Quite a few former Downton Abbey cast members won’t be making an appearance in the upcoming movie adaptation for various reasons, but perhaps the biggest absence is Lily James, who played Lady Rose in the ITV period drama before finding stardom on the big screen in films like Mamma Mia: Here We Again.
And according to series bosses Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame, that success is essentially the reason why they didn’t bring her back at all for the Downton Abbey movie – basically, they felt like she’d moved on a bit from the Crawleys and would have too much on.
“She can’t be [in it]; she’s in every other film at the world at the moment,” executive producer Neame joked to Entertainment Weekly.
“Lily is now a big star, and it would’ve been incredibly difficult for her to find time in her schedule to come and play essentially a supporting role in Downton when her career was in a different place when she was with us,” added creator and writer Fellowes.
“In the end, we all felt it was better to leave her in America.”
As the pair went on to explain, James’ relative absence in the last episodes of Downton also influenced the move, with the team keen to focus on their core characters rather than those whose storylines may have come to a natural conclusion anyway.
“Technically, she was only a recurring character in the final season,” Neame explained.
“She came in and made some visits in a couple of episodes, but her story ended at the end of the fifth season when she went off to America.
“We knew we had to focus on the very core characters because there are not very many movies with 20 leading characters, and the dynamic of the TV series was that all these characters were treated equally,” he continued
“That’s one thing when you’ve got 10 or 11 hours of TV drama; another thing when it’s a two-hour movie. We had to be quite disciplined about focusing on the really central characters.”
Still, never say never. James has said in the past few months that she would have “loved to come back for a scene,” and Fellowes said that the team were very proud of her success post-Downton.
“She’s our greatest success story from the cast of the show,” Fellowes said.
And if Matthew Goode can squeeze in a cameo, who’s to say Lady Rose couldn’t find something to do, even if it was just for a brief visit…
The Downton Abbey movie will be released in September 2019