It’s been a few days since the season three finale of Downton Abbey aired here in the States, but some fans are likely still reeling from the abrupt departure of one of the show’s main characters in the episode’s final moments—assuming you weren’t spoiled when it aired in the UK back in December. Now it looks like another major departure could be in store for the wildly popular period series, as creator/showrunner Julian Fellowes has revealed that he might be stepping down from his head position at Downton Abbey in the near future. Hit the jump for more.
Fellowes, who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his work on Gosford Park in 2002, writes nearly every single episode of Downton Abbey as executive producer, showrunner, and head writer. He’s currently in the midst of scripting the upcoming fourth season of the show, but he’s also developing a new potential series at NBC called The Gilded Age, which takes place in 1880s New York and centers around the wealthy titans of industry. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Fellowes revealed that should NBC pick up The Gilded Age to series, he would likely leave Downton to run that show full time:
“If [The Gilded Age] goes to series, and if I’m doing a series at NBC, 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 cautions that he has a number of hurdles to clear with Gilded Age first before it moves forward to series, but it certainly sounds like he plans on running that show in the same manner that he runs Downton Abbey should NBC take a liking to the pilot. The scribe said that he’s going to write the Gilded Age pilot when Downton finishes, which presumably means that he plans on sticking around for the entire fourth season of Downton before moving over to his NBC pilot. Then, if Downton gets picked up for season five (of course it will) and if The Gilded Age gets a series order, Fellowes will have to decide who will manage Downton while he runs Gilded Age full time.
Again, there are a number of hurdles to clear before Fellowes even gets into a position where he has to make that sort of decision, and it’s not a guarantee that NBC will choose The Gilded Age as a part of their new schedule. For now, just keep in mind that the upcoming fourth season of Downton Abbey could very well be the last one that includes the full hands-on involvement of Fellowes.