“Downton Abbey” returns this weekend to PBS with its fourth season and executive producer Gareth Neame tells Zap2it that while Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is a young and desirable woman, she is still very much in mourning for Matthew (Dan Stevens) and won’t be turning her eyes to any new men — not at first, anyway.
“Mary is not looking for any suitors whatsoever when the season begins,” says Neame. “She is in a living death because of the tragedy of her loss and that’s not something she’s going to recover from any time soon. We’ve just got to see how she’s doing when we return to Downton several months after the death. Really she can’t do anything.”
“But that’s what defines our show — it is the tears and the joy that make up a life,” he adds.
In the wake of Matthew’s death and also the passing of Mary’s sister Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), perhaps Mary and sister Edith (Laura Carmichael) will start to get on a little better, after considerable friction in the past? But Neame says don’t hold your breath.
“They’re always going to have the friction. Maybe they will grow out of it, to a degree. But I always think with siblings that didn’t get on in childhood, there’s always a sort of residual tension,” says Neame. “We think it makes for an interesting dynamic for those two characters that they aren’t really great friends. They love each other as sisters, but there’s an awful lot they don’t have in common.”
“Mary, particularly, I don’t think she necessarily believes that she has to like Edith,” he adds “even though she loves her as her sister. But I don’t think she thinks she has to like her, too.”
But don’t think that Mary and Edith are the only young women left at Downton. Lady Rose (Lily James), niece to the Dowager Countess, is coming to live at the estate — and the Crawley family is not ready for such a “wild child” of the 1920s.
“Rose is a free spirit,” laughs Neame. “She’s really the character who catapults us into the 1920s, this modern age. We’re going to see jazz play a part, and dancing, and all these things we’ve never seen before. She’s the big party girl, she’s the rebel. Her going to a dance club is quite rebellious and modern.”
“Downton Abbey” Season 4 premieres Sunday, Jan. 5 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS.