Downton Abbey: ITV Weighs In on the Why and How of Actor's Exit, Previews Show's Future

downton mary matthew In the wake of a Downton Abbey development that has already played out for viewers in the UK and news of which trickled across the pond earlier this week, broadcaster ITV has issued a statement about the much publicized departure of cast member Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley.

And though TVLine previously avoided detailing the storyline in the aprés-Season 3 Christmas special that paved the way for Matthew’s exit… ITV speaks plainly, so: Warning — Spoilers Ahead.

In its statement, the broadcaster describes why it made the decision to write off Stevens’ character in such an irreversible manner. In short: It was because Matthew simply loved Mary too much.

“Over the last three years, audiences across the world have been captivated by the ups and downs of Mary and Matthew’s relationship,” the network said. “It is for this reason that the producers decided Matthew and Mary could not simply be estranged or parted, resulting in his untimely and tragic death at the end of the Christmas episode.”

Stevens told the UK’s Telegraph that his decision to leave the wildly popular British series at the end of his three-season contract was “very difficult” and was made before Season 3 filming began.

“It felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment,” he said. “From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things.”

ITV noted that Dockery definitely will return for Downton‘s fourth season, which begins production in February. (Season 3 makes its Stateside premiere Jan. 6, on PBS.)

“Alongside all the usual drama, comedy and romance involving the much-loved cast of characters,” the statement reads, “viewers will see Mary adjusting to her life and attempting to move on without the man she loved.”

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. IMHO says:

    Personally, I like the fact that he can’t return to the show when his US career fails. He isn’t a good enough actor and he isn’t good looking enough to succeed outside of the posh-sounding Brit and how many are already queueing up for that role?

    • jvassalo says:


      • Laura says:

        Please stop killing off your characters. There is nothing wrong with Mary and Matthew being so deeply in love. He could have had problems with the family if you wanted drama. I want Matthew back

        • Kate says:

          I agree. And also I want Downton to come earlier then Jan 6th. It’s awful to have to wait so long. I watch it every week. It’s bad enough to wait a week!!!

    • Bonnie Colvert says:


    • M3rc Nate says:

      Isnt good looking enough to succeed? Ouch. I think its that thinking that has America’s (where i live) shows suffering. England has amazing shows with FANTASTIC actors because they cast regular looking people, some even maybe below average looking. They care about talent not as much about looks. American tv is full of borderline models and top 100 hottest people in the world, and it shows in terms of acting quality. Talent comes before everything, look at the success of Steve Buscemi. He has amazing roles and amazing success in America. If he has the talent and heat from Downton Abbey Steven’s can more than find success in America.

      • Kylie says:


      • Jacqueline says:

        Bravo! However, I’m a bit shocked that no one seems to think that Stevens is handsome. To me he’s drop-dead gorgeous. Maybe it’s just me, though, a little black girl from the South. I guess, though, to each his/her own.

        • Marie says:

          I think Stevens is handsome and is good in the part of a loving and supportive husband and potentially a strong kind father. He has a fan base to consider, not just himself. It is devastating when a much-liked character is killed and there is no chance to return.

          • Trevor says:

            Oh he could come back…they haven’t has his funeral yet. They just showed him lying there bleeding after the crash.

    • mia says:


      I didn’t think about that, but I love it. His US career is going to tank and then he’ll be up shatcreek

    • Bob says:

      Four words: David Caruso, Katherine Heigl.

    • Michael says:

      What a whiny b!tch you are. God forbid an actor think for himself.

    • ben says:

      Such a shallow view of the world. It’s sad that you want some kind of perverted revenge on Dan Stevens, but the reality is he has made it clear that he does not consider success as being monetary value, and he is quite happy doing stage work. He wants to do a variety of roles that challenge him rather than sitting where the money is (and it was in Downton). The whole world, and a man’s measure of success, does not revolve around the USA (gasp!)

    • charlotte martin says:

      What an unpleasent attitude you have. If he want’s to persue his career elsewhere, that’s his choice. He may be versatile enough to go for other roles and even if he’s not, there are always period dramas being made. Plus, his departure from the programme in this manner has opened up another story line for Downton. I say good luck to him!

    • Cal says:

      Believe it or not, not all British actors are desperate to enter the commercialised and phoney life of Hollywood… some are even satisfied staying in GB to live out their respected and (usually preferred) acting careers.

    • filmer says:

      It sounds like you think that there is no future for actors in Britain…. Not everyone thinks that the Hollywood is the ultimate paradise of every actor or film maker. Already your statement of “not good looking enough” tells me why it isn’t.

    • bred bear says:

      I can think of a lot of actors in the US that ONLY have looks and absolutely no acting talent and have gotten pretty far in Hollywood.
      Megan Fox, Ashton Krutcher, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Sarah Michelle Gellar to name a few.
      Not that they haven’t had some entertaining movies, but I doubt they could have gotten that far if they were average looking.

      • kate says:

        I don’t care about Tom Cruise’ private life but c’mon, you obviously haven’t seen “Born on the Fourth of July”… how ridiculous to include him on your list.

    • carol says:

      Shame on you. Nothing nice to say!

  2. I’ll never understand why actors who have the good fortune to stumble into a hit show always seem to want to leave it as quickly as possible. I would think that finding a hit show to be involved in is a goal but too many times one of the main actors of a show that’s become wildly popular decides to leave as if being in this wildly successful show that people love you in and is the reason you’re so in demand as an actor is somehow an inconvenience.

    • jvassalo says:

      maybe because they want to ride the wave of notoriety, thus losing it way too early

      • Exactly they want so much to capitalize on their in demand status that they end up screwing what made them popular in the first place thus cutting short whatever momentum they had from said popularity. Couldn’t have said it better myself…well I just did but I will graciously share the credit.

        • Nessie says:

          Yes, but some actors want to leave while they still enjoyed playing the role, instead of staying too long and it becoming the same old same old. Sometimes people are in it for the experience and creation of playing interesting roles, it’s not always about being on a hit show.

    • cathiecat says:

      It should be called the David Caruso syndrome: get a hit show, head inflates, leave show for BIG CAREER which does not materialize. It was a long patch of road between NYPD Blue and CSI Miami.

      • Rowan77 says:

        In the Industry, leaving a show after one season because you think you’ll be a big movie star is actually called, “‘Pulling a Caruso.”

    • ojie King says:

      I completely agree. I myself wonder why someone will choose to leave such a well regarded show but commercially and critically. But, well to each their own and wishing him all the best in the future.

  3. Anna says:

    I understand him wanting to do more, but Julian Fellowes has said that the show would only go on for one maybe two more seasons (series) and no more after that. He could have waited.

    • JustJulie says:

      Amen, Anna. There really wasn’t much left in the series. He could’ve waited it out, even asked to be back-burnered, but to bail out now really sucks.

      • Sono Desper says:

        An actor doesn’t owe his career or his life to a TV show. He does the work, when he’s paid, per his contract and that’s it. It’s bad enough that viewers want to dictate HOW a show should be written, plot lines, etc. rather than letting those decisions rest in the hands of others charged with that responsibility. Now, many viewers want to trash any actor who uses his free will to leave a show.

        Why do you all need to trash someone who chooses to leave? Seriously.

        • Anna says:

          Sono, For me this is not a case of viewers dictating the show. The producers wanted him back for more of the the series, they asked him back and wanted to extend the contract. He said no. This is a case of the actor dictating the direction of the show. I am not trashing him, and as I said I understand his reasonings in wanting to do more, but its not like we are talking ER or Grey’s where the shows are reaching or going past 10 seasons. All I am saying is that he could have waited to see the direction the show would have taken had he not decided to leave. Julian could still have decided to kill him off at a different point. Like when Sybil died earlier in the season.

          • Michael says:

            And how exactly do you think that you are trying to dictate the terms of Dan’s departure? He wanted to leave but you think that he should not have, that he should have waited, that he should have taken time to review the direction of the show. What else are you doing but dictating? He fulfilled his contract…that is all that he was required to do. I might add that he fulfilled his contract beautifully. I couldn’t be more upset that he left the show but I also respect an actor’s right to make his own decision.

  4. Jim says:

    Why in God’s name have you guys spoiled the ending of Downton Abbey before the third season has even begun in the States? It’s really a jerk move on your part, and totally unnecessary.

    • Keenan says:

      You do know there is a big, big place outside of our wonderful USA and they too have websites…… For goodness sake this news is everywhere which has an entertainment section. Kind of hard to miss.

      • Rai says:

        Exactly, when I saw the episode on Christmas Day I thought, goodness, how are they going to keep the secret until the end of season 3- AND then the Christmas special- in the States? That’s about March, isn’t it? Impossible to stop the news from spreading! Anyway, don’t be put off just because you know, I wasn’t so very keen on this show and I really enjoyed this last season…Brilliant character developments. Plus, Shirley McLaine!

    • Nessie says:

      The bold “Warning — Spoilers Ahead” didn’t clue you into the fact that you’d be spoiled if you kept reading? And now you blame the site for your lack of self control? Really?

    • Kim R says:

      I came here earlier today before I had watched the episode. I stopped reading after the big, bold “Warning Spoilers Ahead”. No brainer.
      Now that I’ve viewed the episode I will just say that, although I understand the reason why the death and not just Matthew going to America for business or whatever, I was disappointed in the repetitive aspect (ie. Sybil & Tom have a baby….Sybil dies. Mary and Matthew have a baby…Matthew dies.)

    • Dan says:

      If you’re genuinely too stupid to read past the Spoiler Alert warning and then have the balls to complain about it….just close your eyes and breathe in and out for two minutes and I’m sure your brain will just release the memory into the world as steam and you’ll forget all about it. You strike me as someone who lacks the capacity for short term memory anyway.

    • Dave says:

      Why in God’s name should the rest of the world not talk about something because YOU haven’t seen it? Thousands of people in North America have already watched S.3 … these articles are pertinent to us … and when there’s a big bold line that says SPOILERS AHEAD, you’ve already lost the argument.

    • Chand Vane says:

      I hate spoilers too and that is why i’ve kept my mouth shut. But you do realize season 3 has been out on the internet since November. You just need to know where to look.

    • Alyson says:

      If spoilers bother you so much, don’t read articles which are obviously going to contain them. Simple as that.

  5. Kevan says:

    Stevens is so full of crap. How in the world is a 2-month shooting schedule and 8 episodes a year a “very monopolizing job”? He was one of the show’s centerpieces and now he’s gone. What the heck is the point of even watching? I’m asking this seriously. I know they will do their best to refocus the show on Mary and the baby and how time is changing the manor system, but Stevens really took a dump on everyone with this decision. It compromises the show. A very selfish move.

    • RichCD says:

      Downton has a 7-month shooting schedule – not 2. The guy fulfilled his contract and decided to do something else – just like millions of other people do all the time. The show is full of great characters, and will still be worth watching, with or without Dan Stevens.

      If his character was that important, they should have offered him a 5-year contract.

      • Alichat says:

        7 months??? Seriously? It takes 7 months to shoot 9 episodes? We shoot 24 episodes in less than 10 months in the US. That seems to be a sloooow shooting schedule.

        • Rowan77 says:

          The UK shooting schedule for TV is very different than in the US. We shoot a 42 minute show in 8 working days (or a week and a half as we don’t tend to do weekends). Sometimes, like with Bones, 9 days. Doctor Who takes 15+ days (or three weeks) to do an episode and they regularly fall behind. I honestly am not sure why. They work very long hours, like in the US. They don’t waste time during the work day, yet it still take them longer.

          Seven months for 8 episodes in the UK is about right. And that is a large chunk of time if you’re not doing what you want to do – and in the UK the actors don’t get paid the way US actors do, for the most part.

  6. brenbloom says:

    Dan Stevens doesn’t owe anything to anybody. He fulfilled the terms of his contract and wants to move on. While people are understandably upset about the future of the show and the fates of their favorite characters, the anger directed at him is vexing. How many of you have quit a job because it was not fulfilling or you wanted to challenge yourself with something new? Did people call you selfish or ungrateful or hurl insults your way because of that? I would hope not. I wish Stevens the best.

    • Sono Desper says:

      Thank you, brenbloom, for being a voice of reason!

    • cjeffery7 says:

      THANK YOU. if dan stevens somehow “deserves” such insults, then surely jessica brown findlay does too. why wasn’t everyone more up in arms about her leaving?? oh right, because it’s ridiculous to slander an actor for making a choice about their life.

  7. jbarker says:

    I for one will hold a grudge, lol! I have seen this before Terry Farrell left DS9 right before the last season (which all the actors know would be the last season!), to continue her career, leading to her character being killed. According to IMDB her career has sucked since then so we will see what the future holds for Mr. Stevens.

    • rowan77 says:

      Really? Her career sucked? She did a bunch of films and TV movies and another series on CBS that she was on for four years. When she got married and had a baby, she chose to be a full-time mother instead of working all the time. Doesn’t sound like she did too badly to me.

  8. Coug80 says:

    Mary and Matthew loved each other too much? Could there be a dumber reason to off a character? They were plenty entertaining as they were. It’s really poor writing to take the easy way out instead of coming up with a creative reason for his character’s absence. With that twit of a niece coming back to Downton, I’m not excited about next season at all. But good luck to Dan on Broadway!

    • rowan77 says:

      What they obviously meant was Matthew adored Mary and would not leave her and a new baby unless forced to. It wouldn’t be realistic for Matthew to suddenly leave Downton Abbey for any period of time. His mother lives close by, he doesn’t practice law anymore, he has no other business interests other than the ones his father-in-law has. His leaving for an extended period would ring false.

    • ben says:

      Oh come on. It’s simply the only way they could write out Dan Stevens with any kind of respect for the show. Ever see Monarch of the Glen (another British show which starred Julian Fellowes)? The cliff that show went off is what happens when you decide that the way to write your leading man is to have him just waltz off while his wife stays behind. No logical plot sense at all, and the show just lost everything it had (including Fellowes). It was clear to me from that experience that Fellowes new better and would kill Dan if needed.

  9. Jo says:

    I can’t wait until reality hits Chad Michael Stevens and he’s forced to take gigs on celebrity editions of reality shows.

  10. DT says:

    Absolute Nonsense, the writers have little imagination. Upon the birth of the first grandchild, the mother dies, now just after the birth of the second grandchild, the father dies? After 3 seaons, ive Instantly lost interest in Downton’s creative team’s ability to capture my imagination.

  11. darcywilson says:

    I think this is totally another Katherine Heigl/Shonda Rhimes sitch. And we all know how that’s turned out for Katherine…. good luck Dan, good luck!

  12. Pam says:

    I loved the Mary/Matthew relationship in seasons 2+3 but it really lost it surprise factor when they married and became a bit too lovey dovey without conflict except for each demanding a kiss! I perferred Mary being a bitch and now she’s a widow let’s hope she let’s it all rip again! Matthew was sweet but his character had its time so sleep in peace Matthew and good luck in Hollywood Dan!

  13. Pam says:

    I loved the Mary/Matthew relationship in seasons 1+2 but it really lost it surprise factor when they married and became a bit too lovey dovey without conflict except for each demanding a kiss! I perferred Mary being a bitch and now she’s a widow let’s hope she let’s it all rip again! Matthew was sweet but his character had its time so sleep in peace Matthew and good luck in Hollywood Dan!

    • Jared says:

      Yes once they were married they got boring. Well boring sounds like I hated them. They were very cute but there were other storylines to pay attention to in season 3. Then they got interesting again when baby was born then obviously we all know what had to happen. I love a happily ever after but I have gotten around to the idea of another love story for Mary that I believe can be even more exciting if they write it correctly and use their brains

  14. Ken says:

    Three words why this was a mistake: Patrick Duffy Dallas.

    Three words why it wasn’t a mistake: Anything can happen

    I hate it, but it does give the show an air of….anything can happen to any character at any time, which, I think is a good thing in the long run, and the show is much, much more than the story of those two characters.

  15. adlib19 says:

    I was hoping for a Matthew Crawley re-cast to see if anyone woyld notice the difference, but the chance to watch Mary be miserable again is a clear winner. Bring on the eyebrow acting!

  16. says:

    Honestly, when it comes to Mary/Matthew…
    1. Their characters are the least interesting
    2. Their story the least compelling
    3. Their actors the least talented
    … on the show. Good riddance.

    Plus, the greatness of most BBC shows is the quality packed into the brief timeframe. The longer they let these shows go, the worse they’re gonna get.

  17. scorpo says:

    Let’s all hope that Julian Fellowes doesn’t get the ridiculous notion to write a storyline where Mary and Branson bond in their grief and single parent status to begin an affair!!!

    • Jared says:

      Omg my mom tried to suggest that storyline to me and I almost puked. Don’t get me wrong Branson had a very sweet love story with lady sibble but him and Mary are not believable. Thankfully my mom came around and realized how dumb of an idea it was. And then she tried to tell me maybe Richard Carlisle could come back into the picture and I double puked. We must strive for someone better than Matthew which is gonna be so so so hard but I think it can be done. But I think it has to be someone new and someone who (if there are more seasons after 4), doesn’t want to leave the show. I so want a happily ever after for Mary especially after the heartbreak she is about to encounter when season 4 picks up.

  18. niamh says:

    I don’t see the big deal in Britain Actors leave shows after a couple of years all the time and they go on without them. The only shows that go on forever with the same cast are soaps and they are not the same quality. Actors like to switch it up more in the UK and shows last for a few years usually so if he wants to move on let him and lets see what they do with the rest of the cast, it will be interesting?

  19. Davey says:

    Dan Stevens isn’t good looking enough? On what planet? Stevens hasn’t said he’s pursuing work just in the US. He just produced and stars in a feature film, he’s still on Broadway until March, he edits a literary magazine, he may star in a feature film about WikiLeaks and he just had a second child. I’m sad he’s leaving Downton and wished they hadn’t killed him off.

  20. liz says:

    Downton babies seem to be destined to be without a parent. Seriously

  21. Jared says:

    Anyone from the US whining that the secret is out is an idiot. I just learned of this show and quickly I figured out uk played it before the us. I made myself watch every episode in 2 days before I read what the news of Dan Stevens was bc I had seen an article on TV guide about him leaving before I was even into the show. Be resourceful and don’t wait for PBS to air it in the us…my parents were so happy when I told them I already downloaded season 3 when they thought they were gonna have to wait till jan 6 here in states for first episode. This show is fantastic though and even though mattew and Mary have in such a short time jumped onto the very top of my list of favorite period romances, I will move on knowing I can always watch their love story over again. To be honest the most exciting part of the love story is the chase. Yes I love happily ever after but I’ve come to terms that sometimes it doesn’t happen with all couples. We just must continue to watch to keep show popular so Mary can have another happily ever after. Dan Stevens grew heavily on me and I realized just how much chemistry he had with dockery but I think lady Mary can fall in love again and if the writers/producers do it right her next love story can be ever more dramatic/epic. To be honest I wish they made Matthew and Mary’s love a little more dramatic. I so loved the proposal yet I would have loved more if Matthew ran after Mary going to America or something. But you can’t beat this cast and I hate grieving but by 2nd half of season 4 I think Mary will start to feel better and hopefully a new, better suitor comes along. We will never forget Matthew, but we must move on and be positive

  22. Anonym21 says:

    Well, they should make a great plot for lady Edith if they want to regain the trust of the viewers. PLUS more stories of thomas and the guy he likes (forgot his name). HAHA!

  23. Mark says:

    I hate to say this but acting pay in America is three times higher than UK. Thus the reason why they may want to try in America. Even Pop Singers want to break into America from UK. One Direction is proof that America still reigns King as cash for artists. No pun intended.

    • bred bear says:

      the main reason I prefer british movies and tv is they value the craft of acting, not the wealth and overblown royalty that it is over hear. British shows are not afraid to kill of a character, or have intense seasons, and they are willing to end a series when the story ends, whereas here they end it when the ratings stop.
      I have yet to see a show hit season 8 and the story suffers and I stop watching. TV is a story, and good storytelling is to know when to end it. US shows don’t know when to end it, because it is $$$ first, stars second, ratings third, and story last.

  24. Mark says:

    Can I say that I do believe Thomas and Jimmy may eventually get together. It would not be the first gay man in that era to vehemently deny he is gay due to the laws.

  25. Cindy says:

    I just finished the 3rd Season Christmas special and what is there to look forward to next season? Watch all the family mourn. Why destroy the only two happily married couples in one season??? My fervor is greatly diminished. I do not like the direction the show is now taking. They could have come up with something more intriguing.

  26. Aref says:

    I think they should recast Lenny Henry in the role of

  27. Marie says:

    I am really dis appointed to see Matthew leave. It was inspiring to see a really loving and supportive couple with hopes and dreams for the future. I wish he had decided to return to the show. I don’t think any one can replace him.

  28. Bryana says:

    I feel like Mary and mathew made the show… With him gone I don’t know if I will enjoy the show with him gone

  29. hjkl says:

    This was a pretty lame reason to get rid of a character. “Because he loved Mary too much.”

  30. Elissa says:

    Well, Dan Stevens (a/k/a Matthew Crawley) was wonderful in the part he played. All of these British and Irish actors are “so well-schooled, with a lot of experience”, just viewing “this show was a treat.” I was “very upset when I realized that he was going to be killed in an auto accident”, however, once I understood how actors in Britain have only three year contracts and are paid very little money, and the fact that he didn’t want to return as he had “more aspirations and favorable roles ahead” it made “his demise less jarring.” Dan Stevens “will do very well and, hopefully, financially, too.” He has “the most beautiful light blue eyes”, and, although I don’t care “for blonde men”, he is very good-looking. All the best to him.