The actor, 38, decided to leave because he was afraid of being “typecast” in future roles, he told the Australian newspaper in an interview published Thursday, May 27. Though he enjoyed his time on the show, he was afraid that staying too long would diminish the “variety” of parts he would be offered.
“I try not to be resistant to too many things,” he added. “I think it’s more about when interesting roles come along, really.”
The Beauty and the Beast star famously decided to exit the show after season 3, causing a humongous uproar amongst fans of the show. His character, who was married to Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery), was killed in a car accident on his way to meet his newborn son, which also upset viewers.
Creator Julian Fellowes later said that he wanted Stevens to come back for one episode so that Matthew could have a nicer sendoff, but claimed that the actor wasn’t interested.
“Dan would not stay — he was determined to go,” he told the Express in 2013. “I tried to persuade him to come back just for one episode of the next series so we could give Matthew and Mary a happy ending, but he wanted to go off to America.”
Though Matthew’s demise was final, Stevens is still surprised by people who seem to be holding out hope for his return in the second Downton Abbey movie, due out later this year. There are some who don’t even know he wasn’t in the first one, he said.
“I left that show eight years ago now,” he told Digital Spy in January. “Film executives — people who really should know better — say, ‘Are you in the movie?’ I’m like, ‘Did you watch the show? Do you know how that ended?'”
Though fans will always miss Matthew, the actor who played him had no trouble finding success after moving on from Highclere Castle. He played the lead in FX’s Legion from 2017 to 2019 and has landed roles in movies including Lucy in the Sky, Marshall and The Call of the Wild. His next project is I’m Your Man, a German-language film that premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in March.
Still, he has no regrets about his time at the Abbey. “I’m incredibly grateful for everything that that role and that show gave me,” he said in January. “And also, you know, learning to put my faith in fortune, I guess, and following instinct, and following the advice of good people around me.”