Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery: 'I miss Dan as much as Lady Mary'

In the new series of Downton Abbey the show's beautiful young widow Lady Mary Crawley cannot seem to shake off her grief for her husband Matthew Crawley – turning on all those who try to console her.

Instead she spends days staring at his picture and freezing out potential suitors. Her despairing grandmother The Dowager Countess of Grantham, who is played by Dame Maggie Smith, tells Mary that in order to move on she "must choose life".

Michelle Dockery, the actress behind the aristocratic ice maiden, understands how she feels.

The departure of Dan Stevens, who portrayed Matthew, has left her bereft too. "I do miss him. We had become close and it has seemed strange without him," she says.

Matthew's death on the way back from visiting Mary in hospital has left her to take care of their child George alone. She should be looking to the future and how to safeguard the estate he will inherit. 

Instead, she spends long periods shut up in her bedroom, dressed in black. 

"Lady Mary has gone back to being as unapproachable as she was in the first series," says Michelle. "Over the years – and especially since she had known Matthew – she softened. But now, in her grief, she has put the barriers back up again." 

Her trusted maid Anna gets short shrift when she suggest her lady might like to put on something that's not black. 

Anna gently rebukes Mary when she calls her son "a poor little orphan". 

Only her brother-in-law Tom is able to understand her burden. They become allies as he helps her steer the estate into the 20th century. 

He has lost his wife, Mary's sister Sybil. She died following complications from childbirth, leaving him as a single father to a daughter he calls Sybbie in her honour. 

The chatelaine of Downton, Lady Cora will be seen organising a series of parties in an attempt to lift her daughter's spirits. 

Gradually, Lady Mary emerges from her cocoon of mourning – but not too quickly, Michelle hopes.

"Although it’s a dark period in Mary’s life, I do enjoy playing that side of her, when she’s got more of a sting in her tail," she says.