8:28am PT by THR staff
Dan Stevens Talks 'Downton Abbey' Christmas Special
SPOILER ALERT: if you haven't seen the latest installment of Downtown Abbey, do not read any further. We repeat: SPOILER ALERT.
Now that the fate of his Downton Abbey alter ego has been delivered, Dan Stevens is facing his future off of the PBS cultural phenomenon.
"We were always optioned for three years," Stevens tells the Telegraph of deciding last February to leave the series, which unveils its third season in the U.S. on Jan. 6.
"And when that came up it was a very difficult decision. But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things."
Stevens stars opposite Jessica Chastain in The Heiress on Broadway until February; his Downton character, Matthew Crawley, made his final appearance in the Christmas special that aired Tuesday in the U.K.
"It is a very monopolising job. So there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be," he observes.
Stevens says he'll miss Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) because "after everything we have been through it will be sad not to see the relationship continue."
But, "On the other hand, I won’t be sorry to see the back of that dining room. It may have held some of the key plot points, but it is just a nightmare to shoot in. There are so many angles and edits and it gets very airless and stuffy – and it is blacked out so even at 10 in the morning we are in the dark," he notes.
Earlier this month, Downton executive producer Gareth Neame downplayed rumors of Stevens' exit from the show, saying fans' concern might be much ado about nothing.
"There's been so much speculation about this cast," Neame told The Hollywood Reporter, reacting to its three Golden Globe nominations. "The thing with the show is, because we don't make a long run -- we shoot about 11 hours of TV a year -- our actors have the opportunity to go and do other work."