Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens has recently opened up about why he left the successful series before its conclusion. Downton Abbey created by Julian Fellowes is set in the early 20th century and tells the story of the aristocratic Crawley family and their numerous servants who live downstairs. The series ran until season 6 between 2010 and 2015 and along the way amassed a huge fan base as well as many accolades including 15 Primetime Emmys. The viewership of Downton Abbey has continued to grow in the years since the series conclusion especially with the release of the Downton Abbey movie in 2019. A sequel film Downton Abbey A New Era is scheduled to hit theatres on May 20.
Given Downton Abbeys huge success it may be difficult to imagine any actor wanting to leave the series early. However Stevens did just that after Downton Abbey season 3. At the time fans had watched for nearly three years as Matthew and Lady Mary Michelle Dockery had navigated their will they/wont they relationship only to finally get married at the beginning of season 3. It was hardly the payoff fans were looking for when in the final moments of the Downton Abbey season 3 finale only minutes after Mary had given birth to their son Matthew is killed in a car accident. However Matthews death was not originally part of the Downton Abbey storyline but a necessary plot point after Stevens decision to leave the role.
In a recent interview with The Guardian Stevens explained why he decided to leave a lead role on a such a successful series. According to Stevens his departure was due to having creative itches left unscratched. Stevens explained that he initially signed on to Downton Abbey up to season 3 and when the contract was up felt an urge to explore different roles and genres. While Stevens admits that many people thought he was mad for exiting the show the actor was excited to enter the great unknown of his career. Ultimately the decision to leave Downton Abbey and take a risk worked out well for Stevens. The 39 year old actor has landed numerous major roles in both film and television in the years since his departure from the series perhaps most famously playing The Beast in Disneys live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson. Currently Stevens stars alongside Julia Roberts and Sean Penn in the series Gaslit which is a retelling of the Watergate scandal.
Stevens exit while surprising makes sense in retrospect. Before Downton Abbey the actor was largely known for his period drama roles but has since had the opportunity to expand well beyond this niche genre and take on a varied selection of parts. While Downton Abbey fans were certainly saddened that they never saw Mary and Matthew get their happily ever after perhaps Stevens departure was for a greater cause. The actor truly seems happy in his career and grateful for the exposure that playing the beloved Matthew Crawley gave him. Of course viewers can still return to the early seasons of Downton Abbey to see Stevens in the part but the Crawley familys journey will continue when Downton Abbey A New Era releases next month.