Cara Theobald: Yorkshire girl in Hollywood

Cara Theobald.
Cara Theobald.
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Cara Theobold got her first break in Downton Abbey and hasn’t looked back since. The Wakefield actress talks to Phil Penfold

She’s being a bit shy about admitting it, but Cara Theobold’s holiday to California wasn’t just for some rest and recreation. Far from it. The 25-year-old actress has been seeing her American manager in Los Angeles, talking with producers and having a few auditions.

She won’t say for what, but does admit: “I think they went pretty well. You can never really tell, can you?

But I think that I came out feeling pretty positive. Yes, that’s the word. Positive. LA, that’s where everything happens.”

Wakefield-born Cara hoped to be back home in Yorkshire for Christmas, but with producers beating a path to her door, nothing is certain any more.

Her first foray into sitcom, Together, has just finished its run on BBC 3 and looks very much as if it will be recommissioned. She was one of the leading characters in the Kay Mellor drama The Syndicate and has made guest appearances in Call the Midwife and Last Tango in Halifax and made her television debut in Downton Abbey, playing the below-stairs kitchen maid Ivy.

“I didn’t realise for some time how lucky I was. I was in my final year at drama school when I got the part. How great was that? So many other actors have to wait for ages before even getting a sniff at a role with a few lines, and I’m a member of the cast of one of television’s top shows and I hadn’t even technically finished the full training.

“But of course being in Downton was training in itself. I watched everyone, I really did. You’re seeing the cream of the profession doing what they do best. I remember there, well, that was a massive culture shock. It’s a BIG place.”

We’ll all be able to see Cara tomorrow night in a one-off film for ITV, Harry Price. Rafe Spall plays the eponymous main lead, who was a real-life character. Set just after the end of the First World War, it looks at the shady world of the paranormal, and the people who preyed on the vulnerabilities of the many thousands of bereaved people who thought that the people they had lost in action throughout the conflict could be contacted in the afterlife.

“I play Sarah Grey, who is a fictional person, so unlike Rafe, I didn’t have someone concrete to explore. But I did do an awful lot of research about the period, and what Sarah was experiencing. Price is a fascinating man – he was acclaimed as a ghost hunter and he realised that so many people were being conned by fake spiritualists and mediums, and even tried it for himself before deciding to expose them for what they were. What they were offering – often for exorbitant fees – was hope. I can understand how painful it must have been. There were lots of people whose sons, sweethearts, husbands, fathers had been killed, and many of them vanished without trace. Pulverised into nothingness. People wanted to find out if they were at rest, in peace. They needed to say ‘goodbye’, and they wanted, in those words we all use today, ‘a closure’. And these mediums offered it.

“Don’t think that it was a lot of silly and gullible women. A lot of highly intelligent people got involved as well. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of them. He lost a son in the Great War, and was absolutely convinced that he could get in touch with him. It’s very, very sad. How could anyone exploit raw grief like that? But charlatans did.”

During the war, Sarah, a working-class girl, served as an ambulance driver, and saw the suffering and the slaughter for herself. Her own father was killed, and her mother, Grace, wants to find out how, and why.

She adds: “I just love doing period drama, My favourite period? One I haven’t done yet, the Fifties. Because the outfits look simply terrific.”


Cara was born on January 8 1990 and attended the Outwood Grange Academy in Wakefield before enrolling at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London

She was in her final year at drama school when she landed the part of Ivy in period drama ‘Downton Abbey’ and the school allowed her to finish her final year early in order to appear in the series

She has just been to LA to ‘talk business’ but remains tight-lipped on whether she will appear in a US show