"Downton Abbey" Season 4 is on the way and Masterpiece whetted fans' appetites further on Tuesday by releasing the first image of the cast from the upcoming season.
In typical "Downton" fashion, the image features the family from upstairs - the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his mother, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and downstairs-to-upstairs transplant Branson (Allen Leach) - on the right.
On the left is the downstairs gang - Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle), Mrs. Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt), Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol), Daisy (Sophie McShera), Thomas (Rob James-Collier) and more.
Last week, several cast members from the show, which returns to Masterpiece on PBS on January 5, 2014, hit the Television Critics Association Summer Tour in Beverly Hills, where they shared with journalists new details about the upcoming season.
Michelle explained that Lady Mary, who lost her husband, Matthew (Dan Stevens), in the Season 3 finale, will have many suitors, including Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen).
"He is an old family friend who she's known since the girls were children and they haven't seen him since she was tiny," Michelle said. "She's kind of slowly throughout the series coming back to real life and of course it's important for her to eventually move on, so he is a potential love interest."
But, she also pushed aside the hopes some fans might have - that Lady Mary could find love with Lady Sybil's widower - Tom Branson.
"They are very much friends and he is her brother-in-law, still. I think they become close because of what they've both been through," Michelle said. "And also, Mary becomes far more involved in the running of the estate with Tom, so we do have a lot of scenes together. But romantically, I don't think it's going anywhere."
"Downton Abbey" Season 4 premieres on January 5, 2014.
-- Jolie Lash
Copyright 2013 by NBC Universal, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.