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Dan Stevens Comments on DOWNTON ABBEY Exit

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**SPOILER ALERT for U.S. fans of DOWNTON ABBEY who have not yet viewed the drama's third season or last night's holiday episode which aired on Britain's ITV network**

In this morning's New York Times Arts Beat, actor Dan Stevens commented on the recent news that he will not return in his role of Matthew Crawley in the fourth season of DOWNTON ABBEY. A special Christmas episode of the popular period drama aired last night on the U.K.'s ITV network which explained the sudden exit of Stevens' character.

During the show's third season, Crawley appeared to be experiencing an ideal life, which included a marriage to Lady Mary and the birth of his first child. In last night's holiday episode however, he is involved in a horrific automobile accident which results in his death.

In an interview with London's 'The Telegraph', Stevens explained his decision to depart the series. "We were always optioned for three years," he revealed. "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."

The actor, currently starring opposite Jessica Chastain in Broadway's 'The Heiress', referred to his time on the show as, "a very monopolizing job." He explained, "So 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."

In a statement obtained by EW, Stevens says, "I loved the time I spent on Downton, and I am so thankful to Julian [Fellowes] and the fantastic cast and crew whom I will miss dearly. I am grateful for their support and also the support of the wonderful Downton audience. I now look forward to joining the legions of Downton fans in enjoying future series."

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