By now you have heard that there will be at least one black character on the new season of Downton Abbey. This is fucking exciting. Because the timeline on the show has reached the 1920s, and the 1920s were an interesting time in black history: Being black was cool.
The '20s were also known as the Jazz Age. Let that soak in for a moment: It was an era defined by music made popular by black people. The Harlem Renaissance spawned an admiration for all kinds of culturally black forms of entertainment, and the reach was not limited to the United States: Joséphine Baker's show, La Revue Nègre, opened at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris in 1925. Downtown Abbey concerns itself with how its characters react as the world changes around them; so far we've seen how they deal with war, a post-war England, shifting the roles of women, the decline of the upper class and inventions like swivel chairs. In the season finale, we got a glimpse of these straight-laced, upper-crust aristocrats witnessing the wild abandon of a speakeasy.
Since the casting agents are specifically looking for a black actor to play Jack Ross, a "very handsome" and charming jazz musician who can sing, we're bound to see more. (And seriously, thank God the black character is not a maid. The only black people we've been seeing in period pieces recently have been domestics. I'm still pissed about The Help.) Lady Mary is single now, and this mystery man could be her new love interest. Which would be fascinating, since the jazz age was also a liberating time for women. The suffrage movement was in full swing, and flappers — women who danced to jazz, drank, smoked, and participated in make-out parties — hit the scene. It always seemed like Lady Sybil was the most modern of the daughters, then Edith. But watching Lady Mary go from being prim and cloistered to listening to jazz and hooking up with a black guy would be an awesome character arc, and mirror how society opened up in the '20s — an era in which a woman, Bessie Smith, became the highest paid black entertainer. Race, class, love songs, horns! Basically I'm crazy psyched, okay? I want Lady Mary and Jack to fall in love and move to East Egg or whatever. And I want it to look as fun as this still from the Gatsby move that feels like its never coming out:
Of course, considering the fates of Mr. Pamuk and Matthew Crowley, I'm worried the black guy won't last very long. Lady Mary's a killer.