Downton Abbey is “almost like watching a horror movie that scares you and stimulates your senses”

Ahead of series four, producer Gareth Neame says shocking deaths of Lady Sybil and Matthew Crawley are "what we go for"

Downton Abbey’s producer Gareth Neame has likened the hit ITV period drama to a horror film, saying: “It’s almost like watching a horror movie that scares you and stimulates your senses but you come back for more and you enjoy it.”


The comparison is certainly one that fans of core characters Matthew Crawley and Lady Sybil will agree with, after they both met shocking and gruesome ends during the last series.

Speaking at yesterday’s series four launch, Neame opened up about the decision to kill the stars off in the way they did, saying: “Shocking as all off that was, those big life and death situations will happen to any family from time to time and in a drama that’s what we go for… These moments are the stuff of this kind of drama.  Although it is very romantic and it is hopefully laugh-out-loud funny at times and it’s got big, sweeping, dramatic stories, it is about those big twists and turns and surprises.”

“I’m conscious of about 8, 10, 12 million Christmas days having been brought to a sudden and abrupt end,” he said, referencing the surprise ending of the festive special, which saw Matthew Crawley perish at the wheel of his car moments after meeting his first born son. “But I think we’d be pretty shocked if there hadn’t been a lot of noise about that. It was the whole circumstance. At least with the death of Sybil… the episode was about this very complicated delivery, so you had a sense that something might be happening.

“We did a complete reverse trick to that in the last episode,” he continued, “where we almost indulged ourselves in the highest moment of happiness that Matthew and Mary ever had and then, after what was actually a relatively light episode with that holiday in Scotland, suddenly there’s the sting in the tail.”

“We are seeing a return to this must-see, in-the-moment drama. Those kind of episodes are really what we have to protect and cherish to keep the stakes as they are, to keep this as a show that everyone has to watch.”


Downton Abbey returns to ITV this autumn for an eight-part series and a Christmas special