Allen Leech, and known in his early career by his birth name Alan Leech, is an Irish stage, television and film actor. A native of Killiney, Leech made his professional acting debut with a small part in a 1998 production of A Streetcar Named Desire. He made his first major film appearance in as Vincent Cusack in Cowboys & Angels and earned an Irish Film & Television Awards nomination in 2004 with his performance as Mo Chara in Man About Dog. Leech came to international attention as Marcus Agrippa on the HBO historical drama Rome and is best known for his role as Tom Branson on the costume drama Downton Abbey.
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Ok, I'm Allen Leech, I'm an actor on DOWTON ABBEY.
The Downton Abbey, Season 5 finale concludes in the US this Sunday, March 1 at 9/8c on MASTERPIECE on PBS..
Come here for spoilers!
Victoria's assisting me over the today. AMA.
Update Thank you so much for your wonderful questions. Don't forget to watch the season finale on PBS this Sunday! If you haven't already illegally downloaded it, tut-tut.
And let's make this a yearly thing!
Like the migration of the salmon, let's make this a yearly thing.
Hey Allen! I'm a huge fan of Downton Abbey. Thanks for answering our questions today and being beautiful.
How did your experience filming the show change when Branson moved from downstairs to upstairs?
What was it like meeting your long-lost son Niall Horan?
1.) Eh - the format of filming the scenes is very different, because of the constraints of the house. There's a lot more pressure upstairs than there is downstairs to get the scenes finished.
2.) It's always a pleasure meeting my son. I miss him.
I can't wait to see how they keep you in Downton!
My question is: Can Carson and Mrs. Hughes just get to it already? would you mind putting in a word with the boss in that regard.
Stay tuned... !!!!!!!
Hi! Why does Branson always stand with his hands behind his back?
Because I'm texting.
who's your favorite actor/actress to work with?
The Notorious M.A.G.
Rumor has it the dog playing Isis liked you best. Were you sneaking her doggy treats when no one was looking?
On the show, I'm known as the "child whisperer" because I can get the kids to do what they're supposed to in scenes. The same goes for the dog.
Hello Allen, we're all so sad, because it looks like you're leaving! Can you tell us if you will be in series 6 please??
Petition Julian Fellowes! I think Branson's home is Downton Abbey, and I hope Julian thinks so too.
What scene was the most challenging for you? Why? (Thanks for answering questions today. You're my favorite on Downton^^)
Aw, thank you whoever said that!
Probably the death scene with Sybil in season 3. Because we shot it over 2 days, and it was just emotionally draining.
Thank you for your contribution to a tremendous show. My wife and I were wondering recently if society has lost something of value by no longer dressing (and behaving) to such formal extent for occassions as common as family dinner. I can only imagine that you have had to ask yourself similar questions in your process of portraying a man torn between two quite different worlds. Do you feel we have lost something of value in choosing to live such informal lives?
Great question, to start with. I think we've lost the value of conversation at the dinner table. It used to be a place that people came together, and discussed their lives with the people that were so close to them. And I think we've lost that.
And also, who doesn't like getting dressed up for dinner?
I still wear a tux for every meal.
Hello Allan! Thank yoi for doning this AMA. My question is: How was working with Benedict Cumberbatch on the "The Imitation Game" set? Huge fan of your work!
I went in a Cumber-babe, and I left a Cumber-bitch.
I think he's brilliant. He's a great actor, and a great man. And a great friend.
Hello and thank you for doing this, Allen. I love you on Downton. :)
Do you have a favorite type of tea?
I love chai tea. But obviously, not the latte, not like a coffee, but a really nice chai tea.
And also Yorkshire tea, if I'm going for normal tea.
Hey Allen! Tom's been my favourite on Downton since the beginning, but maybe a little bit of that is because I have a soft spot for Irish accents 😁
So, who do you want to see sit the Iron Throne? (dead characters can also be answers)
Ehm - damn your HBO question! This is a PBS question!
I'll set the Lannisters on you!
Have you ever been completely star struck by anyone?
Maggie Smith, for one.
When I first started working with her. And when I was at an event in New York, I saw Robert De Niro and got completely tongue-tied.
Allen, I tried to ask that question numerous times, but it never came through: The fandom dies to know! What was Branson going to ask in Series 1 at the garden party? When he and Sybil held hand and he started with: "I don't suppose..." and then Mrs Hughes interrupted them???
Euh - I always wanted to continue the line and say "I don't suppose we could go somewhere to talk?"
Hi Allen! I'm such a fan of yours, so thank you for doing this AMA! I have two questions for you :)
Do you still keep in contact with the actress who plays Sybil? Your relationship story line was so beautiful and I bawled my eyes when she passed.
What's it like working with Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael? They seem so fun to work with! I always feel so bad for Edith, who never seems to have a happy storyline :(
Thank you! :)
I haven't seen Jess in a while, but Laura saw her recently. You're right, we should do a catch-up soon.
They're great. Great actresses, and great ladies. And actually get on incredibly well in real life, which makes playing those scenes even more fun for them.
What was your take on the Sarah Bunting storyline? Was she meant to be so divisive?
Her divisiveness reminded Tom of who he used to be. So i thought it was important for him to have met her.
If you could change one thing in a past Downton Abbey ep script, what would you change? Why?
That's a good question. What would I change in a past script?
Oh-oh-oh! Hems and haws!
I wish that Branson would've found the nanny calling his daughter a dirty half-breed, because that nanny would've found her way out a first-floor window!
Hi Allen! I really enjoy watching you on Downton.
What would you do if you weren't an actor? What is a dream project of yours (does not have to be related to acting)?
My mother, before Downton, always introduced me as "This is my son Allen, he could've been an architect." So I suppose - I was always fascinated by buildings, and stuff.
I write with a friend of mine called Tom Aspell, and I'd love to see one of our projects get made into a movie soon!
You and Matthew Goode are hilarious together. If you guys did a sitcom what would it be called?
THE GOODE LIFE. We'd be 2 cops. But we both play goode cops.
Hi Allen, I think you and I were at Trinity at the same time, although I don't think we met. My question is, where would you go for dinner in Dublin?
Are you asking me on a date?
For someone who is considering watching the show (me), how would you best describe the show in one sentence?
The best stories are always told behind closed doors.
I admire the bromance between Rob James-Collier and yourself and find it interesting how much Thomas seems to hate Branson. For scenes you two do rarely have together, how difficult is it to film those?
Impossible. Because we end up laughing at each other the entire time.
That's probably why they don't write very many scenes for us!
What was your last dream about?
Eh - that's a good question!
Oh, crystal meth, because I'm in the middle of BREAKING BAD, season 5.
How did you like working on Rome and the peeps at HBO? Does working with HBO differ from other networks in any significant way?
I loved working on ROME. It was my first major TV show. HBO prefers less clothing.
Hi, Allen! Does the finale have any cows in it?
Hey Allen! Big fan of yours. Was wondering what some of the biggest pranks on set were?
Ehm - certainly Rob James-Collier and myself are the main pranksters, and season 1 we weren't able to top. We sewed up his trouser legs so he get into his costume. William was the character, Thomas Howes was the actor.
I've enjoyed seeing how Tom's character has evolved and especially enjoy seeing the scenes with his daughter. I hope they develop that storyline more--but keep them at Downton!
Do you see the Tom and Mary characters getting together? The story seemed to hint at that during Rose's wedding reception.
I think Mary and Branson have become kindred spirits in the fact that they both lost in the same way, far too soon. I think they are good friends, I could never see it moving past that. I think part of Tom will always be slightly scared of Mary.
Hi Allen! What is it like working with your on screen daughter, Fifi Hart? She is adorable! PS We will miss you on Downton! :(
She's the most incredible young actress I've ever worked with. She's so professional, even when she's been giving a note, it doesn't look like she's missed a thing, and then she does EXACTLY what she's been told while the cameras are rolling.
You did some voice acting for Assassin's Creed 3 - how did you find the experience and would you do any more video game voicing?
I found it very strange, very different, and i have already done more voice work for video games. And it's called WITCHER 3.
Hi Allen! What's the funniest thing that's ever happened to you on set (or on a press junket)?
Too many times to recount, all of them involving Rob James-Collier.
Big fan. What's your favorite memory on set?
Euh... the arrival of Shirley Maclaine, because of the amount of cast we had there, and going into season 3, there was a great sense of excitement.
Thank you so much for doing an AMA!! Downton Abbey is my favorite. I have two questions...
What's one thing you think people probably don't realize/understand about your job?
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
1.) Eh - the working hours are much longer than people think. You start, normally you leave your home at 4 AM and you don't finish until 8 PM. And then you're back on the road at 5 AM. So the hours are long. And people think it's glamorous, but it's actually monotonous.
2.) Don't be afraid to fail.
Hi Allen! Love your work in Downton Abbey. Are you Irish in real life? Also, have you been working on other things besides Downton? If not, do you plan to?
THANK YOU! I'm Swedish, nobody ever asks me that!
Hi! How did you like your part in Black Mirror, do you watch and/or like the show, and would you want to do an even bigger role in an episode?
I loved my part in BLACK MIRROR. I loved Charlie Brooker's dark and twisted mind. I'd love to be a main role in one of them.
Which person on the cast of Downton Abbey do you hate? We know there's at least one.
The dog. But it's dead now.
Most disobedient dog ever!
Do you feel the viewing experience is different for British vs. US audiences, in terms of cultural context?
Absolutely. I think it's very different. And that's one of the fascinating things traveling around the world with this show, to see the different elements the audience gets out of it with the context - because, keep in mind, in the UK, some people still live like this!
Did you see Graham Moore's Oscar Acceptance speech? I thought it was the best of the show.
I thought it was too. He's a wonderful writer and a wonderful man. And I was immensely proud of him.
Downton has become such a cultural reference point in the last few years, even though it is set in a period dramatically different from today. What, in your opinion, draws us, as viewers, so enthusiastically to Downton Abbey?
I think people are fascinated by British history. And it's the fact that Downton allows you to see into this house - and ALL of the house, not just the grandeur of upstairs, but the gritty underbelly that made the house work.
And while there's a hierarchy in the house, there's not a hierarchy in how the story is told. So you learn just as much about Lord Grantham as you do about Daisy the kitchen-maid.
What peanut butter to jelly(jam?) ratio do you like your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?
I would like 50/50.
Peanut butter jelly time.
Peanut butter jelly time!
Loved you in the Imitation Game and on Downton! What other projects do you have coming up that we can see you in?
Just as I mentioned - HUNTER'S PRAYER, the movie, with Sam Worthington and Odeya Rush, who's good friends with Taylor Swift.
YOU PERFORM AS TOM INCREDIBLY!! :") which is your favourite musical – and have you ever performed in a musical?
Thank you, first of all, that's very kind.
Hahaha! Favorite musical would be The Wizard of Oz, and it was the very first musical that I did at the age of 11, and it's why I became an actor. I played the Lion.
What music have you been listening to lately?
Eh, what have I been listening to lately?
A lot of Van Morrison. And Fleetwood Mac.
Why were you at the press call on Monday if you are not in S6? Is it a clue??? Please???
I was there to meet the HFPA. As they were visiting Downton, in relation to season 5... because Downton season 5 is eligible for next year's Golden Globes.
If you could pick a woman as a new love interest for Tom, what kind of woman would it be?
Someone who has as big a heart as Tom does.
Given the chance, would you want to be Dame Maggie Smith's personal driver?
I would JUMP at the opportunity. As long as I got to pick the car.
And she's buyin.'
What's it been like playing an Irishman in early 20th century England, as an Irishman filming in early 21st century England? How much or how little have things changed in Anglo-Irish relations on a personal level?
It's fascinating, because the difference between the world is so vast.
What's the best role you think you've ever played? On the flip side, are there any roles that you turned down that you wish you hadn't?
I'm a huge fan of Downton, glad to see you here!
Ehm - I think I've answered what's my best role I've ever played in the play one, in the West End...and any roles I turned down? I probably should've done Meryl Streep's role in INTO THE WOODS.
Hi Allen! I know you're going to get a ton of Downton love in this AMA but I wanted to ask you about In Fear, which was one of my favourite films of Fright Fest 2013 :)
How was your experience of filming something so completely different to what we all knew you for at the time? I, for one, sat in the Empire cinema thinking "I know that guy from somewhere but can't quite remember where" when you came on screen. You did an incredible, creepy, sinister job as Max and it was only in the Q&A afterwards that I realised you were lovely, cuddly Branson from Downton (cut me some slack, we were sitting quite far back...!) It'd be great to see you in similar roles in future - is that sort of dark, nasty underbelly of the human psyche the sort of role you'd like to play more of, because it definitely seemed like you had a lot of fun bringing Max to life.
First of all, thank you!
It's one of the great joys of being an actor, that you can go from one character, who is so loved, and has such a strong moral compass, into another character who has no morals at all. And that's the great fun of being an actor, exploring those psyches. And I just played quite a bad character in a film called HUNTER'S PRAYER, which will be out next year.
In a world...
I enjoyed you in The Imitation Game. My question to you is what was it like working with Matthew Goode?
Great. He's a brilliant actor. And great fun. A dangerous man around a bar.
If you could have a cameo in any TV series of the last twenty years, which would you choose?
I'm traveling to Ireland this spring. What's your favorite spot in Dublin? Rest of the country?
If you like Guinness (and you'd better) - Keogh's on South End Street, in Dublin! And then get to Galway, see the west coast of Ireland, it's amazing.
Hey Allen, I recently saw your movie Cowboys & Angels. Great film. Would you say you were the cowboy or the angel?
Also, you were great in The Imitation Game!
I was an angel. Vincent was an angel.
What famous person would you love to play?
Ehm - famous person I would love to play... that's a good question. Dammit. Eh, be-be-be-be...Niall Horan, if I was younger!
I hope you do stay. You're one of my favorites on the show. What was your favorite line out of all the seasons?
My favourite line from the overall show... "Why does every day involve a fight with an American?"
Or the one I loved saying as an actor: "Why don't you just get out of here, you BASTARD!"
Great to see you doing an AMA. Downton Abbey is like crack to me and your character has always been great. I cried when Sybil died!
Anyways... Was it as difficult as an actor (as it appeared for your character to be) from being in a downstairs type role and transitioning into an upstairs type role?
Who is your best friend on the set?
What's your favorite coffee?
Okay, was it difficult as an actor? It was a challenge to play Branson making that transition. And imagining how isolated he would've been. And in the same way, as an actor, I suddenly became isolated from the cast that I got to know very well because they shot in a different location.
That'd be RJC.
I'm a White Americano man.
Bonjour Allen!!! Really love DA and your character is one who had evoluted the most!!! Think you'd have been friend with him? what is it to work with Lady Violet? lol Merci!! bisous!!
Definitely. I really like Tom Branson.
Although over a couple a drinks, we would've probably had a fight.
And every day's a school day when you work with a master!
What happened to isis?
Hi Allen! Who would you most like to appear as a guest star on Downton?
That's a good question. Michelle Pfeiffer.
Allen, I would love to see you on stage in London! Any projects planned there for the future??
I don't at the minute. I'd love to, if the right project comes along.
Hey, Allen! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. I’ve been a huge fan of yours since I first saw you in Downton and since then I’ve seen everything you’ve been in that I could get my hands on. I think you’re an amazing actor and I can’t wait to see more of your work this year.
Right, that out of the way, I’ve narrowed my questions to three (if that’s allowed…).
What’s the most challenging role you’ve ever done (or even scene if you want to be specific)?
What’s the status of your short, ‘Quiz Night’? And if it’s been filmed, what was it like directing RJC?
And lastly, what’s something no one’s ever asked you in an interview that you wish they had?
(Also, this isn’t a question, but I have your head)
Most challenging role? I did a play in the West End called ECSTASY. And it was possibly the most challenging role I've ever done. It's Ecstasy as in the emotion, not the drug. I played Mick.
Haven't had a chance to make it yet. Mainly cuz RJC is always so busy.
"Why aren't you wearing trousers?"
Hello Allen, thanks so much for answering our questions! Do you notice much of a difference in how you interact with UK fans vs American fans?
Not really? All fans of the show are enthusiastic about the characters. They love or hate someone. And that's always great to hear.
How did you prepare for the role, was there research involved?
Yes, there was a lot of research involved, and it continued throughout the season as the character developed and as time went on.
Is there anyone you've yet to work with that you would really be interested in working with?
Hundreds! Hundreds of great actors out there I'd love to work with. J.K. Simmons at the moment is a favourite. I'd like to work with him.
I love Branson's story as it reminds me of my great grandfather and grandmother's story, as I've heard it told. Where do you pull your inspiration from for your character?
So a lot of research, and then also, you turn to the great writing of Julian Fellowes, and you trust that!