yorkshire-born. Moreover, actor Leech wanted to audition for Thomas Barrow, but chose Branson. Leech's audition for the role convinced Julian Fellows to expand his role and to transform Branson into Irish. Leech tried to work on his Yorkshire accent in effort to prevent his character from becoming the Irish stereotype, but was persuaded that Tom would not become such, prompting him to use his native Irish accent.

Episode Screenshots

05x05 - Series 5, Episode 5
Season 5, Episode 05
02x05 - Series 2, Episode 5
Season 2, Episode 05
05x01 - Series 5, Episode 1
Season 5, Episode 01
06x02 - Episode 2
Season 6, Episode 02
[More Episodes]

Tom Branson Photos

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