If Dan Stevens does in fact opt to leave “Downton Abbey” after three seasons, he is going to be doing so knowing full well that there is not going to be another actor coming on in his place … at least according to the man responsible for the show itself in Julian Fellowes. (Warning: the following contains spoilers for American readers. Continue at your own risk.)
Before we delve too deep into analysis of the Stevens situation, let’s first share what the show creator and writer, who actually does not mention the actor or his character Matthew by name, had to say to the Daily Telegraph in a recent interview:
“I don’t think it’s ever going to be right to recast a different actor for the same character in Downton,” the Oscar-winning screenwriter tells me … You can do it with something like Sherlock Holmes and Watson, as they are very established and iconic, and many people have played them, so you have a kind of freedom. But, in a series like Downton, it wouldn’t be right … You want viewers to think that it is kind of real, and changing actor would be like saying, ‘Hey, guys, it is not real at all’, and lose the show some of its authenticity.”
Let’s try to look at the Stevens issue as a series of points, that way we can best understand what is really going on here:
1. Stevens has not actually said publicly that he wants off the show, but multiple sources have said he wants to move on to other things. He has been on Broadway for the last several weeks working on “The Heiress” with Jessica Chastain.
2. It is possible that Fellowes knew in advance about Stevens’ plans, and gave both him and Michelle Dockery (who is also being written out of the show) a way out on the series in case they did not want to return.
3. It’s possible that this could be motivated by Stevens wanting more money, but we haven’t really gotten that vibe here (and we have seen seen several negotiations already where money was strictly in the forefront).
4. Even if Stevens does not return permanently to the show, he could still film an episode or two to help wrap up Matthew’s story.
If you want to read some more scoop on the upcoming season 3 Christmas special, you can do so over here.