Downton Abbey is renewed for a fourth series as pictures are released from the very emotional Christmas special
13:06 GMT, 24 November 2012
Downton Abbey will return for a fourth series and ITV have revealed that viewers can expect an emotional tearjerker for the Christmas special.
Although they have kept details of the two-hour special under wraps, they have said that the domestic staff will feature heavily in the storyline.
Laura Mackie, ITV's director of drama even warned that audiences should have their tissues at the ready for the episode that will be shown on Christmas Day.
Gearing up: Dame Maggie Smith and the cast of Downton Abbey will not only be back for a fourth series, but also a Christmas special
Get ready: Michelle Dockery, as Lady Mary, will feature in the two-hour long special that will air on Christmas Day
Speaking to The Times newspaper, she said: 'All of life's experiences will feature in this episode – best have the tissues ready.'
While the seasonal special will feature all of the usual suspects, the fourth series may not necessarily contain key stars such as Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery.
Both are confirmed to be in the Christmas special but executives said 'negotiations are on-going' over whether they will feature in the main series next year.
Heartthrob: Dan Stevens will be seen doing a spot of fishing in the Christmas special which is set to be an emotional roller coaster
The good life: The staff at Downton Abbey are set to feature heavily in the storyline
More to come! It has been confirmed that a fourth series of Downton Abbey has now been commissioned
Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, has
been circumspect about committing to another run because of the time
Series four will film between February and July next year and it is understood the main actors have until early January to confirm they will return.
There have been question marks too over whether Dame Maggie Smith will return the waspish Dowager Countess.
Creator Julian Fellowes said there would always be a place for Dame Maggie in the show and insisted he would not “kill her off” even if she chose to leave.
Returning Despite the period drama being renewed, it is unclear whether Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery will be back as Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary
The fans will be pleased: On Friday it was revealed that the show will be returning for its fourth season
A show insider said: ‘Julian hasn’t started writing series four yet so there is time to work out how the story will go and who will be in it.
Stevens, 30, already has American management and has moved New York to star in Broadway play The Heiress.
The man behind it: Writer and producer Julian Fellowes will also no doubt be pleased
He has made a Hollywood film with Alicia Silverstone which premieres later this year.
He said in a recent interview:‘New York for me is going to be one big adventure. I will be taking the whole family out and we will be there for six months.‘I don’t know if I will be returning to Downton.’
Similarly, Michelle Dockery has made waves in the US with her polished performance as Lady Mary.
The 30-year-old said earlier this year: 'It certainly feels as though there are more opportunities for us over there. I love spending time in the US.
An eight episode series will broadcast next autumn, followed by a Christmas special in 2013.
The opening and closing episodes will again be feature length with series four continuing the story of the Crawley family and their servants in the early 1920s.
Executive producer Gareth Neame, said: ‘Viewers can look forward to more drama, comedy, love, hatred, jealousy, rivalry, ambition, despair and romance.’
There will be a two hour special this year at 9pm on Christmas Day in which Lord and Lady Grantham will visit their Scottish cousins at Duneagle Castle, accompanied by servants John Bates, his wife Anna, and O’Brien.
This is the home of Lady Rose, played by newcomer Lily James, who was sent home in the last episode of series three after her dalliance with a married man.
There is a suggestion of new romance for Lady Edith and even cook Mrs Patmore, and more arguments for Matthew and Mary Crawley.
There will also be a new housemaid – Edna – played by MyAnna Buring.
Will they be in the fourth series The third season ended earlier this month on a high and has now been commissioned for more drama
Neame added: ‘While the cat’s away, the mice will play. The Grantham’s do not live at Downton Abbey, twelve months of the year. They would go to London for the summer season and also go away on holidays like this.
‘And when that happens the domestic staff of Downton would remain. What will they get up to while the family is away’