Downton Abbey just hit theaters last Friday, but the possibility of a sequel is already on the table.
The beloved television series’ movie opened to impressive numbers over the weekend (“What is a weekend?”), proving there’s still lots of love out there for Downton. According to both producer Gareth Neame and creator Julian Fellowes, it’s that kind of box office success that would make a sequel possible.
“We’ve got some ideas about what we do next if it happened,” Neame tells EW. “The fans have been used to watching all six seasons of the television show at home in the comfort of their living rooms and for this to work, the fans have to be motivated to get out and buy tickets and go to the theater. If the fans do that, then the movie will do well, and there will be an appetite amongst all of us to maybe revisit the whole thing.”
Fellowes echoes Neame’s thoughts on the matter, saying he would “never say never” to the idea of returning to Downton with another film. “We just have to see if there’s an appetite for it, if there’s a taste for it, and see where we would want to go with the different stories,” he says.
Given the movie’s $31 million debut at the box office, it seems the required appetite is still very much there, meeting that basic requirement for a sequel.
But what would a Downton Abbey sequel even look like? Fellowes says he can’t imagine it’d be in much of a different vein from the first outing. “We would let a little bit of time go by for things to have resolved themselves, but I don’t think we would set off in a different direction,” he tells EW.
There’s still a million more questions, including whether Maggie Smith would return to portray Violet or whether her fate at the film’s end would meet its natural conclusion offscreen. Not to mention the monumental task of assembling for a second film this 20-person cast who have increasingly busy schedules. It already proved a difficult thing to wrangle this first go-round and would likely only get harder as the years go by.
Still, when asked about it, all of the cast are quick to say they’d return. “All the cast I spoke to would love to do another one,” Rob James-Collier explains to EW. “It’s no secret [why] we’ve kept altogether, such a big cast for so long — because we love doing this job, we love doing what we do. So I would be thrilled if they wanted me back and I would do it in a heartbeat.”
Allen Leech, who portrays Tom Branson, says he’d also be up to continue his story. He had the rare opportunity to see what a Downton Abbey movie could look like before the first film even was on the table. “[Hugh Bonneville and I] were watching a screening of one of the episodes in D.C. in season 6,” he recounts. “We snuck in and there was 1200 people watching the sneak preview and we got to experience very early on what it would be like — that was when we first realized this could really work as a movie. I’m happy to say we snuck in at the New York premiere, a couple of days ago, and it was very satisfying to watch the emotional turns people took as they watched the movie, together as a unit. It was almost like watching a play.”
Satisfying for moviegoers as well — Downton earned an “A” CinemaScore and 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes (84% from critics). Between its box office and audience praise, it’s a safe assumption there will at least be an attempt to get a sequel off the ground. As the Dowager Countess once quipped, “All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite.” She also offered that “Hope is a tease designed to prevent us accepting reality.” But it’s perhaps this bit of advice we’ll adhere to for now: