UPDATE: With the ghosts of the characters that left Downton Abbey last year still figuring heavily, a host of new faces is set to grace the halls of the manor. I’ve confirmed that Tom Cullen (Last Days On Mars), Julian Ovenden (Foyle’s War), opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa and Harriet Walter will all have parts in the upcoming season.
PREVIOUS: Man, when are the Downton Abbey faithful going to catch a break? Siobhan Finneran, who plays maid O’Brien to Elizabeth McGovern’s Lady Cora Crawley, won’t be returning to the hit period drama for Season 4. Although a shadowy character — renown for her ability to perilously position bars of soap, smoke cigarettes ominously and set up nocturnal visits between footmen — O’Brien has figured in many integral storylines over the past three seasons and now becomes the third original player to depart ahead of next season. Jessica Brown Findlay, who played the progressive Lady Sybil, and Dan Stevens, whose character was heir to the Grantham estate and the show’s resident heartthrob, ankled over the past year as both their stars are rising in Hollywood. A Downton source tells me O’Brien is “going off to do something else.” Unlike Findlay’s and Stevens’ characters, she has not to been killed off, thus leaving the door open for a return. Downton‘s fourth season is currently shooting and starts airing in the fall in the UK.