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Downton Abbey will never be the same: Deadline reports that Dan Stevens, who plays the romantic lead Matthew Crawley, will not be returning for a fourth season. The news isn't totally surprising. It had long been rumored that the third season might be the last for Stevens, who is currently starring on Broadway with Jessica Chastain in The Heiress and was a judge for the Man Booker prize.

Now of course nothing will change for American audiences for a while, save for those rule-breaking Yankees who turned to lawlessness because they just couldn't wait: the third season begins airing on this side of the pond January 6. Meanwhile British viewers learned how the series handles Stevens' exit in the Christmas special. That exit is spoiled in the interview Stevens gave to the Telegraph about the reason for his departure. Click through if you want to know Crawley's fate, but know that Stevens has long had one foot out the door:

In fact, he made the decision in February before he even started filming the third series. “We were always optioned for three years,” he explains. “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 is a very monopolising job. So there is 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.”

We at the Atlantic Wire have been law-abiding Downton fans and eagerly await the PBS premiere of the series. Alas, that means we cannot speculate as to what Stevens's departure means for Matthew Crawley's love, Lady Mary. We had just hoped things would work out for those two.

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