Hugh Bonneville (who left the Prep in 1976 for Sherbourne) has volunteered as a volunteer Vaccine Marshall at his local vaccination hub in Midhurst in West Sussex and found that he and his fellow marshals were the first human contact some people have had for months. People queuing for their vaccines got a surprise when Downton Abbey's Lord Grantham was there to welcome them.
Wearing a disinfected yellow reflective gilet and name badge reading "Hugh," he greets guests wearing a cowboy-style hat and puffy winter jacket. His role is as much about treating apprehensiveness and nervousness as it is telling patients to "Mind the step" or "Take a little adventure tour up the ramp" leading into the NHS centre. "For some people, it's the first time they've been out of their house in a year. We've had people who've been grateful for the outing as much as anything and a sense of a glimmer of hope, so it's great to be part of this team effort."
While most of the locals don't recognize Hugh behind his facemask, the actor has had to endure a few light-hearted comments about his high-profile roles in Downton Abbey and Paddington.
"You get the odd, you know, 'marmalade sandwich' thrown at you," says the actor. Despite this, Hugh is happy to do anything he can to assist the U.K.'s hugely successful vaccination program.
"It's tangible, the difference the programme is making to the local community, both physically and mentally. It's palpable. There's the sense of hope, and to be part of that is really lovely."