By Edward Davis | The Playlist March 3, 2013 at 10:21AM
People are dropping like flies on PBS' popular period drama, "Downton Abbey." At the end of season 3 (massive spoiler alert if you haven't gone this far yet), Dan Stevens' character Matthew Crawley died in a tragic (and rather ridiculous) car accident just moments after his first son was born (he was seemingly so elated he was driving while pleasantly looking up at the clouds without a care in the world). The reason for this hasty writing-him-out of-the-turn was because Stevens, appearing next in the WikiLeaks drama "The Fifth Estate," evidently feels like Hollywood is calling and he better strike while the iron is hot.
This strange turn is going to put the increasingly-soap opera-ish "Downton Abbey" in a very awkward place next season. And one more actor has had enough. Actress Siobhan Finneran, who plays the scheming and nasty maid O'Brien, said she will not be returning to the show. “I’m not doing any more," she told the Mirror U.K. "O’Brien is a thoroughly despicable human being – that was great to play.” The character was indeed despicable, constantly meddling, scheming in deceitfully underhanded ways that generally got the rest of the servants on the show in deep hot water or worse, fired. But even for O'Brien, this one note duplicity was getting cartoonish so perhaps Finneran felt the same. Worse, the show will have to try and figure out how to write her out of the show with one line of expository dialogue rather than just finally show her plans backfire on her (presumably she won't be back for season Four at all, though that's not 100% confirmed).
But when two actors leave, six more enter. Returning to the show for season 4 will be Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson, the haughty American mother of Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern). New additions to show will be "Weekend" star Tom Cullen and British character actors Nigel Harman, Dame Harriet Walters, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Joanna David and Julian Ovenden.
"Downton Abbey has seen many great characters visit the house over the years and we couldn't be more thrilled to welcome the new faces that will be joining the regular cast of 'Downton' in series 4,” executive producer Gareth Neame said in a statement. “We hope audiences will be as excited about them as we are."