The Real Reason Dan Stevens Left Downton Abbey

A distant cousin to the Crawleys, Matthew Crawley (played by Dan Stevens) was a major player in the early seasons of "Downton Abbey." Heir apparent to the estate, Crawley struggled to fit in with the aristocratic lifestyle at first but soon became one of Downton's most established residents — to the point where Lord Grantham accepted him as an adopted son.

Sadly, Matthew is killed in a car crash in the third season of "Downton Abbey," moments after his first son was born. Viewers didn't take to kindly to this narrative decision, with many fans left devastated at his untimely demise (via the Daily Beast).

But just exactly why did Matthew have to die so soon into the series run? Was it a decision from series creator Julian Fellowes, or a request from the actor who portrayed him so brilliantly for all those seasons?

Dan Stevens wanted to avoid being 'typecast'

It seems that it was a mixture of Dan Stevens wanting to go on to something new and the length of his contract on the series. "In America, it's quite standard for an actor to sign, at the beginning of a series, for five or seven years," Fellowes told the New York Times (via TV Line). "The maximum any British agent will allow you to have over an actor is three years. And ... Dan wanted to go. The show had been very, very successful, tremendously so, and [he was] being offered great opportunities."

Wanting more "variety" in his work to avoid being "typecast" (via Mail Online), Stevens went on to find major success in other projects, like Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."

The actor is still apologetic as to how Matthew was killed off. "The way Matthew went was out of my hands — but it was rather shocking," Stevens told the Mirror. "There were some very upset people and I've had to apologize a lot of over the past four years."

Fellowes had initially tried to keep Matthew in the series by sending him overseas, but as he was set on furthering his career this couldn't happen. So instead, the creator turned to killing him off. Hoping to have ended the Christmas episode on a happier note, he'd planned to kill Matthew in the first episode of Season 4. "But [Stevens] didn't want to do that," Fellowes told Vanity Fair. "I didn't want his death to dominate the Christmas special, so that's why we killed him at the very, very end."