It’s been almost six months since that fateful Christmas Day when Julian Fellowes shocked the nation and killed off Matthew Crawley in the Downton Abbey Christmas special, but still it’s being talked about. The latest person to address the controversy is Matthew himself, Dan Stevens.
Speaking to Radio Times, Stevens apologised for Matthew’s death saying, “I am sorry about that!” Though he really had no say in how his character was to leave the hit ITV period drama, his shocking exit has resulted in a number of people associated with the series having to justify the decision.
Looking back on the fan reaction, Stevens believes that there’s a lesson to be learnt about Christmas specials: “I think what emerged is that it’s an unwritten rule that you’re not supposed to die on British television on Christmas Day, and that, specifically, was not my doing.” Stevens went on to stress his lack of involvement in the storyline adding: “I didn’t have any say in the manner in which he went. Ultimately, it was in the hands of Julian and the producers.”
He also admits that the cast themselves were kept in the dark about his character’s future and revealed some of the wild theories they threw around: “We didn’t see the script until the very last minute, so we didn’t know exactly how they were going to do it. There was a bit of a sweepstake going on and all sorts of speculation like, would he be gored by a stag in the Highlands? Or was some masonry going to fall from a parapet and hit him on the head?” Ultimately it was nothing as dramatic as any of those, just a car crash on the way home from the hospital following the birth of his son, and heir, that brought about the end of Matthew Crawley.
Fellowes justification behind Matthew’s demise was that after three seasons building up the Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew relationship, it would have been impossible for him to exit any other way. Stevens agrees with Fellowes reasoning and that anything else would have been out of character for the devoted and loving Matthew. “It was right that he didn’t run off and have an affair with somebody. I don’t think that would have been right for Matthew as a character.”
This week’s Radio Times with the full interview with Dan Stevens is on sale now. Season 4 of Downton Abbey has already begun filming and you can check out some photos from Matthew’s funeral. The series returns to ITV later this year.