Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Dan Stevens talks films, his decision to quit Downton Abbey and supporting children’s charity Sentebale

Children’s charity Sentebale, founded by Prince Harry & Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, hosted a polo match and evening gala this weekend.
Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll, Dan Stevens and Malcolm Borwick attend The Sentebale Polo Cup presented by Royal Salute World Polo at Ghantoot Polo Club on November 20, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Chris Jackson / Getty Images for Royal Salute
Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll, Dan Stevens and Malcolm Borwick attend The Sentebale Polo Cup presented by Royal Salute World Polo at Ghantoot Polo Club on November 20, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Chris Jackson / Getty Images for Royal Salute

The former Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens arrived in Abu Dhabi this weekend for a charity polo event.

The Sentebale Polo Cup, presented by Royal Salute World Polo, was organised to raise awareness of Sentebale, a charity founded by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho.

A royal dinner and auction was held at the Ghantoot Polo Club on Thursday evening, with the proceeds going toward children affected by HIV and Aids in ­Lesotho, a landlocked country that is surrounded by South ­Africa.

As he touched down in the UAE, we caught up with the actor and Sentebale ambassador .

It’s your first time in the region – what do you make of the UAE so far?

So far, very sunny! It’s beautiful and I’ve met some very gorgeous horses.

Do you play polo?

Not yet, but I could be persuaded.

What aligns you with the Sentebale charity?

My wife – the jazz singer Susie Harriet – is from South Africa, and it’s an area I’ve had an interest in for a long time. I was delighted to get the invitation and this is my first time out here with the charity.

I think it’s an amazing thing to support and I’m excited to see the work they are doing today and going forward. Proceeds from the auction will go to the charity and it’s an opportunity to raise awareness in the process.

How will the funds collected be allocated?

They are building a maternity unit in Lesotho at the moment, helping children with HIV and AIDS. There’s also a whole host of other projects under way.

On the subject of charity, Bob Geldof is feeling the heat over his fund-raising efforts to tackle the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Good or bad endeavour?

I don’t really have an opinion on that at the moment. I’ll let him and Adele fight that one out.

In terms of acting, what’s in the pipeline for you?

Around December, I’ve got the premiere of Night at the Museum. And it’s been a busy autumn in general, with A Walk Among the Tombstones coming out.

Let’s talk Downton Abbey. How does it feel to have left it all behind?

It was obviously a tricky decision and a leap into the unknown but it’s been very fulfilling. It’s been exciting to challenge myself in many ways since.

Why did you ask to be written out?

I was coming towards the end of a three-year contract and the option was do I stay or do I explore other things? It was as simple as that. It was also the first time I’d done a long-running TV format and now I’m really enjoying the intense burst of focus that ­feature films are affording me.

Do you still watch Downton Abbey?

Yes of course, it’s great to see everyone. I haven’t caught up with Season 5 yet though, as it’s not yet out in the States.

When you were filming in Highclere House, surrounded by antiquities, were there any breakages?

I don’t think there were too many breakages, not while I was there. We tried to be as­ ­respectful as we could be to the house and there was a huge amount of trust involved, letting a film crew into your beautiful house. I was particularly taken by the enormous library. I’d occasionally take down some ancient tome and have a quick leaf through while no one was looking. Lord and Lady Carnarvon have I think, over the years, grown to love what Downton has brought to their household as much as we’ve enjoyed working in it.

What prompted you to move from the United Kingdom to the United States?

Well, I’ve always wanted to live in Brooklyn, it’s a particularly beautiful neighbourhood with lots of old literary connections. New York itself has always fired me and it’s an inspiring place to base myself right now.

Do you need to do the East-West coast flit often?

Yes, I’m in Los Angeles ­frequently, but very little filming is done there, it’s just somewhere to go for meetings and castings. I’ve actually shot more in New York and elsewhere in the States than there.

Do you miss anything about the UK?

We’re going back for the Night at the Museum premiere next month and I’m really looking forward to a good old-fashioned English Christmas. I guess most of all I miss friends, family and Indian food – which I’ve heard is very good here, and I’m looking forward to sampling some.

• For more information visit www.sentebale.org

rmcduane@thenational.ae

Updated: November 22, 2014 04:00 AM

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