Rob James Collier tends to get a bit punchy when promoting Downton Abbey. On a recent panel he let fly with a story that Thomas had a unicorn obsession, and that in fact his character had a unicorn mural in his room downstairs. When Vulture interviewed him about the new season (which premieres Jan. 6 on PBS), we asked him about it and he doubled down on his alleged one-horned subplot. He gave us so many further details on the Thomas/unicorn symbiosis (which he claims is on the cutting-room floor) that it can’t help raise the question: Is he actually joking around, is he losing his mind, or will season four of Downton Abbey be set in Narnia? Below, his more fleshed-out account of how Thomas would come to know the historic creature, fantastic and tragic. Like when Lady Edith fell for Sir Anthony.
“It took us four months to shoot this whole side storyline where he meets a unicorn. He’s out in the woods one day on a walk and he sees this enchanted beast. And he slowly builds up a relationship by feeding it. One day he puts some food 50 yards away, the next 25 yards away and so on until one day he’s petting this majestic creature. It was all about that relationship. What happens — it was quite tragic — the unicorn ended up getting murdered for its horn because as we all know it’s got magical properties. There was an evil queen who lives near Downton Abbey and she ground down the horn so she could live forever and be ethereal and beautiful.
“So we shot all that, and they fucking cut it out of series three because it wasn’t ‘relevant.’ You’ve got this beautiful segue about unicorns never being used. Thomas painted the creature, too! One whole wall of his room that you never see on the show is a unicorn wall. There was a lovely scene as well, it mimicked Ghost, where he was doing the pottery wheel, making the unicorn’s head to give to the unicorn. As a gift. The unicorn was pissed off. He thought it was his big break. He said, “They fucking cut me.” He put so much work into it. It was all behind the eyes. It was like Alec Guinness.”