Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) is our favorite downstairs diva. As Downton Abbey’s under-butler, Thomas takes great pride in the family he serves, but that doesn’t mean he won’t talk behind their backs! Constantly at war with at least one fellow staff member (and it’s typically his frenemy Sarah O’Brien [Siobhan Finneran]), Thomas doesn’t let anyone get close.
He’s been burned before; as a gay man living in turn of the 20th century England, Thomas can’t exactly be open about his life. Prison (or worse) would be the punishment. His previous attempts at love — most notably with the snobby Duke of Crowborough and, in Season 3, handsome (and decidedly straight) footman James — have ended painfully.
Perhaps because of his deep-seated fear of being outed, Thomas’ first priority is always Thomas. During World War I, when he is serving alongside fellow Downton-ite Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) in the trenches of France, Thomas intentionally gets shot in the hand to remove himself from the front lines. The result: he makes wearing one glove cool decades before Michael Jackson.
By the end of Season 3, we see a more gentle, humbler side of this notorious schemer. Despite James’s decided rejection, Thomas still risks his life to save the tipsy footman from a bloody bad beating. It’s the most selfless thing we’ve ever seen Thomas do — and, thankfully, Jimmy gets it, too. Could we be looking at a new pair of besties?
Thomas was introduced in Season 1, Episode 1: "April 1912."