Gareth Neame, the executive producer of "Downton Abbey," says that the shocking exit of Dan Stevens at the end of last year's third season turned out to be a great opportunity for new storylines in the recently concluded fourth season. During our recent webcam chat (watch below), he readly acknowledged that he had been worried as Matthew (Stevens) and Mary (Michelle Dockery) had been "the heart of the show."
However, the death of Stevens' character meant that the focus could shift to the grieving widow who "is going to rebuild her life; that becomes the spine of the fourth season." And, he adds, "it gave us a great new impetus for romance which is true to the heart of the show."
--One of the other key plots this season was the sexual assualt of Mary's maid Anna (Joanne Froggatt) at the hands of a visiting valet. This storyline ignited a firestorm in the British media. While the motives of the media may have been suspect, Neame understands why viewers were so shocked: "We perpetrated a terrible thing on probably the most beloved character, the most warm-hearted."
While "Downton" has set a record at the Emmys for most nominations for a non-American show, it has been snubbed at the BAFTAs for two years running. Neame, the fourth generation of his family to work in showbiz, explained that these kudos are focused on bringing to the forefront shows that need attention. And with sky-high ratings in the UK (upwards of a 40 share), "Downton" does not fall into that camp.
Will "Downton Abbey" win Best Drama Series at this year's Emmys? After watching the webcam chat below, vote using our easy drag-and-drop menu.