When Downton Abbey returns next Autumn it will be without its leading man Dan Stevens after the 30-year-old actor quit Julian Fellowes’ period drama to be dramatically written out last Christmas when his character, Matthew Crawley, fell victim to a rogue motor vehicle.
The fatal collision was met with outrage amongst fans, prompting ITV to issue a statement explaining to viewers the reasons behind Matthew’s “untimely and tragic” exit, which left behind his wife, Mary, and their newborn son. Meanwhile, Stevens was on the receiving end of a Twitter deluge as indignant fans demanded an explanation.
“It certainly shocked me that people were quite so vehement about it,” he told RadioTimes.com, “but it speaks well to the character and to the show that people cared so much.
“The reaction is more extreme on Twitter because Twitter is a more extreme environment and under a veil of anonymity, people say all sorts of things they wouldn’t necessarily say in the street. In the street people are very sweet and generally understand, but there’s a certain enjoyment in the heartbreak which is part of the whole experience of Downton.
“Downton wouldn’t be Downton if it wasn’t for the big twists and turns, so I guess the death of Matthew was just another one of those bombshells – I’m sure there will be more to come.”
And Stevens suggests the eldest Crawley daughter’s next love interest should probably be on his guard: “Historically, any man who becomes romantically attached with Mary has not lived to tell the tale…”
Dan’s new film Summer in February opens in UK cinemas nationwide on Friday 14 June