Downton Abbey: Dan Stevens explains his decision to leave show after his character, Matthew Crawley’s surprise death this Christmas!

by Anna Howell

This Christmas saw the much-anticipated 2 hour special of the phenomenally successful ITV period drama, Downton Abbey.

Whilst not actually set at Christmas, the show still treated it’s viewers to a fine festive selection of drama, including a birth, and a death!

We reported earlier this year that Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, was rumoured to be leaving the show and had not signed up for the fourth series, which is due to commence filming next year. Upon hearing this we speculated that the only way he could exit the show without being replaced was by death. And the fact that he had not signed up for the fourth series meant that this would probably have to happen during the Christmas special, and we were right!

Fans watched in horror as, hours after meeting his first born son and heir, Matthew had a head on collision with another vehicle on his way back to Downton to announce the good news that Lady Mary had given birth to the child, in a situation uncannily similar to the way that Lady Sybil died after giving birth to her first child.

We have to say, given the amazing writing we have had the pleasure of watching from Downton over the last 3 series, we were more than a little disappointed at this blatant lack of imagination making both births and deaths practically identical, and sincerely hope that they don’t take it a step further and have the child named Matthew!

However, we do appreciate that the writers and producers hands were tied somewhat given the gap between series filming and the sudden decision on Dan Stevens part not to renew his contract; especially as given the era divorce would not have been an appropriate option for him to bow out with.

Now, after our worst fears have been confirmed, Dan Stevens has discussed his decision to quit the international hit show to the Daily telegraph newspaper:

“We were always optioned for three years. 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. It is a very monopolising job.

“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.”

“It is a desire for freedom really,” he added. “I don’t see money or a particular status as an actor as a goal but I want to do the best work I can in as interesting a range of roles as I can.

“And I think a moment like this is quite unique and presents those opportunities more than ever before.

“None of us had any idea of how successful Downton was going to be. I thought I was signing up for another period drama that had a slightly modern feel.

“It had a freedom about it because it was coming out of the head of Julian Fellowes. Anything could happen and generally did.

“It was very emotional shooting the end of this series, because those guys are like family. We have been living together for three years and have been on the most amazing journey.

“I don’t think any of us, with the possible exception of Maggie [Smith], have had this kind of explosion in our career paths, and may never again. It has been so bizarre, and only those who have been through it can understand it.”

ITV wished him “every success for the future” and confirmed that Michelle Dockery will be returning to her role as Lady Mary in series four, which begins production in February.

Watch the promo from the Christmas special in the clip below:

What did you think of this year’s Downton Christmas special? Leave your thoughts and comments below: