5. Downton‘s first OMG moment came when Matthew Crawley, the series’ dashing male lead, was killed in the season three finale. “There were a lot of very upset people demanding apologies,” Stevens told Entertainment Weekly of his decision to exit the show at the end of his three-year contract.
As for why he was ready to say goodbye to Downton, he explained, “Doing a long-running TV thing was amazing on all sorts of levels. But at the moment, it’s about seeing how I can keep myself challenged and entertained.”
6. In an interview with E! News, Fellowes stressed it was Steven’s choice to leave (and not return for an appearance in season four) that lead to the character’s sudden demise.
Noting that in America, contracts tend to be longer, “it seemed to them that the production team had just decided you know,” he continued as he made a throat-slitting motion. “But in fact, he had just gotten to the end of his three-year contract and he wanted to go on and do different stuff…We just had to make it work. Some of the letters I got made your hair stand on ends!”
7. But Matthew’s devastating death didn’t detract viewers as the season four premiere shattered ratings records, attracting 10.2 million viewers.
8. If Stevens had notified Fellowes sooner of his intention to leave the series, he said he would’ve staged fan-favorite Lady Sybil’s exit differently: “I probably would have killed them together in a car crash.”