Why Tom Branson Was Almost Written Off Downton Abbey

"Downton Abbey" was one of the most popular shows on television during its five-year run. After the show ended, many of the lead actors and actresses went on to star in other exciting projects until they were called back to revisit their beloved "Downton" characters on the silver screen. The "Downton Abbey" movie premiered in 2019 and presented an updated narrative for fans who were yearning to see what became of the Crawley's extended brood. Almost everyone from the original series returned for the movie, and they're all slated to return once again in "Downton Abbey: A New Era" (via IMDb).

For those who have excitedly watched the show from the very beginning, it's hard to imagine what might have happened if certain characters weren't introduced. What would have become of Mary Crawley had she not found Henry Talbot? Would Edith Crawley have had a happy ending without Bertie Pelham? After watching the drama unfold for several series — and one feature-length film with a second on the way — it seems impossible to think of what could have happened if the narrative had played out differently.

Which is why it was surprising to learn that Tom Branson, one of the show's most important characters, was almost written off "Downton Abbey" right after he was introduced.

Tom Branson was only supposed to appear in three episodes of Downton Abbey

Tom Branson becomes an integral part of the Crawley family on "Downton Abbey," though his road to gaining their acceptance was rocky to say the least. Branson started out as the family's chauffeur before falling in love with the Crawley family's youngest daughter, Lady Sybil (via Hello!). Anyone who is a fan of the show knows how devastating it is when Sybil dies during childbirth, but it was this tragic loss that ultimately brings Branson into the Crawley fold. From there, he becomes a beloved member of the family, which seems like the perfect arc for his character.

According to Allen Leech, the actor who plays Tom Branson, this wasn't always the plan. During an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2019, Leech said he originally only signed on for three episodes of the show, and that his character Branson was meant to be written off after he attempted to romance Lady Sybil. It was Julian Fellowes, writer and creator of "Downton Abbey," who made the decision to keep Leech's character in the show.

As Leech said to the outlet, "I thought I was gone." He added, "I didn't think Julian would do the brave thing — which he did — which was, 'No, let's keep him there. Let's have this family be forced to have an outsider, someone they've been very hostile toward, sit at that table without his wife and try to find his way.'"

Allen Leech is glad that Tom Branson got a second chance in the Downton Abbey movie

Thankfully, "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes did the right thing and kept Allen Leech's character Tom Branson on the show. And while we hoped that Branson and Lady Sybil would have a happy ending, we're glad that Branson eventually found happiness for himself following the show's conclusion. According to Leech, this was apparently something he was personally concerned with heading into production of the "Downton Abbey" movie, as he wasn't necessarily pleased with where Branson was left during the series finale.

"I felt that there was a lot left open for him," Leech said during an interview with the Los Angeles Times. He added, "Which, as an actor, when you've had this character for six years, you don't want that. You want an ending." Branson got more of a proper ending in the "Downton Abbey" movie, which shows him finally finding love several years after the tragic loss of Sybil. Fellowes stepped in on behalf of Branson's character again to ensure this series of events played out on screen. As Fellowes said to the Los Angeles Times, "He's learned all sorts of things from his rather unusual life of marrying up and getting on with the family of his late wife. I wanted to do something with that."

Branson may not have gotten his happily ever after with his first love, but we're still glad we got to see his character develop!