During Season 3, the show lost Jessica Brown Findlay, who played Lady Sybil and Dan Stevens, who played Downton Abbey heir Matthew Crawley.
Both actors decided to pursue other opportunities, leaving producers no other choice, except to kill their characters. Stevens’ departure left a big hole in the script. But producers are looking at it as an opportunity to inject fresh new plot lines into the Crawley family saga.
One big question is how Matthew’s death will affect his widow Lady Mary Crawley, played by Michelle Dockery. Apparently, suitors will be lining up at Downton’s door, surely giving Mr. Carson fits.Welsh stage and screen actor Tom Cullen will join the cast as Lord Gillingham, who reportedly will chase Mary’s heart. He’s described an old family friend. Then, where was he the first time around?
Gillingham is likely to face some competition from the aristocratic Charles Blake, played by Julian Ovenden, who knows all about royalty, first hand. His father, Canon John Ovenden, is chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II.The Roaring ’20s will also invade the staid Crawley family. New Zealand-born soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, 68, will be a house guest and play a singer. She’ll join a dashing new character, musician Jack Ross, who has yet to be cast.
The household will also be getting a new valet played by Nigel Harman, 39, an English actor best known for playing in the UK soap “The East Enders.”He’ll have to supply some of the drama and intrigue because of Siobhan Finneran’s departure. She played the scheming lady’s maid, Sarah O’Brien, who found herself compromised last season by John Bates (Brendan Coyle). Finneran reportedly departed the show voluntarily.
Dame Harriet Walter, 62, will join the cast as Lady Shackleton, an old friend of the Dowager Countess played by Emmy winning Maggie Smith. Who knows what those two will get into.
Joanna David, 66, will appear periodically as the Duchess of Yeovil.
“Downton Abbey” has become a huge hit in the United States and became the most-watched series on public televison since the 1990 mini-series “The Civil War,” by Ken Burns.
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