Downton Abbey

EXCLUSIVE: Downton Abbey could be set for shock return as TV bosses try to lure back big names for a seventh series of the prestige drama as fans clamour to be reunited with the Crawley family

Its crisp plotlines and sharply drawn characters proved so compelling that it generated six seasons on TV and two movie spin-offs.

Now, The Mail on Sunday can reveal the hugely popular Downton Abbey, with the wealthy Crawley family at its heart, is to make its television comeback.

The production company behind the Golden Globe-winning show – which covered the many societal changes and world events between 1912 and 1928 – is now casting and hoping that it can attract all of the big names back, including Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery and Elizabeth McGovern.

And while still in the early stages, sources say that it is hoped it will be ready to screen by the end of next year – although filming commitments by the main stars may push that back.

It is understood that the show, created and produced by Julian Fellowes, will be screened on ITV, its home since its launch in September 2010.

One insider said: ‘There is a plan which is in development and there is a lot of excitement about.

‘There is casting taking place, and it would be gre at if all of the big stars can return. People loved Downton. It became a British institution and it has been much missed since it left our screens.

‘There is huge excitement around this project. It was a Sunday night favourite and got huge viewing figures. There has been very little to compete with it ever since it ended.’

The final episode of the show – which acted as a launch pad for the careers of Ms Dockery, Lily James, who played Lady Rose; and Jessica Brown Findlay, who played Lady Sybil Crawley, was aired on Christmas Day in 2015, with the viewing figure peaking at 7.4 million.

Fans saw Edith (Laura Carmichael) and Bertie (Harry Haden-Patton) finally get married, on New Year’s Eve 1925.

Meanwhile, Ms James made a welcome one-off return, along with Matt Barber as Atticus, for the finale.

Other notable moments included lady’s maid Anna Smith (Joanne Frogatt) going into labour during the wedding reception, with her and valet Bates (Brendan Coyle) becoming proud parents of a healthy son.

Such was the demand by fans that the series – the most nominated British show in Emmy history – was followed by two movies in 2019 and 2022.

The first, set in 1927, depicts a royal visit to the Crawley family’s stately home in Yorkshire. As royal staff members descend on Downton, an assassin has also arrived and attempts to kill the monarch.

The second movie, Downton Abbey: A New Era, saw the Crawley family go on a grand journey to the South of France to uncover the ‘mysterious past’ behind the newly inherited villa of the indomitable Violet Crawley (played by Dame Maggie Smith).

Dominic West also joined the cast as Guy Dexter.

Yesterday, Downton’s executive producer Gareth Neame, who is also the executive chairman of Carnival Films, which makes the show, declined to comment when asked if he was intending to bring it back.

ITV also did not want to comment.

However, news of its return will be a boost for ITV, who last year launched their streaming platform, ITVX, with an aim to rival giants such as Netflix and Amazon.

Bosses will have seen the success of programmes such as Bridgerton and its popular spin-off, Queen Charlotte, and adding to the Downton Abbey juggernaut would be a way of boosting their audience further.

ITV have all six series of the show on the platform and sources at the network say they are ‘very well watched’, meaning that there is an appetite for more.

Downton has also had huge success in the US, where each episode was watched by 26 million people on average.

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