The end of Downton Abbey press conference as it happened

Producer Gareth Neame is answering questions after it was announced that series 6 will be the last for the ITV mega drama

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All good things must come to an end… and now we know that Downton Abbey is one of them.

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An official statement released this afternoon reveals audiences will bid farewell to the Crawleys and their servants with a final Christmas special broadcast this December.

Executive producer Gareth Neame is currently answering questions live on the end of the ITV period drama mega hit… here’s the highlights of what he’s saying:

Why now?

“It’s good to quit while you’re ahead. The scripts that we’re working on for upcoming season are fantastic. The show is so popular globally.”

“The danger is to let these go on forever… to run on ten years. It’s more important to us to make a perfectly formed show that we bring to an end when we think the time is right – not feel there was any drop off, that we outstayed our welcome.”

“We still have lots we want to say in this new season, we’ve just made this decision – it’s one that’s been made with Julian Fellowes, me and the cast. We just really think this is the time.”

A joint decision?

“I would say that if Julian wanted out of the show, I wouldn’t be inclined to keep it alive without Julian – he’s created all of those characters, it’s been a fantastic partnership.”

“It isn’t Julian wanting out to work on other things, it really isn’t.”

Can’t you just go on and on?

“It would be easy to go on for another year, but it doesn’t feel right for any of us.”

Will there be a spin-off?

“We don’t have any firm plans for any spin-offs. There are so many different routes you could go down, but we don’t have any plans at the moment I’m afraid.”

Is ITV behind the decision to end the series?

“This is absolutely not ITV calling time or PBS in the US. They’ve both been brilliant broadcasters, utterly supportive of the show. They would obviously like it to carry on – I don’t think it’s unfair for me to say that. There hasn’t been pressure. It would be wrong for me to say ITV wouldn’t want it to continue – why would they not? It’s been a tremendously important show for these broadcasters. There’s been no pressure to act in a certain way.

“The main reasons that the show has been so successful is that the original vision that Julian and I had all those years back and the integrity of the writing – it has been about integrity about the initial concept. It has never been about trying to pile them high, how to mechanise Downton Abbey.”

Will the structure be the same as previous series?

“The structure will be the same: 11 hours, 9 episodes, the finale will be on Christmas Day.” 

What can we expect from series six?

“I think it will make the sixth season the most satisfying of them all. We can promise all of the things people love about the show – the drama, the romance – with the extra thing about what’s going to happen at the end.”

Do you regret any of the characters’ deaths?

“I don’t regret any of them. It allowed the show to veer off in directions people wouldn’t expect. Made the show edgier. It gave us dramatic rocket fuel. In a way, the best thing that happened to the story was that Mary was a widow and had to rebuild her life again.”

Will there be a Downton Abbey movie?

“We’d be very interested in that. It’s definitely something we’re contemplating. It would be great fun to do – a great extension of what everyone loves about the show. It would take a lot of planning – we shall see. We haven’t made any plans for the show, but it is something Julian and I would be very interested to do if we can get all of our ducks in a row.”

How about a spin-off?

“No plans for a spin-off, but I couldn’t rule it out […] we don’t have any firm plans for any spin-offs. There are so many different routes you could go down, but we don’t have any plans at the moment I’m afraid.”

How did the cast take the news?

“Because we’ve all been involved in coming to this decision – there hasn’t been a day to announce it to the cast. It’s a process of many conversations that have gone on over a long period of time. It’s really been a process of discussion internally. But I think today will be a day of mixed emotions from people. The cast are excited to move on and see what’s next, we all are. But that’s tinged very much with sadness as we thoroughly enjoy making the show.”

Has the decision been influenced by cast members not wanting to continue?

“Maggie has been saying every single year I don’t think I can do next year and I’m going to be 105 years old. Every year there’s been speculation she wouldn’t be in the show. We work as a team, the cast and the producers. We’ve decided that the time is right. It’s not that 50% of the cast wouldn’t do their contracts and so it had to come to an end. It’s much more collaborative than that.”

Will all characters return for the final season?

“All characters will be in final season.”

Will series six be set at Downton?

“The show is called Downton Abbey and Downton Abbey will always be the centre of it.”

You said you’re announcing a new project next week, is it another ITV Sunday night drama?

“Right on the heels, I wish we were doing another ITV 20-episode phenomenon, but that isn’t what we are announcing next week – maybe again one day.”

Do you regret any of the storylines?

“I haven’t regretted embarking on any storylines. While we didn’t want Dan Stevens to leave, I can’t imagine the show now had he stayed. Favourite storylines? It’s so jolly difficult. There are just so many when you start to look through. Whether it’s the birth of Sybil’s child and her instant death and how that brought her parents together in grief. Whether it’s Mr Carson’s elation when he hears Mrs Hudson isn’t ill…” 

Is there a dream storyline you never got to do? An alien invasion or something of the sort..?

“If you could have House of Cards’ Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright invited to dinner and some people from Game of Thrones… probably ones that don’t use knives and forks. They would have to be ripping off hunks of meat in front of the Dowager…

“Everyone knows there have been so many spoofs of this show it’s just been limitless really.”

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