Did Benedict Cumberbatch Seriously Take A Swipe At Fellow British Phenomenon Downton Abbey?

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Benedict Cumberbatch Downton Abbey insult quote Parade's End

Here's another reason to love Benedict Cumberbatch: In the upcoming BBC/HBO miniseries Parade's End, he plays an overweight civil servant, but he didn't ugly himself up just to get the accolades. It's clear that it's a passion project, and a wholly new character he's excited to play while taking a break from shooting Sherlock. But if The Sun is to be believed, in promoting Parade's End Benedict made a catty, veiled remark aimed at another revered miniseries, Downton Abbey. It doesn't help that both series are about the lives of servants, and that they'll be squaring off in the ratings. The Sun quotes Benedict as saying,

“You rarely see a piece about this class of people that is this accurate, funny and pointed, but also three-dimensional. We’re not serving purposes to make some clichéd comment about, ‘Oh, isn’t it awful the way there’s this upstairs-downstairs divide’. It’s a little bit more sophisticated.”

It certainly sounds like Benedict is unapologetically sniping at Downton, which has garnered quite the fanbase since coming to the States… much like him, actually. It doesn't help that he seemingly ragged on the series once before, after it nabbed a Golden Globe for season 2. At the time, he defended his joke by saying that he's close to creator Julian Fellowes, and it was all in good fun. But that just adds fuel to quotes like this.

Of course, you have to consider the source; someone who makes a “Cumber bitch” joke that's not about Benedict's devoted fanbase doesn't seem too concerned with reporting accurate quotes. The much more legitimate publication The Telegraph just published a lengthy profile of Benedict and Parade's End, and no such remark appears even as he talks in-depth about his character and why his wife (Rebecca Hall, his real-life friend since they were in grade school) wants him to fuck off. I'd much rather be leading with a quote like this:

“Fame is a weird one. You need to distance yourself from it. People see a value in you that you don't see yourself. So when I'm told of my sex-symbol status and all that nonsense I find it laughable, silly. I mean, look. [gestures at his face] I'm 36 and I've been looking at this same old mush all my life.”

But alas, all we're ever able to focus on is the potential for drama and catfights. So, I'm gonna give Benedict the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was either misquoted or wasn't attacking Downton. And for all you Downton fans, here's a brief peek at season 3:

Photo: BBC/HBO