DOWNTON ABBEY's Julian Fellowes on Dan Stevens' Departure
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Stevens, who playEd Matthew Crawley, was killed off rather suddenly in the Christmas special of the show. Though it was known Stevens wouldn't be returning for DOWNTON ABBEY's fourth season, few saw the car crash coming that did Crawley in. And even fewer approved of it.
"What did they want us to do? In the UK we can only get actors to commit to three series," he said. "In the States they might sign up for seven, but that's not how it works here. And to engineer an exit is quite difficult. Problems in the marriage would just not have been feasible - not when I'd spent so long setting it up as a happy marriage!"
Because of DOWNTON's success, Fellowes admits it can be stressful when series stars become Hollywood stars, and the demand for them goes up.
"It's actually lovely to see the youngsters blossom and Go On to take up other challenges, but it does present problems," Fellowes continued. "It was probably right for Dan. Less right for us, but that's what happens in this business."
And though Stevens decided to leave, Fellowes is still disappointed.
"I didn't want him to go, but he couldn't be persuaded to stay. Dan did nothing wrong, he gave proper notice and everything, but I kept hoping he'd change his mind."
He goes on to explain that the producers wanTed Stevens to remain on the show for only a few more episode, to send Crawley off in a proper way that was sure to please fans.
"My thinking was if we had him for another three episodes he could have a foreign posting," Fellowes said. "But he wasn't prepared to do that."
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Written and created by Fellowes, the series won an impressive six Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe in its first season. Recent honors for Season 2 include multi-category nominations from the Critics' Choice Awards and from the Television Critics Association.
The cast also includes Hugh Bonneville, Dame Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Penelope Wilton, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle and a host of others, joined by Shirley MacLaine (Oscar for Best Actress, Terms of Endearment), who plays Martha Levinson, the very American mother of Cora, Countess of Grantham (McGovern).