DOWNTON ABBEY Creator Prepared to Write Off Dan Stevens' Character

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Last week, DOWNTON ABBEY actor Dan Stevens announced that he may not return for the highly-acclaimed series' four season. Today, show creator Julian Fellowes told Entertainment Weekly that he's prepared to write Matthew Crawley (Stevens), off of ABBEY.

“Sometimes actors feel they want to move on,” Fellowes told Entertainment Weekly. “If they don’t want to come back, there’s nothing we can do.”

As hesitant as Fellowes seems, Stevens' mind might be all but made up.

"Dan Stevens isn't returning to the series," a source revealed to the UK Sunday Express last week. "He will probably do the first episode of the fourth series, but that will be it."

According to the Daily Mail, the 30-year-old actor will be featured in the series' two-hour Christmas special and the first episode of season 4, which has been confirmed. No details have been revealed as to how his character, Matthew Crawley, will be written out of the show.

While commenting on making his Broadway debut in The Heiress in a recent interview, Stevens shared, "New York for me is going to be one big adventure. I will be taking the whole family out and we will be there for six months. I don’t know if I will be returning to 'Downton.'"

Regardless if Stevens returns, or opts out of the fourth season of ABBEY, Fellowes is prepared to hang on to the Crawleys for a bit longer.

“I think [the Crawleys] will go on jogging quite happily through the 20s,” Fellowes told EW. “You know there’s always a little time jump [between seasons]. We did two years between [seasons] 1 and 2 because we only wanted to spend two years in the war so we had to start halfway through the war. Now we don’t have those imperatives. Sometimes you just have a few months so that there can be a few things that have happened in between that you can refer to, and have a slightly back-story for one or another character, but we don’t have the same imperative to leap forward.”

The widely-acclaimed drama was officially renewed for a fourth season last week by ITV. According to the British broadcaster, the fourth season will consist of eight episodes and an extended Christmas special, set to begin airing in the Fall of 2013 in the UK. The third season has just recently wrapped up. "Viewers can look forward to more drama, comedy, love, hatred, jealousy, rivalry, ambition, despair and romance," executive producer Gareth Neame said in a statement.

Written and created by Julian 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).