A few sneaky hints may have been revealed about the Downton Abbey Christmas special, but how things turn out for unlucky-in-love Lady Edith is anyone's guess. There is, however, only one person Laura Carmichael would like to kiss under the mistletoe, as Keeley Bolger finds out...
Forget new socks, chocolate oranges and fluffy pyjamas, Downton Abbey actress Laura Carmichael is rather set on another wish this Christmas.
Given it involves drafting in Hollywood's man of the moment Ryan Gosling for a cameo in the popular period drama, the wish(ful thinking) should please some of the near 12-million fans of the show, too.
"I really think it's only right that Ryan Gosling should join the cast," says the 27-year-old, laughing.
"I leave it in the hands of Julian Fellowes [Downton creator and writer]. If he wants Ryan to come in as a very posh aristo, I'm fine with that. Or if he comes in as a chimney sweep, I'm also fine with that. I think audiences would agree."
And should he be a potential suitor for Lady Edith, no doubt that would be just dandy too, especially as her path to true love has been rather bumpy. Not only was she jilted at the altar in series three, but series four ended with the unmarried Edith discovering she was pregnant by her editor Michael Gregson, who's since scarpered to Germany.
The Christmas special is set a few months on and sees Edith and her aunt, Rosamund, back from Switzerland, where she planned to have the baby and give it away.
While the middle child of the Crawley clan has always been quite a tart character, fans have been quick to rally around Carmichael when they spot her in the street.
"It's really funny how people feel sorry for Edith," admits the actress, whose alter ego will be "wrestling a moral dilemma" in the special episode. "Everyone's been incredibly kind from the beginning. I think she's a really interesting character and people get that."
Although notoriously tight-lipped, the makers of Downton have revealed that the two-hour special will see Shirley MacLaine reprise her role as Cora's mum, Martha Levinson, and that Sideways actor, Paul Giamatti, will join the cast as Cora's playboy brother, Harold.
Also in the episode, the family and servants head to Grantham House, their London residence, to see Rose (Lily James) being presented at Buckingham Palace. Isobel (Penelope Wilton) finds herself the subject of a secret admirer and the Crawleys are implicated in a scandal that threatens to engulf the monarchy.
But there's no word of whether or not Edith and Michael will be reunited.
"It's never easy when it comes to love for Edith," says Carmichael, who grew up in Southampton and trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, scoring her big break in Downton.
"Julian Fellowes said that some people are lucky and some people aren't, and Edith is one of those who isn't. She just can't meet a nice simple man."
However, the rather snazzy togs she wore throughout the last series made up for things somewhat.
"Our designer was keen to show the influence of the London lifestyle on Edith's clothes," explains the actress, who is looking decidedly 21st century in a black leather miniskirt, red lipstick and statement floral top.
"There are a couple of evening dresses that I'd [actually] wear now. I feel like I've done really well when it comes to costumes."
Carmichael, who keeps on-screen grandmother Dame Maggie Smith amused by showing her funny pictures of cats during breaks, is aware of how well she's done, landing a part in the hit series.
"It's very jovial on set, and everyone gets along and chats to everyone, as you do in any job," she says. "It's very easy to forget when you're among friends that it's something which is watched by millions, but I think that's the right way to be."
Despite being in the show since its debut, Carmichael, who's currently filming a big screen adaptation of Madame Bovary, is still surprised by Downton's global popularity.
"It's mind-boggling. I still can't believe it's talked about in the same breath as those big shows we were up against in the Emmys; you know Mad Men, House Of Cards, Game Of Thrones..."
But the star, who often settles down to watch the show with her family, still hasn't adjusted to seeing herself on screen.
"The fun thing about this show is that you're always terrified about your scenes, but I really enjoy everybody else's," she says - and she has some sound advice for newcomers: "I always say to people who've just joined and can't watch the show, 'You'll cringe through your bits, but there's a lot of other fun stuff to watch'."
And if last year's festive special is anything to go by, where golden boy heir Matthew Crawley was killed off, this one will be another cracker.
:: The Downton Abbey Christmas special is on ITV on Christmas Day