Elizabeth McGovern confesses she thought showbiz was a breeze.
The actress made her feature film debut in first-time director Robert Redford’s Oscar-winning 1980 film “Ordinary People,” starring Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland and Timothy Hutton.
“I didn’t have anything to compare it to, so my feeling was like, ‘God, show business is easy, isn’t it?” McGovern, 60, chuckled in a recent interview with The Post. “Little did I know! Then I had to sort of stick with it for however many years, which we won’t say. But, yes, that was a very special time.”
She added, “and when I think back, what an incredibly unusual director to have worked with for my first job — and I do appreciate it more and more as time goes by.”
McGovern went on to star in movies like Milos Forman’s “Ragtime,” “Racing with the Moon” opposite Sean Penn and John Hughes’ “She’s Having a Baby,” but for millions of fans around the globe she’s now instantly recognizable as beloved matriarch Cora Crawley in “Downton Abbey.”
She was the lone Yank in the British period drama for its television run and reprised the role in the 2019 film and the sequel, “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” out May 18 in theaters and streaming on Peacock 45 days later.
The Evanston-born actress confessed that, much like her character, she doesn’t quite understand the intricacies of class distinction that are depicted in “Downton Abbey.”
“It’s almost like tribal rituals or something,” she said. “And it holds absolutely no weight with me. It’s quite a freeing thing to not be caught up in all the machinations of the hierarchy … I mean, I literally don’t get it.
“That’s the way I felt when I first moved to England and I still feel the same way.”
McGovern married director Simon Curtis, who helmed the latest “Downton Abbey” film, in 1992, and the couple shares two daughters. Since then she has appeared on numerous British shows and on the UK stage.
Her favorite “Abbey” character is Thomas Barrow, the closeted gay butler.
“I think that that story is so well-written and it always really moves me,” she explained. “It feels like such an accurate depiction of the way someone like him would feel trapped and suppressed. And he is a wonderful story in the film and that gave me a lot of pleasure to watch.”
And as for whether she thinks there will be a third movie?
“I have no idea,” McGovern confessed. “I’m always the cynical one that says, ‘This is it.’ And then a year later, I’m back on the set, so I just give up. I have no idea.
“I would hate for us to push it too much and churn out something that wasn’t kind of the same level of the stuff that I feel we’ve managed to put out. And that’s always my fear. But, you know, I don’t know. Never say never.”