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Downton’s Kiwi ties

He plays Irish chauffeur-turned-estate manager Tom Branson on the internationally acclaimed British show Downton Abbey, but actor Allen Leech feels oddly connected to New Zealand.

Speaking to the Weekly while on set, Allen – who hails from Killiney in Ireland – says although the luck of the Irish doesn’t transcend to the rugby field against the All Blacks, New Zealand is one of the places he most wants to visit.

“Lots of my friends went there for the Rugby World Cup,” says Allen.

“I’d love to have gone, but couldn’t make it. We’re big rugby fans in our family.”

Series four of the period drama, out on DVD this week, sees Allen’s character still struggling to fit in with the Grantham family.

Although he’s casting off his “downstairs” persona, it’s not all plain sailing for the single parent.

“Poor Tom was very lost at the end of series three after losing his wife,” explains Allen. “Although he triesto fit in for the sake of his daughter, he never really conforms to the life he’s become part of.”

But the move “upstairs” does have perks – Tom sits next to Kiwi superstar Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who makes a guest appearance as soprano Dame Nellie Melba in episode three.

“Filming with her wasone of those pinch yourself moments,” says Allen. And the connection doesn’t end there.

Allenis good friends with Kiwi hairstylist Vanya Pell, who was nominated for an Emmy for her work Downton.

“When we found out [about her Emmy nomination], we were all so excited we Skyped her straight away, not thinking of the time difference, and woke her up!”

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