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Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton are pondering their remarkably different approaches to grooming while they've been under lockdown. 

Jim, best known as Downton Abbey butler Carson, has spent his time staying well away from the razor and is now sporting a luxurious beard and a thick mane of wavy grey locks. 

'My hair's getting longer and longer,' he chortles. 'I'm reverting to my hippie roots!'

His wife meanwhile, Harry Potter and Vera Drake star Imelda, who joined her husband in the Downton cast in last year's movie, admits to taking DIY action to maintain her appearance.

'I cut my own hair the other night and it was rather successful,' she says proudly.

Jim Carter, 71, and his wife Imelda Staunton, 64, who both starred in last year's Downton movie, revealed how they've been coping in lockdown at their home in Hampstead. Pictured: Imelda helps to style Jim's hair while promoting the work of The Little Princess Trust. Details at the end of this feature

'You did a good job, love. I'll do the back for you one day...' Jim jokes.

It's not hard to see why these two have one of the most successful marriages in showbusiness. Their quick and easy banter reveals a charming affection that's tangible even over the telephone.

Incidentally, telephones are where the pair have been drawing the line recently with communication. 

'We both hate technology and we're not very good at it,' says Jim, 71. 

 He and Imelda, 64, who met during a stage production of Guys And Dolls in 1982 and married a year later, are staunchly opposed to the video-calling apps like Zoom that have been helping people stay socially active during lockdown.





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'We don't feel the need for it,' he says. 'I'm enjoying making phone calls rather than sending emails, having the luxury of a long conversation, not shovelling out information.'

Jim's also been writing letters and postcards to old acquaintances, including one to a 'school friend from 60 years ago', as well as being ultra-neighbourly. 

He and Imelda have been looking out for a lady who lives alone on their street in Hampstead, north London, delivering her freshly cut flowers from their garden.

Jim and Imelda (pictured) have been backing a charity project, featuring a recording of Mariah Carey's 'Anytime You Need A Friend' by the Breathe Harmony NHS choir 

'A couple of times now she's trotted around here and left us croissants on the step for our breakfast in return. Isn't that fabulous?' says Jim. 

'We all need to look out for each other, that's the message.'

It's this ethos that underscores a charity project the couple have been backing - a recording of Mariah Carey's ballad Anytime You Need A Friend by the Breathe Harmony NHS choir. 

The single features staff from London's Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals, including frontline nurses, doctors and porters, plus more than 100 volunteer singers and musicians from 12 countries. 

Each singer joined in virtual rehearsals before submitting their performances on their mobile phones. 

We hate technology, we're not good at it - Jim Carter

'It's an international message of positivity and hope,' says Jim. '

At the end of their shifts they're playing it in hospitals to staff and patients, and people are finding it moving and uplifting.'

'What's moving is someone singing in a choir when they're absolutely on their knees,' adds Imelda. 

'These people have been saving lives then going off to sing, and it's been therapeutic for them because they're not having to make decisions, they're not on a knife edge. 

'They're just connecting with their emotions and having a release through song.' The track was produced by Mike King, who has worked with musicians such as Mark Ronson and Boy George. 

Imelda and Jim (pictured) became patrons of Breathe Arts Health Research five years ago, who will receive a portion of the proceeds from the charity project. Pictured, at the press night after party for 'Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?' at 100 Wardour St on March 9, 2017 in London

Proceeds from the single, which Mariah herself has tweeted her support for, saying it 'brought her to tears', will be shared between Mike's MyCool Music Foundation and Breathe Arts Health Research, which tries to bring a bit of joy to patients and staff alike through music, magic and dance.

Jim and Imelda became patrons of the latter five years ago after throwing their weight behind Breathe Magic, a series of summer camps for children with cerebral palsy and brain injuries that help them develop motor skills and independence. 

The couple usually end up on stage as stooges for the mini magicians. 'It's the best show in town,' says Imelda.

For Jim, himself a keen magician, the rewards are abundant. 'If you want to cry, go to a Breathe Magic show to see these children overcoming quite complex difficulties,' he says. 'The joy is heartbreaking.'

The couple have no complaints about how their lives have been under lockdown, and acknowledge that their garden means they are more privileged than most. 

Plus, quite by chance, a week before the restrictions were imposed their actress daughter Bessie and her flatmate moved in because their flat was being redecorated. They've been there ever since.

Imelda has been keeping occupied in lockdown by rehearsing for a BBC revival of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads. Pictured: Imelda and Jim with their daughter Bessie Carter, Lạc Sơn Đại Phật 26, at Park Theatre on August 25, 2016 in London

'It's been lovely,' beams Jim, who says that Bessie, 26, seen recently in the ITV drama Beecham House, and her pal do the lion's share of the shopping. 

'It's playing to my strengths because I'm not the world's greatest shopper. We've all been slotting into our little domestic routine.'

Imelda, meanwhile, has been doing most of the cooking.

 'I'll be doing a Delia cottage pie tomorrow,' she says, which sparks an enthusiastic 'Ooh!' from Jim. 'The secret is cinnamon, that's all I'm saying.'

I think we'd all be up for another Downton film - Imelda Staunton 

Imelda has also been occupying herself with rehearsals for a BBC revival of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues series. It first aired in 1988, and is now being rebooted at Elstree studios in accordance with government social distancing guidelines. 

But like the majority of actors, Imelda and Jim have been mostly left high and dry by coronavirus. Her next project, a new production of Hello, Dolly!, was due to open at London's Adelphi Theatre in August but is now on hold indefinitely. 

She refuses to complain though. 'There are people dying,' she says. 

'People risking their lives to go to work. So at the moment the arts will have to wait in line.'

There has been much talk about a Downton Abbey movie sequel. 

Imelda is set to succeed Claire Foy and Olivia Colman (pictured) as the Queen in the final series of Netflix's The Crown

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