Leaving Downton Abbey wasn’t a curse for Dan Stevens

by - 15:39

He played television’s most dashingly handsome character, suitor and then husband to Lady Mary, war hero, and father of her son.

He was adored by Downton Abbey audiences the world over.

Then out of the blue, ambition got the better of him and he asked to be written out of the show.

Audiences were stunned when he was killed off in a motor car accident in one of the most talked about episodes of the series.

He sought refuge on Broadway playing opposite Jessica Chastain in The Heiress, but he was no Montgomery Clift (who played that role in the 1949 movie version).

Maybe he shouldn’t have given up his day job …

But moving to New York had its rewards, and he found steady employment in numerous independent films, none of them successful though.

Five years later Dan Stevens, 34, is a bona fide star, the lead in a hit TV series Legion and The Beast in Beauty And The Beast. The handsome star is married to singer Susie Hariet and together they have two children.

Are you still friends with the Downton cast?

Well, I see a lot of them when I go back. Allen Leech and Laura Carmichael I see a lot of, and Michelle (Dockery) I bump into around the world. Still very, very fond of the cast.

Uh-oh, we know where this is heading…

What was life like after Downton?

Well, I live in America now, and I have been enjoying a couple of years of doing all sorts of very different things, and that’s been thrilling.

How do you like living in New York?

Loving it. It’s a very exciting city to live in. I spent the past summer in upstate New York, which is very beautiful, so really enjoying it.

And you’re comfortable being a New Yorker?

For the moment it feels great. Last year, we created our first American child so, it’s been a big adventure, but it’s a collective adventure. We live in Brooklyn, which is a great city for kids; there’s very stimulating things to get involved in, art galleries and museums, so yes, it’s a very exciting place at the moment.

What do you miss most about England?

The Indian food.

Does your wife like it in New York and is she getting jobs?

At the moment, she’s a full time mother. She’s delighted with New York, and she loves Legion. She spends most of the time when I’m not at home, looking for the scripts of the new season so that she can find out what’s happening. But I’ve hidden them, hopefully well enough, that she hasn’t achieved that yet.

I understand she is from South Africa? How did you two meet?

We met in England, in a town called Sheffield. I was in a play, and she was in a musical at the time.

So it’s quite a musical household?

We like to think so, yeah, and she is getting my children interested in music now, and that’s really a beautiful thing.

And you also play the violin?

I had to play the violin for a role on stage at The National Theatre in London, and I only got the audition because I told them I could play the violin, but I hadn’t really played for a while. As a kid I used to play, but not very well.

dan stevens

You might have a hit record with your version of Evermore from Beauty And The Beast. How long have you been singing?

It’s not something I’ve done a huge amount of professionally. I’m very lucky that my wife, in one of her many incarnations, was a singing teacher; so she coached me for the audition, and she obviously did quite a good job. But I worked with a fantastic voice coach from the Royal Academy of Music and really enjoyed that.

Dropping out of Downton was a huge risk. At the time did you have your doubts?

There was certainly a moment where I did. But it was a decision that I felt I had to make. It felt like time to move on, and sometimes those crazy decisions are the best ones really, although on paper it did look quite mad.

My wife was pregnant with our second child, and I was busy with all sorts of other things, and I turned to her and said, “I think I am going to give up this steady job on the show and go and do something else,” although I didn’t know what that was at that point.

But then the opportunity to do The Heiress came along, and while I was doing that, Scott Frank came and saw the play and offered me A Walk Around The Tombstones, and that led to The Guest, which led to other things, and so I haven’t looked back since then really.

There must have been some backlash?

There were some very upset people, which I had to take as a compliment to my character Matthew, who was so loved on that show. Obviously, the way he went was rather shocking, which was out of my hands, and I think that it did upset people.

And I had to apologise to lots of people in the months and years after that, and I am still apologising to people now.

Your weight has fluctuated in the many projects you’ve done stateside?

You’re right. For Walk Among The Tombstones, I lost 30lbs (13kg). They wanted a very wiry kind of look for that, but then for The Guest, I put it all back on again.

Yeah, I have been going through all sorts of different physical transformations in the past couple of years. I haven’t stayed in quite the same shape as I did for The Guest because it’s very hard to maintain that kind of physique

How did you lose the weight?

I stopped eating lots of bad things and started eating good things. Pretty much that. Just a strict diet.

dan stevens

What are your future dreams?

I’d like to do a lot of different films. I have been enjoying exploring film, and I hope to continue to do that. But that said, I would like to do a play again in the next couple of years.

I learn so much every time I do a play and that feeds back into all my other work.

Is there an actor that inspires you?

I don’t know if I have one specific role model, but I have always admired Mark Rylance.

What difference do you notice being on set in England compared to Hollywood?

American craft services. It beats the high clear biscuit tin for sure. But yes, there are very fundamentally different things going on.

One was a story of a house in England in the beginning of the 20th century and the other is a tale of mental disorder and a young man in a fictional universe. So there are not really huge amounts of intersection between the two. I think Legion is more challenging, the demands in that role and the breadth of things that we encompass in the whole season is some of the most challenging work I have ever done.

Are you a romantic by nature?

I suppose I enjoy romance, doesn’t everybody? Shouldn’t everybody?

Do you remember your first kiss?

No, I don’t think I do. Gosh. I have to go home and think about that now.

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