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Hugh Bonneville of 'Downton Abbey,' a star

Hugh Bonneville plays the aristocratic Early of Grantham

Hugh Bonneville plays the aristocratic Early of Grantham on PBS' "Downton Abbey." Photo Credit: MCT

Hugh Bonneville has been acting for 26 years, but it took the mysterious alchemy of an absorbing script, astute producers and a dream cast of "Downton Abbey" to elevate him to star status. That doesn't really matter because, like every actor, Bonneville -- who plays the stalwart Earl of Grantham on the PBS drama -- says he still worries where the next job is coming from.

The phenomenal success of "Downton Abbey" surprised everyone, and fans are hotly awaiting Sunday's premiere of Season 3. "I've not been in a show that's had the impact 'Downton Abbey' has had around the world," says Bonneville, 49.

"But the work is the same discipline, and I have the same approach to the work as I do with any other project. For the show to have it hit in a way we all find overwhelming, in a lovely way, is quite humbling, really. Because most of the time it doesn't happen."

He says the show has changed his life in a peculiar way. "Getting through customs is harder now. They think, 'Oh, you think you're so-and-so,' so they give me a bit of a hard time. They check far more thoroughly than ever before. Just coming here [to Los Angeles] yesterday at Heathrow they had to empty everything out of my bag. It's great because I found a pen I've been missing. It's a privilege to be so thoroughly searched."

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