It's Official: Dan Stevens Confirms Downton Abbey Exit, Says 'It Was a Very Difficult Decision'

Dan Stevens Exits Downton AbbeyMany a Downton Abbey fan’s worst fear has indeed come true: Dan Stevens, as previously reported, will not be continuing on as Matthew Crawley for Season 4.

UK-based viewers who laid witness to the acclaimed period drama’s Christmas special on Tuesday night gleaned as much — and though this news story will steer clear of detailing how/why Matthew exits the canvas, be forewarned that the commenters below have free reign.

In an interview with the UK’s Telegraph, Stevens says that leaving Downton “was a very difficult decision,” though one that he made before filming on the third and final season of his contract began.  “It felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment,” he recalls. “From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things.”

Acknowledging that his role as Matthew was “a very monopolizing job,” he says “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.” Though he at the time thought he was signing on for any old period drama, he notes that as fashioned by Julian Fellowes, “Anything could happen and generally did.”

RELATED | LOL Video: Colbert Mashes Up Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad

Stevens says it was “very emotional” shooting his final episode, seeing as he and his castmates for three years now 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,” he adds. “It has been so bizarre, and only those who have been through it can understand it.”

Stevens — who is currently appearing on Broadway with Jessica Chastain and David Strathairn in The Heiress — looks forward to exploring new and different roles, though knowing how unpredictable an actor’s life can be, admits, “That may not be the case.

“I genuinely don’t know exactly what is around the corner,” he allows, “but I hope it will be something a little bit different.”

Downton Abbey Season 3 makes its Stateside premiere on Jan. 6, on PBS. (Watch a recap video of Seasons 1 and 2.)

GET MORE: Casting News, News, Spoilers