Home Uncategorized “Downton Abbey” Exclusive: Show Creator Julian Fellowes on Actor Dan Stevens (Matthew)

Sunday night in Britain: “Downton Abbey” returned for Season 4 with a huge 9.5 rating, up almost a million viewers from the UK season premiere. The show picks up six months after the death of Matthew Crawley, played by Dan Stevens. Viewers no doubt were curious to see what happened to Lady Mary and her baby. “Downton Abbey” season 4 doesn’t start in the US until January 5th.

Last night at the Emmys I talked to my old pal Julian Fellowes, the brilliant mastermind behind “Downton.” You know, the seeds of “DA” were in his Robert Altman film, “Gosford Park,” which every “Abbey” fan should rent or buy to see how all this started.

Fellowes was not pleased when Dan Stevens decided not to return as Matthew after three seasons. “We begged him to stay one more week, and film the Christmas episode. We could have a happy ending for Matthew and Mary. Then we would have started season  with his death. But refused. To come back for a week!”

Despite killing Stevens’ Matthew off most graphically last year, Fellowes still wishes him well. Still: “I really think if he’d waited one more season, he would have left with a bigger following.”


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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
6 replies to this post
  1. Michele dockery has confirmed in interviews that since the start of series 2 dan stevens was upfront and honest and had told fellowes that he wouldn’t go beyond series 3 so they had a lot of time to prepare and dan has said he wasn’t the star the series was I do feel that Julian likes to show whose boss and likely annoyed someone wanted to leave. and the comment of dan on refusing to stay one more week was unfair, dan was already signed up for the Heiress. maybe the mistake was only doing 3 year contracts but dan is a theatre man and didn’t want to be typecast in future roles. So he may not agreed role if long term.

  2. Hi Roger. Your quotes from J. Fellowes don’t make sense, because Dan Stevens DID film the Christmas episode. Can you clarify what Fellowes meant? Thank you.

  3. You’re absolutely correct about “Gosford Park”. This die-hard “Downton Abbey” fan saw it a few weeks ago for the first time slnce it was released and liked it even more the second time around. It was also wonderful to watch pre-“Boardwalk Empire” Kelly MacDonald.

    As to “Dan who?” Stevens, what an interesting comment from Julian Fellowes. From the comments I’ve been reading on line it seems that Dan’s decision to leave so abruptly after season three has created a lot of ill will in DA fandom. Smarter actors like Hugh Bonneville (part of an A-list ensemble cast in George Clooney’s upcoming film “The Monuments Men”) and Michelle Dockery have stayed with the series while pursuing other opportunities, realizing that the DA association will be very beneficial in promoting those projects.

  4. Dan Stevens is a phenomenal young talent and that’s why we all loved Matthew so. He had every right to decide he did not want to be typecast; Lord Fellowes REALLY should have thought of another way to convey the idea of a tragic loss without killing off a beloved character on Christmas Day, as Mr. Stevens has said. Given Lord Fellowes’ tendency not to write the scenes we wanted to see over the past three years, he could have spared us the horrible sight in the Christmas Special and started season 4 with the bereavement happening off screen.

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