Still reeling over Downton Abbey’s heartbreaking third season finale? If so, you may take comfort in knowing that the man who – spoiler alert! – killed Matthew Crawley may exit Downton’s grounds after season 4 if NBC picks up his nascent period drama Gilded Age.
The key word there is “may.” Nothing is certain yet, not least because Gilded Age is still little more than a twinkle in the Downton creator’s eye. “You have to write the pilot, they have to decide they’re going to make it, they have to decide whether they want to pick it up. So it’s a line of ditches that lies between me and the series,” he explained to the New York Times in an interview this week.
But if Gilded Age does make it onto NBC’s fall schedule, Fellowes continued, “I would not be able to write all of Downton and all of that series at the same time. I would hope that by the time all the hurdles have been cleared, the timing makes it so I can then concentrate on the new series. And if Downton goes on – of course that’s not my decision – then it would be with other writers. Perhaps with me supervising, but with other writers.”
Fellowes leaving his creation entirely or even dialing back his involvement in Downton would mean an enormous shift for the show, which has been penned almost exclusively by Fellowes for its entire run. (Of the series’s 25 episodes, only two feature co-writing credits for writers other than Fellowes, and both of those installments aired during Downton’s first season.)
Still, he may have no choice if NBC does move forward with the new series. “The only thing is, I know I would not be able to write 11 hours of Downton and 10 hours of The Gilded Age, or whatever it is, side by side,” Fellowes told the Times. Later, he added these possibly prescient words: “The business of life is learning that you can’t lay down the terms. My own belief is that these things have a life. And one of the tricks is to recognize when it’s time to come to an end.” Fellowes hasn’t yet responded to EW’s request for comment.