Although Michelle Dockery knew ahead of time that her co-star Dan Stevens was leaving the hit drama — and that his exit would be “finite” — watching the “brutal” goodbye was still a big shock, the actress tells TVLine.
But Dockery — and her character Mary — are both trying to move on as potential new suitors swarm around the widowed mother in Season 4.
TVLINE | Let’s get the burning question out of the way: What was your reaction to Dan Stevens’ leaving?
We had all signed for three years on the show. So when it came to the point of them deciding to take the show further, we all had a choice. Yeah, initially, I was sad to hear that he was leaving. But looking back, in hindsight, what it’s done is opened up an opportunity for the writing to really shift and for [creator] Julian [Fellowes] to write such a great storyline for [Season] 4 – and not just for Mary. Matthew’s death affects so many other characters. We miss him. I spent three years with Dan, carrying that Matthew-and-Mary storyline. I really loved working with him. So he is missed.
TVLINE | How far in advance did you know his exit was coming?
We knew before we started the third [season]. We knew very far in advance. We also knew that it would be very finite because, of course, Matthew being the heir to Downton Abbey, there was no other storyline really to write other than that he had to die some way. Even if he left or disappeared or decided that it wasn’t working with him and Mary [laughs], it wouldn’t have really worked because, of course, he would still have that tie with Downton. So it had to be that brutal.
TVLINE | What did you think of his final scene? Reading it on paper is one thing…
I was watching it with my family. I knew it was coming, and I hadn’t told them. They knew that Dan was leaving. It had got out that he was going. But they were really shocked. And so was I. The way it was filmed, it all happened so quickly. It really shocked people and wasn’t what they were expecting on Christmas Day. [Laughs]
TVLINE | At the time of his exit, especially, it was hard to imagine the show without that central relationship of Mary and Matthew. Did you go through that struggle, too?
Definitely. I went through a phase where I worried about where it was going. But now I see, since we filmed [Season] 4, for Mary, there is a life without Matthew. The fourth [season] is about recovery. She’s starting a new life. In some ways, there are similarities to [Season] 1 before Mary got together with Matthew. There’s various suitors that are being thrown in her direction. But she’s very reluctant to go through with any of it because, of course, she can’t stop thinking about Matthew. He’s still very much a part of her thoughts. She’ll never get over it. You don’t ever get over losing someone. It’s learning to deal with it and move on. He’s a hard one to replace.
TVLINE | Dan was your scene partner for so much of the show. Was it difficult to go back to work without him?
It was strange going back, similar to when Jessica Brown Findlay [who plays Sybil] left. You get so used to working all day long together and waking up at those early hours together and sharing cars home together. It was just strange not having him around. We spent three years together. And I loved playing that story and that arc with the characters, with Dan.
TVLINE | There’s a new romantic interest in Mary’s life, played by Tom Cullen. How does he compare to Matthew?
[His character] Gillingham is an old family friend. The sisters knew him when we were growing up, and we haven’t seen him since then. A party is organized at the house, and he is invited to it. He’s just a different character. And there’s other potential suitors, as well. It’s not just him. There’s a character called Blake, played by Julian Ovenden. And Evelyn Napier (played by Brendan Patricks) comes back, as well. He was the one who brought the Turkish diplomat along. That was lovely to play scenes with Brendan again because we haven’t seen him since Season 1. They’re very different.
TVLine | Is it exciting for you to be back in the chase, so to speak?
It is. And this year, we have a few new characters coming in. [Mary's] beginning to come back to real life again because it takes her a long, long time to even interact with anyone. There’s a real energy about [Season] 4. It’s very much the ’20s. It’s very much the bright, young things. Rose, the cousin, and Edith very much represent this new wave of fashion, of dining in restaurants with a man, without being accompanied. There’s a real shift in the periods, more so than [Season] 3. I thought [Season] 3 was very much the ’20s, but it’s moved even further on. It feels closer to where we are today. It’s a bit more modern. That’s what will be appealing about [Season] 4. There’s a sense of change, again.
Single and ready to mingle? Not so fast!
Though Downton Abbey recently cast Welsh actor as Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) old childhood friend—in the wake of the shocking death of her husband Matthew (Dan Stevens)—for the hit period drama’s fourth season, fans shouldn’t expect to see Mary take a romantic interest in Lord Gillingham. Or anyone else for that matter!
E! News’ Melanie Bromley caught up with executive producer Gareth Naeme at BritWeek’s Downton Abbey‘s Vintage Party, where he set the record straight on Mary’s love life in the new season, as well as what fans can expect to show to look like without Matthew!
”Downton Abbey” producer Gareth Neame sounds off on Lady Mary’s love life after the exit of Dan Stevens.
“Mary is not on the lookout for any suitors,” Naeme revealed to us. “Mary is a woman in a state of deep bereavement and there’s no way she’s looking for anyone else. She is, nonetheless, a very beautiful and eligible young woman, so I have no doubt there’s going to be male interest in her…but she’s definitely not on the look for love.”
So what can we expect to see for the fan favorite character in the new season? “The spine of it is how Mary rebuilds her life,” he spilled.
Naeme also assures us that longtime fans of the series will not be disappointed despite Stevens’ exit. “It clearly will make a huge difference, but I can assure you that it’s given the show a whole new impetus,” he explained. “We’ve gone off in a whole new direction and it’s very exciting to see the new season come together.”
Downton Abbey returns to PBS in the fall
Downton Abbey has tapped Welsh actor Tom Cullen to join the show’s Season 4 cast as a love interest for Michelle Dockery’s grieving widow, Lady Mary.
Cullen, whose credits include the 2011 gay indie pic Weekend, will play a role TVLine first told you about back in January, that of Lord Gillingham, an old family friend of the Crawleys who has known Lady Mary since childhood.
Other new Season 4 additions include Dame Harriet Walters as an old friend of Maggie Smith’s Dowager and Nigle Harman as a visiting valet named Green.
NBC Universal’s Carnival Films, which produces Abbey, also confirmed Saturday that Shirley MacLaine will reprise her role as Cora’s (Elizabeth McGovern) mother in Season 4′s Christmas episode.
Scroll down for a first look at Lady Mary clutching the child she spawned with Matthew before his untimely demise,
Another room has become available in Downton Abbey.
On the heels of the back-to-back departures of Jessica Brown Findlay (Sybil) and Dan Stevens (Matthew), now word comes that Siobhan Finneran — who has played wretched maid Sarah O’Brien since the show’s launch — will not be back for the PBS smash’s upcoming fourth season.
“I’m not doing any more,” the actress told UK’s Mirror. “O’Brien is a thoroughly despicable human being — that was great to play.”
According to sources, O’Brien’s departure will take place off screen during the six-month time jump between seasons. That’s in stark contrast to the dramatic on-screen swan songs given to Sybil and Matthew. As Julian Fellowes recently told the New York Times, “When an actor playing a servant wants to leave, there isn’t really a problem — [that character gets] another job.”
Downton Abbey taketh away and now Downton Abbey giveth.
Lily James, who made a guest appearance in Downton‘s just-wrapped third season as Violet’s rebellious great niece Rose, has been upgraded to a full-fledged series regular for Season 4, TVLine has confirmed.
James’ upgrade, which was first reported by EW.com, comes as Downton looks to fill the void left by departing castmembers Dan Stevens (Matthew) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil).
The seeds of Rose’s more permanent stay were planted at the end of the show’s Season 3 finale, when her shrewish mother OK’d her daughter’s wish to relocate (at least temporarily) to Downton.
Rose’s liberal attitude toward sexuality should liven things up at the staid estate. “We’re entering a more modern age, the post-war into the 1920s and all things that came from that,” exec producer Gareth Neame told the site, “a slightly freer world and women having more freedom.”
In other Abbey-related comings and goings, a show rep denies a report out of London that UK actor Tom Ellis is joining the show as Lady Mary’s new love interest. According to sources, the pivotal new role has not yet been cast.
Downton Abbey is making Matthew Crawley’s funeral a private affair — so private, in fact, it won’t even take place on screen.
Julian Fellowes, creator of PBS’ international phenom, tells the New York Times that Season 4 will pick up “six months later,” which means “we don’t have to do funerals and all that stuff. That’s all in the past by then.”
In the present, Stateside fans of the show are still very much in mourning over Matthew’s untimely demise in Sunday’s Season 3 finale. For his part, Fellowes says he was left with no choice but to kill Dan Stevens’ beloved character off.
“In America, it’s quite standard for an actor to sign, at the beginning of a series, for five or seven years,” he explains. “The maximum any British agent will allow you to have over an actor is three years. And… Dan wanted to go. The show had been very, very successful, tremendously so, and [he was] being offered great opportunities.”
Fellowes adds that he asked Stevens to stick around through Season 4′s premiere episode (set to air in the U.S. in January 2014), so as to end the finale “on a happy note” with the birth of his and Lady Mary’s baby. “And then [we would've killed] him in the first episode of [Season 4.] But he didn’t want to do that,” preferring instead to make “a clean break.
“When an actor playing a servant wants to leave, there isn’t really a problem – [that character gets] another job,” he continues. “With members of the family, once they’re not prepared to come back for any episodes at all, then it means death. Because how believable would it be that Matthew never wanted to see the baby, never wanted to see his wife? And was never seen again at the estate that he was the heir to? So we didn’t have any option, really. I was as sorry as everyone else.”
Looking ahead to Season 4, Fellowes teases that one of the overriding themes will be “the rebuilding of Mary… in a society that is changing,” adding, “We would see women’s roles in the ’20s as being very much behind women today. But it was a big advance on what it had been 30 years before. And that’s all explored.”
Unless you want to risk doing a spit take with your afternoon tea, American fans of Downton Abbey may want to skip over this story. The rest of you, however, will be keenly interested to learn that, in Season 4, Lady Mary will be getting a new…
Last chance to look away!
As you may have heard — certainly if you’re overseas — Dan Stevens, aka Matthew, bowed out of the hit series at the end of the third season. And, since Lady Mary wouldn’t be Lady Mary without a gentleman by her side, the show is looking for a (naturally!) handsome thirtysomething actor to come courting as Lord Anthony Gillingham.
From what we gather, her would-be suitor is not only a looker, he also has a winning personality. (So winning, in fact, that there’s already talk that he could return for Season 5!)
Abbey EP Gareth Neame told TVLine in a recent interview that Steven’s exit created a “dramatic opportunity” for Michelle Dockery’s alter ego, adding, “In any relationship drama, the will-they-or-won’t-they is always more interesting than married couples. So actually what we’ve been able to do is reset [Lady Mary]. She has to start again, and that will be much more interesting.”
What do you think? Could any chap ever replace Matthew? And if so, who? Since the show is likely to hire a Brit, Henry “Superman” Cavill comes to mind. And so does Orlando Bloom. But, given their movie-star status, they might be a bit pricey, even for the Crawleys
Many a Downton Abbey fan’s worst fear has indeed come true: Dan Stevens, as previously reported, will not be continuing on as Matthew Crawley for Season 4.
UK-based viewers who laid witness to the acclaimed period drama’s Christmas special on Tuesday night gleaned as much — and though this news story will steer clear of detailing how/why Matthew exits the canvas, be forewarned that the commenters below have free reign.
In an interview with the UK’s Telegraph, Stevens says that leaving Downton “was a very difficult decision,” though one that he made before filming on the third and final season of his contract began. “It felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment,” he recalls. “From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things.”
Acknowledging that his role as Matthew was “a very monopolizing job,” he says “there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness. because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be.” Though he at the time thought he was signing on for any old period drama, he notes that as fashioned by Julian Fellowes, “Anything could happen and generally did.”
Stevens says it was “very emotional” shooting his final episode, seeing as he and his castmates for three years now have been on “the most amazing journey.
“I don’t think any of us, with the possible exception of Maggie [Smith], have had this kind of explosion in our career paths, and may never again,” he adds. “It has been so bizarre, and only those who have been through it can understand it.”
Stevens — who is currently appearing on Broadway with Jessica Chastain and David Strathairn in The Heiress — looks forward to exploring new and different roles, though knowing how unpredictable an actor’s life can be, admits, “That may not be the case.
“I genuinely don’t know exactly what is around the corner,” he allows, “but I hope it will be something a little bit different.”
NBC is looking to bring the next Downton Abbey to its airwaves.
The Peacock has signed Downton creator Julian Fellowes to create and produce The Gilded Age, a sweeping epic about the millionaire titans of 1880s New York, NBC announced Tuesday. Fellowes will write and produce the project, which is described as a “tale of the princes of the American Renaissance, and the vast fortunes they made — and spent — in late nineteenth century.”
“This was a vivid time with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king,” Fellowes said in a statement.
“We at the network are all so thrilled to be working with the immensely talented Julian Fellowes, who is universally admired for his critically and commercially appealing productions,” NBC Entertaiment President Jennifer Salke said in a statement. “Having him on our team represents a major creative coup and everyone is looking forward to his first NBC project.”
Added Bela Bajaria, executive vice president of Universal Television: “Having been thoroughly impressed by Julian’s wit, eloquence, vast historical knowledge and collaborative nature in my past development experience with him, I’m thrilled to be continuing our relationship at Universal Television,” said Bajaria. “The opportunity to work with him again was a goal of mine at Universal Television and I’m very excited about this potential new series.”
Fellowes created and executive-produces the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Downton Abbey, which was recently renewed for a fourth season. He will continue working on the show as he develops the new project at NBC.
Fellowes’ other credits include the film Gosford Park, which won Fellowes a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and the recent four-hour miniseries Titanic.
DOWNTON Abbey fans were rocked last night by news that another of its major stars is set to turn his back on ITV’s most successful period drama.
Just as a fourth series and Christmas special were announced, it emerged that romantic lead Dan Stevens, 30, who plays Matthew Crawley, is leaving.
A well-placed production source told the Sunday Express: “Dan Stevens isn’t returning to the series. He will probably do the first episode of the fourth series, but that will be it.”
ITV would not confirm or deny Stevens’s departure. However, it is thought he will appear in the Christmas show. The two-hour episode, described as a tearjerker, will see the Grantham family head to Scotland for a break, leaving most of the servants at home.
There have also been wrangles over money. A source said: “The American network NBC, which owns the production company which makes the show, basically bankrolled the first series.
“There was talk it didn’t want to put in so much money this time. Even with all this there are still plans to do five series.
It is not clear how or when Stevens will exit the show. In the last series his character Matthew guaranteed the future of the Downton estate with a surprise inheritance. His relationship with Lady Mary, and then their marriage, has been the main plotline through the three series of Downton Abbey. His departure is seen as a major blow.
Stevens is the second major star to desert the blockbuster after establishing themselves. Lady Sybil, played by Jessica Brown Findlay, quit to pursue a career in Hollywood.
Downton creator and writer Julian Fellowes revealed the screen tragedy of her character dying in childbirth was forced upon him by the actress’s decision to leave. Jessica has since moved on to film Winter’s Tale with an all-star Hollywood cast. Yesterday there was also speculation about whether Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary, will return for the next series.
Downton Abbey has been picked up for a fourth season by Britain’s ITV and will likely also air in the United States on PBS.
“The opening and closing episodes will again be feature length with series four continuing the story of the Crawley family and their servants in the early 1920s,” ITV said in a statement. New cast members will also reportedly be added.
Season 3 of the British period drama, which finished airing in the U.K. earlier this month, will premiere Stateside on Jan. 6, 2013.
Are you excited for another season of Downton Abbey?