Downton Abbey fans were shocked when Dan Stevens announced he was leaving the hit period drama after just two seasons, with his character Matthew Crawley being killed off – via a shock car crash – in a Christmas special. Some wondered at the time if Stevens was making the right move in leaving the show that made his career, but the actor has proved that he definitely did as he’s since found success in Hollywood.
In a new interview with Collider, to talk about his role in Netflix’s recent comedy movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Stevens opened up about the immediate aftermath of saying goodbye to Downton and what led him to up sticks and move to the States. Part of the reason was because of the limited choice of roles that were coming his way in the UK.
“There were a few kind of World War I trenches scripts coming in. And, you know, particularly in England, there are a few narrow bands of things that get made over there, in comparison to say, in America. So yeah, you’re very, very quickly put into that bracket of like, ‘Well, he does posh house dramas, and sort of World War I dramas and anything with floppy hair!’ And I was like, ‘Ok, that’s fine. But I kind of want to do this and that.’ It was like, ‘No, no, no. You can’t do that.’ And so I came to America. [Laughs]”
Following hopping over to America, Stevens achieved what he wanted and secured a wide range of roles – everything from thriller The Guest to Marvel series Legion and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to horror flick Apostle. He didn’t know the risk was going to work out, though, so Collider asked Stevens how he came to make this big decision. The star revealed that he didn’t actually have “a game plan” after Downton and things just fell into place after his first US role.
“Yeah, I mean, a lot of it comes from the support of my wife. We had two small children when we left the UK and she said, ‘Look, this is clearly what we should be doing.’ And initially I came to New York just to do a play, and then I got a role in a Scott Frank movie with Liam Neeson and things just grew from there. But, there was never a big game plan. Everyone was like, ‘What was the plan after you left Downton Abbey?’ There really wasn’t one other than I wanted to do something else, you know? And so what that then becomes is a great combination of people being prepared to see you do something else and coming to you with roles and, you know, auditioning very often, like I did for Scott Frank and him saying, ‘You know what? I’ve never seen you do something like this. I’d love to see you try.’ And that is literally all any actor wants to hear, needs to hear in order to further their career in acting and find things in other areas. It’s very little other than that. It’s just someone else’s preparation to see you do something else. Because otherwise you will stay in the same thing. And also, it’s saying no to some things. So, you know, you say no to those World War I trench dramas initially. You know, I’m sure I will do one again and it will be great, but if I were to just keep saying yes to the same things, then I would stay in that narrow band. So, it’s looking for the right people, finding those connects and things grow from there. And I would say it’s only very recently that I’ve sort of been in a position to actually say, ‘You know what? I want to do this now.’ Half your life as an actor is spent just being like, ‘Well, what’s anybody doing? Huh, they’re making a movie about Eurovision. Great! I’d love to do that,’ you know? That wasn’t me sort of willing that into being. It comes in stages I think.’”
Eurovision is a rare comedy project for Stevens, but it’s gone down a treat with viewers. Netflix users are raving about his performance as flamboyant Russian rock star Alexander Lemtov on social media, with many saying he’s the best thing about the film, which is getting mixed reviews. If nothing else, it certainly makes up for Stevens not featuring in the Downton Abbey movie that came out last year.