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'Downton Abbey': creator Julian Fellowes talks casting popular series

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith  -- "Downton Abbey" Season 4 premieres on Sunday, January 5th on "Masterpiece Classic"
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith -- "Downton Abbey" Season 4 premieres on Sunday, January 5th on "Masterpiece Classic"
Nick Briggs/Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE

***Spoiler Alert***

Downton Abbey “is finally back as the fourth season kicks off tonight on PBS’ “Masterpiece.” After the surprising and tragic season 3 finale which saw the untimely death of Matthew, could happier times be ahead? The cast is nominated as Best Ensemble for this year’s SAG Awards. Classic TV Examiner caught up with creator, writer and executive producer Julian Fellowes back in September, on the eve of the 4th season premiere on ITV in England, and he shared how the actors were cast.

“We make a note [executive producers] Gareth [Neame], Liz Trubridge and I make note about each character,” Fellowes told Classic TV Examiner. “We decide they're this or they're that. They're pretty but not gorgeous. They look intelligent. They can't afford to eat, and that all goes to the casting director. “It's their skills; you can't keep a dog and let it bark. I think if you're too specific [as an executive producer], you start to narrow down the field in a way that sometimes is not creative; because they may come up with an actor who may not be the obvious choice. They’ve thought around it out and they've read the script. And when you get it, you get it. You go “Wait a minute. I see how this might work very well.” We were just talking about Barrow (played by Rob James-Collier). With any of these things, if you have good people, you must give them enough space to be good and not lay down every last inch of your request.”

As a testament to Fellowes statements about his cast, he gives each of them plenty of drama this season. As the fourth season opens, the house is in mourning as Lady Mary is still dealing with the untimely death of her husband, Matthew. No one seems to be able to get the widow out of her funk; not her family and not even her young infant son George. Matthew’s death affects those who knew him best, including his mother Mrs. Crowley and his butler, Molesley, who finds himself unemployed.

To find out what’s ahead for the cast, catch “Downton Abbey” on “Masterpiece” on PBS, Sunday, January 5th.

To read more articles with actors from your favorite shows and movies, check out my pages at Daytime TV Examiner, Classic TV Examiner and Animation Examiner. Also, follow me on Twitter at @Phyllis_Thomas