mary-matthew-downton-abbey-season-3-dan-stevens-michelle-dockery.jpgThere’s always drama on screen in the Emmy-winning British series “Downton Abbey,” but now there’s trouble off screen as well. Romantic lead Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, has reportedly opted to leave the show in Season 4, despite his character’s prominent role in the story.

“Sometimes actors feel they want to move on. Initially, for the first two or three [seasons] you can contract them, but after that, every season, you have to re-contract them,” “Downton” creator Julian Fellowes tells Entertainment Weekly. “If they don’t want to come back, there’s nothing we can do.”

Boo! “Downton” just wouldn’t be the same without Matthew, especially considering the twists and turns in his relationship with Mary (Michelle Dockery) throughout Season 3, which already aired in the U.K. and begins airing in the U.S. Jan. 6 on PBS.

At least Fellowes realizes that re-casting the role would simply be too much: “I can’t see us doing that,” he tells EW.

Season 4 of “Downton” won’t begin filming until February of next year, so Stevens has until then to change his mind. Rumors were also swirling over the summer that Emmy-winning scene stealer Maggie Smith may also depart the series, but there’s been no further developments on that.

Whatever the case, Fellowes is moving forward with plans for Season 4. As he tells EW: “I think we’ll go on jogging quite happily through the 20s. You know there’s always a little time jump [between seasons]. We did two years between [seasons] 1 and 2 because we only wanted to spend two years in the war so we had to start halfway through the war. Now we don’t have those imperatives. Sometimes you just have a few months so that there can be a few things that have happened in between that you can refer to, and have a slightly back-story for one or another character, but we don’t have the same imperative to leap forward.”

Posted by:gberkshire