Daniel Day-Lewis: ‘Downton Abbey’ is ‘Why I Left England’

Daniel Day-Lewis at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards on Monday. (Kristina Bumphrey, Starpix/AP Images)

Nearly eight million viewers tuned into PBS on Sunday night to see the premiere of Downton Abbey’s third season, but Oscar nominee Daniel Day-Lewis wasn’t one of them.

When asked the next night if he had watched Lady Mary and Matthew wed, the British actor half-sneeringly, half-laughingly said, “Are you kidding? “That [sort of thing] is why I left England!”

Day-Lewis made his comment at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in Manhattan last Monday evening to Roger Friedman, an entertainment journalist at the Showbiz 411 web site. Day-Lewis was there to pick up a Best Actor award for his presidential performance in Lincoln, for which he received an Oscar nomination this morning.

Even if Day-Lewis wasn’t watching, some 7.9 million viewers did catch the opening episode of the new season of the British period drama, setting a viewership record for PBS. The network said that number is four times as many viewers as tune in for the average PBS primetime show and nearly doubled the figure for last year’s first episode of Downton, which attracted 4.2 million viewers.

And if that doesn’t impress you, PBS wants it known that Downton’s premiere prompted some 100,000 Twitter aficionados to take to their laptops, tablets and smart phones to tweet about it.

This coming Sunday night, Downton fans may be hard pressed in deciding whether to watch the second episode or, in a competing time slot, the Golden Globe awards, where Downton is up for three awards, including Best Drama Series.