BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — You could never tell by looking at this dapper Englishman who plays the stalwart Earl of Grantham on Downton Abbey, but when he was 7 years old Hugh Bonneville hurled a sledgehammer through the family's kitchen window.
It was not indicative of things to come, Bonneville insists. I'm not prone to temper tantrums. I used to be a bad sulker. We're not a shouty family, and nowadays I can forgive but I don't forget, he says. I'm a Scorpio. If you have a go at a Scorpio they can get you back sometime, he laughs, easing into a wing-chair in a hotel meeting room here.
The occasion of the sledgehammer was prompted by his older sister's teasing. She was annoying me. So I chased her through the garden, and she went back inside, shut the kitchen door and went, ‘Nah, nah' through the kitchen window. And I saw a sledgehammer and popped it through the window. Cut to my dad chasing me round the garden and I got a big smacked bottom. That changed my life. That was a big lesson.
Bonneville has been acting for 26 years, but it took the mysterious alchemy of an absorbing script, astute producers and a dream cast of Downton Abbey to elevate him to star status. That doesn't really matter because, like every actor, Bonneville says he still worries where the next job is coming from.
'Downton Abbey' is a hugely popular show and I love it, but it will end at some point and then I need to find work. We're all waiting for hire, he says.
The phenomenal success of Downton Abbey surprised everyone and fans are hotly awaiting the premiere of Season 3 on PBS stations on Sunday.