Played by: Rob James-Collier Dastardly deed: When he tries to frame Bates, his lordship's valet, for stealing a snuffbox that Thomas himself had stolen. "If you were sacked from a house for stealing, it was game over for your career," James-Collier observes of the servants in turn-of-the-century England. "Given how Bates' physical handicap would limit him, it was a very harsh thing to do. It was trying to throw a man onto the street, knowing he could starve." Best line: While everyone else below stairs is mourning her ladyship's miscarriage, Thomas saunters in and says, "She'll get over it. They're no bigger than a hamster at that stage." Ploy for pity: After all, it wasn't easy being homosexual in those days. "It was not only illegal, it was thought to be against God," James-Collier points out. "It's a massive burden that's built up in Thomas, and he's taking it out on other people." Inspired by: Cast mate Siobhan Finneran, who plays lady's maid Sarah O'Brien, another unhappy schemer. "Going in, I thought I'd play it over-the-top," says James-Collier. "But then I saw how she was playing O'Brien — more throwaway, more subtle and matter-of-fact, everything behind the eyes, which made it more sinister and scary. So I took it upon myself to copy that as much as I could. I've told her, and she just laughs."
Nick Briggs / ITV for MASTERPIECE