When actress Siobhan Finneran announced her decision to quit her role as manipulative Ladies Maid, Sarah O’Brien, in Downton Abbey, we all stocked up on tissues.
Because any Downton Abbey fan will know by now that the only way anyone can ever leave the great escape is in a wooden box.
Last series fans were left heartbroken when show favourite Lady Sybil was killed just after childbirth when the actress who played her, Jessica Brown-Findlay, decided that she was ready to leave the epic ITV period drama for pastures new.
Next, during the Christmas Special last year, Dan Stevens made the same decision to leave his role as Matthew Crawley, and not only did show producers also make the same decision as they did with Brown-Findlay, they almost mimicked the death with Matthew meeting his maker directly after meeting his first born son and heir, leaving a very disappointing taste in viewers mouths.
Of course, given the nature of the show, the class of the upstairs characters and the time the show is set, exit doors are somewhat limited as, in the case of Matthew who was heir to the entire estate, divorce or moving was never an option (but surely Sybil could have just gone back to Ireland and we could have been pacified with mentions of her at Christmas and humoured with pretend phone calls?).
So, when Finneran announced her decision to leave the show also, we all started dusting off our best funeral wear (not that it had accumulated much dust it had been used that often recently) and prepared ourselves for another Downton death.
But we may all have been a bit previous as show writer, Julian Fellowes has revealed to xfinityTV, at a Downton event held at the Academy of Television Arts & Science on Tuesday night, that because O’Brien was part of the staff, and not part of the family, he will be sparing her from the same fate as Sybil and Matthew!
He explained his decision: “because they were family members and their absence couldn’t be explained long-term. O’Brien is very much alive. Her departure could be explained in that she simply got a new position.”
Which leaves the question just who could they possibly bring in to replace O’Brien as Lady Cora’s Lady in Waiting?
Rob James Collier, who plays Thomas Barrow, says his character is the person who brings her in, so she isn’t likely to be too different from O’Brien!
He explained: “O’Brien’s replacement is quite interesting because Thomas has brought her in without a reference. He knows her from the past. He, obviously, has some kind of hold on her, but what that is, who knows? He is using her, manipulating her with the secret he has on her to feed back to him the stories and goings on from upstairs so he can use it to his advantage.”
Downton Abbey is currently filming its fourth series which is due to premier this autumn.