Julian Fellowes has said he will not cast another actor in the role of Matthew Crawley if rumours that actor Dan Stevens is leaving Downton Abbey before the end of series four are true.
Creator Julian Fellowes told The Telegraph: “I don’t think it’s ever going to be right to recast a different actor for the same character in Downton. You can do it with something like Sherlock Holmes and Watson, as they are very established and iconic, and many people have played them, so you have a kind of freedom. But, in a series like Downton, it wouldn’t be right.
“You want viewers to think that it is kind of real, and changing actor would be like saying, 'Hey, guys, it is not real at all’, and lose the show some of its authenticity.”
The Oscar-winning screenwriter added: “Actors leave – and of course I can’t control that – but new characters and plotlines will weather such changes best.”
A spokesman for the ITV programme declined to say whether Stevens has undergone a change of heart since he said he would leave in October. His role as the heir to the Earl of Grantham and the saviour of the estate’s finances would make his departure problematic for Fellowes.
Filming of the new series of Downton Abbey is due to start in February 2013.