Why Did Dan Stevens Leave ‘Downton Abbey’?

Celebrity Q&A, Featured Article
on June 5, 2013
Downton Abbey. Series Two.
Multiple Emmy® winner (including Best Miniseries!) Downton Abbey resumes the story of aristocrats and servants in the tumultuous World War I era. The international hit is written by Julian Fellowes and stars Dame Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville, plus a drawing room full of new actors, portraying the loves, feuds, and sacrifices of a glittering culture thrown into crisis. Downton Abbey Season 2 - Episode 1 January 8, 2012 at 9pm ET on PBS Matthew and Mary take up the cause for England as World War I rages. Shown from L-R: Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Credit: (C) 2011 Nick Briggs/ITV for MASTERPIECE Usage: This image may be used only in the direct promotion of MASTERPIECE CLASSIC. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved. Editorial use only. Dan Stevens

Would you provide some information about Dan Stevens, who was Matthew Crawley on “Downton Abbey”? Why did he leave the show?
—Kay Collins, Forest City, N.C.

Unlike American actors, who sign long-term contracts [five to seven years] when they agree to star in a TV series, British actors are not asked to make such a long-term commitment. So at the end of the third season of “Downton Abbey,” Stevens, 30, was contractually free to leave the show.

“We were always optioned for three years,” he said at the time. “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. It’s a very monopolizing job. So there’s 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.”

Since wrapping his role as Matthew Crawley, Stevens debuted on Broadway in “The Heiress,” and began filming “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” for which he has darkened his blond hair. He also stars and is a producer on the film, “Summer in February,” which is being released this week in the U.K.

Stevens was born and raised in Croydon, London, England. He was adopted at birth and also has a younger brother who was adopted. His parents are teachers. He attended Tonbridge school, a private boarding school, where his interest in acting was sparked, as well as studying the craft at the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. He went on to read English literature at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he also performed in several school productions.

Mainly a theater actor prior to “Downton Abbey,” his roles in plays include “Macbeth,” “As You Like It,” “Hay Fever” and “The Vortex,” but he was best known in the U.K. for his part in the TV miniseries “The Line of Beauty” and “Sense and Sensibility.”

His first acting job for American television was in the 2004 Hallmark production of “Frankenstein,” which he filmed on a break from Cambridge.

Stevens is married to South African jazz vocalist teacher Susie Hariet, with whom he has a daughter, Willow, 3½, and a son, Aubrey, 1.