Bluestone 42 actor Gary Carr has been cast as Downton Abbey’s first black character. He will appear in series four of Julian Fellowes’ ITV1 period drama as jazz singer Jack Ross.
Described as “a charming and charismatic young man”, Carr’s character will be singer at an exclusive club in the 1920s.
Fellowes revealed last year that he was planning to introduce a black or Indian character to “open the show up ethically”.
Carr's addition to the cast "will bring interesting twists to the drama which we can’t wait for viewers to see in series four," said Carnival Films’ managing director Gareth Neame .
He is one of several new cast members to join the drama. One of the new characters, Tom Cullen, will play a new love interest for Lady Mary Crawley called Lord Anthony Gillingham. Julian Ovenden will play another young and handsome aristocrat; Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will play an opera singer employed to perform at a party to help cheer up Lady Mary; Dame Harriet Walter is set to play an old school pal of the Dowager Countess called Lady Shackleton; and Joanna David will make a guest appearance as the Duchess of Yeovil.
Downstairs the servants will see the introduction of a charismatic new valet, Green, with shady credentials to rival even Thomas Barrow’s, played by former EastEnders actor Nigel Harmon. There will also be the introduction of a new nanny to help single parents Tom and Mary but casting details are yet to be revealed.
Series three and the Downton Abbey Christmas special saw the shocking deaths of two major characters: Lady Sybil, who died in childbirth; and Lady Mary’s husband Matthew Crawley, who died in a car crash following the birth of his first child.
In an interview with the New York Times blogs the show’s creator Fellowes explained the motivation for the deaths of Matthew, played by Dan Stevens, and Jessica Brown Findlay’s character Lady Sybil, who died in childbirth in series three.
“With members of the family, once they’re not prepared to come back for any episodes at all, then it means death. How believable would it be that Matthew never wanted to see the baby, never wanted to see his wife? And was never seen again at the estate that he was the heir to? So we didn’t have any option, really. I was as sorry as everyone else.”
The new eight-part series and Christmas special will see the return of Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson alongside series regulars Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Jim Carter.
Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith, revealed in a recent interview that “everyone is feeling a little blue” at the start of series 4, which perhaps explains the introduction of so many new characters. The roaring Twenties provides an opportunity for Fellowes to shake off some of the formality of the series with the influx of new music, style and post-war freedom.
Whatever will the Dowager Countess make of all this change?