As VisionTV continues its back-to-back airings of Downton Abbey’s first three seasons, we’re looking back on the paths that the period drama’s most captivating characters have charted over the years, as well as the recent movements of the actors who bring them to life. Last week, we started off with Michelle Dockery, who’s subtle yet moving portrayal of Lady Mary Crawley over the past three seasons rests at the centre of the show’s most pivotal storylines. It makes sense, then, to shift our gaze to her beloved, and recently deceased husband, Matthew Crawley, and the many projects that actor Dan Stevens has taken on since the tragic farewell to Downton’s heir.
After years of hesitant speculation, most viewers were relieved to see the romantic undertones to Mary and Matthew’s relationship finally realized when the pair married in Season Three. However, their happiness was to be short-lived. In a move that has since sparked an impassioned response from Downton Abbey fans, the birth of their first child was swiftly followed by a car accident resulting in Matthew’s unexpected death. Capping a season that saw the loss of other central characters, Stevens’ decision to leave the show, and the jarring conclusion to his character’s story, were difficult for many to accept.
Fortunately, when one door closes, another one opens, and Stevens’ varied roles post-Downton lend credibility to the saying. Last year saw Stevens make the jump from the small screen into film (and, oddly enough, Broadway), with an appearance in the much-hyped Wiki-leaks drama, The Fifth Estate. This year will see him further cementing his place on the big screen, with three films slated for release in the coming months.
Now living in New York City, he was on hand at the Sundance Film Festival this week, promoting the first of his 2014 films, The Guest. The psychological action-thriller casts Stevens as an enigmatic ex-Marine, whose appearance at the home of a fallen comrade’s family takes a sinister turn. Then, in a lighter (yet no less entertaining) setting, we’ll see him teamed with Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman and Steve Buscemi in the upcoming comedy drama, The Cobbler.
As if those weren’t a departure from his previous life as the future Earl of Grantham, this fall will also see the release of A Walk Among the Tombstones, with Stevens appearing opposite Liam Neeson as a drug kingpin who enlists the help of an NYPD officer in a search for his kidnapped wife. Interestingly, the film will be the second in which a Downton-star appears with Neeson in an action film, following up Michelle Dockery’s turn in February’s Non-Stop. Audiences can also look forward to the third installment of the A Night at the Museum series, which is scheduled to start shooting in London with Stevens in the role of Sir Lancelot.
And, for viewers still longing for a reminder of his stint as Matthew Crawley, the period piece Summer in February places him back in the picturesque landscapes of Edwardian England, and is enjoying a North American release (and on-demand availability) seven months after its initial premiere in the U.K. Beyond that, however, it looks like Dan Stevens’ latest projects will have him charting new and exciting territory, and although he’ll be missed on the sprawling grounds of Downton, we’ll be looking forward to seeing what his next move will be.
– Kate Shepherd