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There’s a lovely interview with Julian Fellowes at the Radio Times, in which he explains why Dan Stevens’ exit from Downton Abbey was quite as brutal and sudden as it was.

In the U.K., the fateful episode was broadcast on Christmas Day, which rather took the shine off the 2013 festive period, especially for fans of Matthew Crawley. But as Julian reveals, had he known that Dan was planning leave earlier, that car crash could have been a hell of a lot worse, possibly bringing in Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), whose exit from the show had already been meticulously planned.

He said: “It was tough really because Jessica had said she was going to leave right from the beginning. She said, ‘I’m doing three years, then I’m leaving.’ So that was all worked out.

“But Dan only decided to leave when we were about to start filming, already written five episodes and cast them. I couldn’t do more funerals, more memorials.

“If he’d decided right at the beginning, I probably would have killed them together in a car crash.”

Here’s the full interview:

The final season of Downton Abbey starts on Sunday, January 3, 2016 on Masterpiece on PBS.

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By Fraser McAlpine