When Lee Sharp’s youngest daughter, Lucy, was home for Christmas last year, she spent some time curled on the couch with her mom, watching KET, absorbed by the aristocratic Crawleys and their below-stairs servants on Masterpiece Classic’s “Downton Abbey.”
Lucy always loved the theater, and loved the stuff she watched on KET.
Lee Sharp – mother of Downton Abbey actress Lucy Sharp
A recent graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the young actress didn’t own a TV set in her London flat, but certainly knew of the popular series, which had completed two successful seasons in the British Isles and was then beginning to take the U.S. by storm.
“She really liked it—and then she went back home to London and on to Sweden to visit her boyfriend for New Year’s,” Lee Sharp recently recalled from her Lexington home.
“She called me from Sweden and said, ‘You’re never going to believe this, but I got an audition for ‘Downton Abbey,’ and I said, ‘Oh wow, my favorite show!'”
Even more exciting was when the family, including dad Steve Sharp and Lee’s mother, Eleanor Foushee, learned that the globe-trekking Lucy landed the part of Miss Reed, lady’s maid to Martha Levinson, the American mother of Cora, Countess of Grantham, played by Academy Award-winner Shirley MacLaine.
“Lucy immediately went out and bought the series and watched it,” says Lee, who in addition to being a Downton fan enjoys all Masterpiece presentations, as well as Call the Midwife and more.
Like so many Kentuckians, and indeed the entire country, the Sharp family was captivated by “Downton Abbey,” the most-watched Masterpiece series ever aired by PBS. Eager for the second season, last January they attended KET’s sneak-peek event at the Kentucky Theatre in Lexington—never dreaming at the time, of course, that the next season would feature their daughter.
It’s especially a treat since Londoner Lucy lives so far away, Lee said, and they are unable to see much of her work. But that’s nothing new, the proud mother explained—Lucy’s independent streak asserted itself early.
When she was just a grade-schooler Lucy became interested in drama, which was fostered in programs at the Lexington Children’s Theater. She then enrolled at SCAPA, Lexington’s school for the creative and performing arts, which she attended through her sophomore year. That summer, Lucy landed a spot at the Interlochen Summer Arts Program in Michigan, an intensive camp for the performing arts that attracts students from around the world.
After that summer, Lucy auditioned for—and won—a place at Interlochen’s Arts Academy, a fine arts boarding high school for grades 9-12.
“She’s been on her own since she was 15 and went overseas when she was just 18,” said Lee, marveling at how her daughter has so fluidly negotiated complicated arrangements from school auditions to her own housing, travel, and work visas.
When Season III shooting was completed, Lee says she was very interested in the Downton storyline, but unfortunately “connections” don’t buy a mom inside information in this case. Lucy was bound by confidentiality agreements that prevented her from disclosing any juicy details.
“At first I said, ‘Oh you’ve got to tell me what happened’—but then, you don’t really want to know. You don’t want to spoil it,” she added.
Storyline aside, just working with acclaimed actresses such as MacLaine and Dame Maggie Smith, Lee said, was a thrill for Lucy.
And it was the theatrically trained actors she saw on KET, Lee says, which inspired her daughter as a child.
“Lucy always loved the theater, and loved the stuff she watched on KET,” she said. “Judi Dench in As Time Goes By. Those actors loved the theater—and she loved those programs.”