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Following the news that Downton Abbey will be drawing to a close after its upcoming sixth season, the series executive producer and managing director of the show’s production company Carnival Films, Gareth Neame, has said that he didn’t want it to run out of steam.
“Our feeling is that it’s good to quit while you’re ahead,” he said in a press conference. “The show is so popular globally, that there’s a danger to let them go for eight, nine, 10 years. It’s more important to us to make a perfectly formed show that is brought to end when the time is right. We don’t feel we’ve outstayed our welcome.”
Neame claimed that the decision to end the Emmy-winning series, now shown in more than 250 territories, was one made by him, writer and creator Julian Fellowes and the cast. But while he denied that there had been any “heavy pressure” from PBS or U.K. broadcaster ITV to keep Downton Abbey going, he admitted that they “would obviously like the show to continue as long as possible.”
With Downton having served as a springboard for several of its cast, most recently Lily James‘ lead role in Disney’s box-office smash Cinderella, Neame suggested that the lure of Hollywood could have proved an issue had the show continued.
“If we had gone on for three more years, we might have found ourselves in the position where half of the actors wanted to stay in the show and half didn‘t,” he later told The Hollywood Reporter. “One of the difficulties in a show about a family as opposed to a show set in a police station or hospital is that employees can come and go, but family members can only leave through death or divorce. So it was very important that we retained the family ensemble together, and I think if we’d gone on for years and some people had gone and some people hadn’t, it wouldn’t have felt right.”
Regarding possible spinoffs, he said that there were “no plans,” although it couldn’t be ruled out. But he offered more optimism regarding the possibility of a Downton feature film.
“We would be interested. It’s something that Julian and I have been contemplating and would be a wonderful extension,” he said. “But it would be wrong to say there are any plans. There is nothing firmly in place.”
Once filming of Downton‘s final season has finished, Neame said they might be able to start thinking about how a movie adaptation might work.
“I’d watch it. We could put the Dowager in Fast & Furious 8,” he joked. “We’ll see, there are all sorts of ideas. I’m not worried, I think we will find an amazing story for a Downton movie, but that is all for the future.”
Neame also explained to THR how Downton had transformed U.K.-based production house Carnival Films, which was acquired by NBCUniversal in 2008.
“We’re a very different company from what we were six years ago. We’re now part of a Hollywood studio, and that means we’re a totally different business from what we were. But this is the most successful show that we’ve ever made and a game-changer for the individuals involved and a game-changer for the company,” he said.
“In the English-language television environment, we are all now in the hit business, it’s the hits that count. There was a time when to make this show with a reasonable audience was a nice little business to be in, but now it’s about trying to find the hits, and it’s been a wonderful wave to surf on when it happens.”
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