Interview: Downton star on his Harrogate boyhood

Harrogate actor Jim Carter, third from right, in a scene from acclaimed British comedy film Swimming With Men which is available now on DVD.
Harrogate actor Jim Carter, third from right, in a scene from acclaimed British comedy film Swimming With Men which is available now on DVD.

Talking a break from shooting the new Downton Abbey movie, Harrogate actor Jim Carter has been diving into his memories of growing up as a young boy in Harrogate, just as his latest movie Swimming With Men is released on DVD.

The Downtown Abbey star said the film shoot for the new British comedy co-starring Rob Brydon, Rupert Graves, Daniel Mays and Jane Horrocks, brought up memories of a different era for swimming.


Jim said: “When I was young a few of us would often cycle to Starbeck baths for a swim before school.
“We’d always get a penny dab of Brylcreem from the dispenser to slick back our hair afterwards.
“Read that sentence to anyone under 50 and they won’t have a clue what you’re talking about!”


Jim, who plays Mr Carson the butler in the international hit TV series Downton Abbey, said it had been a treat working with cast members such as Rob Brydon for the movie, though there had been more pool-time than he had expected.


Jim said: “I knew Rob from filming The Way We Live Now for the BBC many years ago, and from Would I Lie To You?
"And I’d filmed with Rupert Graves and know Danny Mays before so I knew that I would have a great time.
“We all had to do three hours a day synchro training in the Olympic Pool for two weeks prior to filming but it was a fantastic bonding experience.
“I hadn’t realised that I was the most buoyant person in the world. I’m unsinkable!


“When we filmed a section sitting on the bottom of the pool I has about 10kg of weights in the back of my trunks to keep me from floating off to the surface.
"When the other actors got tired of treading water whilst waiting for the camera to get into position they used to hang off me like a life raft!"


A success with the critics, Swimming With Men was released on DVD last week by Vertigo Releasing and Universal Pictures (UK).


The film tells the story of an accountant who faced with a full-blown mid-life crisis joins an all-male group of synchronised swimmers and discovers that making patterns in a pool can, for a couple of hours at least, gives him escapism from the bumps in his work and marriage.


The Harrogate-born actor said he knew he wanted to be in the film as soon as he read the script.


Jim said: "I loved the script for Swimming With Men straightaway because it was so different.
"After all, one doesn’t read a lot of scripts about middle aged men forming a synchronised swimming team!
"So many scripts are very derivative and it’s a treat to read something original. And , let’s face it, it’s about as different from playing Mr Carson as one could find.
"I’d also heard very positive things about the director Oliver Parker and was keen to work with him and I’m happy to say that it was a delightful working experience - he was more than happy to climb into his trunks and jump in the pool with us. A true gent."


But Jim, who is returning to Harrogate next years for his mum’s 100th birthday, is already hard at work on another big project - Downton Abbey the movie.


Describing in as like a "school reunion" as all the original cast are back together from the TV series, he also admitted there would be a “huge shock” in it, before adding he cannot reveal what it is!

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