Hugh Bonneville's blood-spewing ability (as Lord Grantham)  is the talk of  "Downton Abbey." 

Hugh Bonneville's blood-spewing ability (as Lord Grantham)  is the talk of  "Downton Abbey." 

Joss Barratt/PBS

Sunday night's Downton Abbey served up a bloody mess amid the family dining table's white linen and silver -- a departure from the usual restrained decorum of the popular PBS series.

The shocker came as Lord Grantham's (Hugh Bonneville) long-simmering health twinges erupted in a burst ulcer, a scene that had him spitting a geyser of blood onto the table and shocked family members seated nearby.

Putting the family patriarch in peril is one thing. It's another to risk the priceless antiques of the real Highclere Castle, where much of the series is filmed.

The show's producers detailed the meticulous planning to Vanity Fair magazine, including Bonneville's ability to spit fake blood on cue, without the aid of a pump. An initial take propelled it nearly to the edge of the room's protective material, producer Liz Trubridge told the magazine.

"Hugh is one of the most cleverly technical actors I've ever worked with," Trubridge said. "He had a capacity to somehow not have all of that blood come out at once. I don't know how he did that, but he did."

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