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'Downton Abbey' creator talks Dan Stevens' departure

Julian Fellowes wishes that the show could have kept Matthew Crawley

By Sona Charaipotra Dec 31, 2012 2:41PM
Photo courtesy ITV/PBS
Warning: Spoiler ahead. Do not read if you don't want to know what happened on the "Downton Abbey" Christmas special that aired in the U.K. Proceed at your own peril!

If you haven't yet seen the"Downton Abbey" Season 3 Christmas special, you're definitely going to want to skip reading this.

But if you've managed to see the episode in question -- which aired in the UK on Christmas Day -- you'll understand why Brits are calling the ITV Christmas special a "tragedy" and a "travesty." Some even said the plot turn had "ruined Christmas." Yes, Brits can be dramatic, but they were just that effected by the departure of one of the show's central characters, Matthew Crawley -- played by Dan Stevens -- in quite an irreversible fashion.


Fans of the show have long been following the drama of Stevens' departure, and now creator Lord Julian Fellowes is speaking out about it for the first time in the wake of the Christmas episode, which wraps up the Matthew Crawley plot line in quite a final and fatal way. 
 
 
Fellowes told Brit paper the Daily Telegraph that if there had been another option, he'd have kept the Crawley character alive "without question."

But he reports that despite the producer's best efforts, he couldn't convince Stevens to stay. "We would have loved to keep him," he told the Daily Telegraph. "We would have loved to keep Jessica [Brown Findlay] too. We tried to persuade him to stay. He had done fantastically well for the series and his creation of Matthew was terrific. But this is life. Dan felt that this was the right thing for him, and the right moment to move on to different arenas."

But did that have to mean sudden death for the character? Apparently so. "If [Stevens] had been prepared to come back for maybe two or three episodes in a series, that would be different. Then we could have had a foreign posting or invented a career that would have made it possible for him to be away. Otherwise, we would have had to make this tremendously successful love affair between Mary and Matthew unhappy, which I didn't feel would be believable. For them to separate and Matthew never to set eyes on his son again would not be believable either. So we really didn't have any option. By him dying, their love can remain intact."  

And don't expect any "Dallas"-style resurrections for from Fellowes. "Matthew wil be dead," he said. "Mary will not find Matthew in the shower -- that I can promise."

In the end, he wishes Steven the best. "I'm pretty sure he's got a terrific future," Fellowes said. "We will miss him." 

Stevens has said that he chose not to renew his contract after three years because of a "desire for freedom." "We were always optioned for three years,” Stevens told The Daily Telegraph. "And when that came up it was a very difficult decision. But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things."

So what does the future hold for the show? A statement from ITV noted that Michelle Dockery, who plays Matthew's wife, Mary, will be returning for Season 4. "In the next [season], alongside all the usual drama, comedy and romance involving the much-loved cast of characters, viewers will see Mary adjusting to her life and attempting to move on without the man she loved." 

Season 3 of "Downton Abbey" will air in the U.S. on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS, beginning January 6. 
14Comments
Dec 29, 2013 9:18AM
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To ReneRipley  - Stupid name by the way. My cairn terrier is Muffingirl and is my current dog and I've had other dogs over the years with just as stupid of a name, but all very much loved. But my dog is just a dog while you are just  a BITCH! No pun intended!  My opinion is just that! You don't have to like, I really don't give a BLANK if you do or not. America use to have wonderful actors and actresses but unfortunately they are few and far between. Betty Davis, Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck just to name a few.  But the writers are what made these people shine and the actor/actress did their creations wonderfully.  Now we have cartoons, cartoons, and more cartoons to watch. England is going to same way, Harry Potter, special effects to NO END but good acting is going by the wayside. Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men and Maggie Smith really know how to act and deliver a line. But even Maggie Smith has said this Downton Abbey has given her the retirement nest egg she needed and has plans to leave to return to the stage, where she thinks acting is truly acting. Good for her! But this young man will regret leaving too soon! Ability to act is a treasured gift and he is average not the best and WILL regret leaving this money pot too soon!  I'm not bashing American Actors/Actresses but unfortunately most our true actors/actresses are deceased and England still has a few good ones left, that's all.
Feb 18, 2013 10:24AM
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Big mistake. Can you say David Caruso?
Jan 3, 2013 10:06PM
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Dan Stevens is a JACKASS!  Oh, I KNOW it's just a tv show but, HONESTLY!  He's just a jackass for leaving.  Haven't even seen the first episode of season three yet and I stumble upon this article???  Bummer, major bummer.  Thanks, Dan, you JACKASS! 
Jan 2, 2013 7:06AM
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I always find that when an actor gives up the golden goose and is too stupid to realize it regrets it later on in life.  Youth makes people do stupid things.  The money alone will secure him for his lifetime, but for some reason these young actors think I'll get these wonderful parts and I'll be able to do the acting I wanted to do.  Sorry Charlie, life doesn't work that way.  He'll go ten years or so and then say: " That was one of my biggest mistakes".  He is nice looking but not the best in England.  He's an OK actor but not one of the best I've seen in England.  I keep referring to England because to me thats where some great actors/actresses are now.  Sorry to say, America does not have the quality actors anymore.  They have great male & female bodies, which is all the talk shows talk about anyway, great sex scenes but no real actors.  People who play parts wonderfully, actually talk, not just grunt in sex scenes or play super heroes or voice over in animated parts.  Writers actually write in England and provide a plot to follow, no so in America.  I'll miss this good looking young man but I'm sure Mr. Fellowes will be able to find someone who is quite capable to provide a wonderful replacement for this young man and he'll make the money not Dan Stevens, he'll get great reviews.  Maybe some bumpy road at first but it will work out OK.  One thing I've realized, everyone is replaceable, and that includes me.  Good luck Mr. Stevens, now I'm looking forward to Downton Abbey with whomever is acting his part.  Action, start movie.

Jan 1, 2013 5:00PM
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"Wow," just you wait for the fallout to come regarding this latest departure. I love the Downton Abbey Series so much, it's like these characters have become part of my life. It's nice to see more than one beautiful flower in a series among all the weeds of the world. Enough of that is shoved in our faces

daily through other shows. It was bad enough when Sybil Branson (Jessica Brown Findley) left and now Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens); talk about over the "fiscal cliff."

 

It would be so cool if their were other actors out there that looked like the two that left. Oh well, art imitates life again. Everything is so instant today.

Jan 1, 2013 3:56PM
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He should have rode that role out to the very end.  I can remember a bunch of actors who left very successful series (to do their thing) never to be heard from again.. Bye Dan.  In a couple of years it will be Dan 'who'.
Jan 1, 2013 3:38PM
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I'm pretty sure it's "affected," not "effected."
Jan 1, 2013 2:45PM
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I think this was a bad move. Of course you're going to get Downton Abbey followers curiosity. I don't know how everyone else took it but this is a spoiler. Although, I do wish Dan Stevens much luck in his future career. Is there any way he might change his mind?
Jan 1, 2013 2:02PM
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I think the majority of America has not seen even episode 1 of season 3, much less the christmas special.   The title of the article completely gives it away without you even having to write "spoiler alert."   Thank you so much.  I definitely will not be reading anything on msn.com anymore.  
Jan 1, 2013 1:30PM
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Wow, maybe you should have warned of a spoiler alert before I read the title of the article, You pretty much ruined it for me when I read at the top of the column that Matthew Crawley is leaving, then after, I read "Spoiler Alert" at the beginning of the article? What's the point in warning me? It's too late now! Thanks a lot!
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