No matter how happy or satisfying the finale of Downton Abbey was — very on both accounts — it’s only natural when a beloved story ends to wonder if there’s more on the way.
Since the end of Downton was announced, creator Julian Fellowes and executive producer Gareth Neame have been bombarded with questions of continuing the series in some form or another. Would there be a movie? Or another season? What about a young Dowager Countess spin-off? But continuing the story of the Crawleys, regardless of the era it’s set in, would add on to the legacy of what came before it, and that is a factor being considered by some of those involved with the series.
For one, Elizabeth McGovern, who played Cora on the show, is most concerned about the possibility of cheapening Downton and understands that a great deal of thought would have to be put into a film. “If you were to reconceive it as a movie, you wouldn’t just want to put an episode up on a movie screen,” she said. “You’d have to really have a great idea. I don’t know if there’s any other idea that suits it being a movie. There’s no real reason for me.”
Similarly, Hugh Bonneville would have to see a script and a guarantee that the cast could be reassembled. “I’m sure if the script was right and we could all get together, I could see circumstances in which it would happen,” he said. “I don’t know when Julian’s going to have time to write the damn thing.”
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But as Downton Abbey the series comes to a close, an eventual movie — not a television special — is where executive producer Gareth Neame’s head is at. Though When? is an entirely different question.
“We’re entertaining the notion of a movie, but as you’ll know from other TV shows that have attempted to do this, it’s rare when you wrap a TV show and start on a different thing. We have a big cast off doing other things. It’s not absolutely straightforward to pull these things together,” Neame said. “We are hopeful that we may make a film at some point. I just don’t know when that will be.”
Some previous speculation about Downton possibly returning to television was born out of comments from Neame taken out of context, when the executive producer mentioned that NBC Universal, the company that owns the show, could reboot it whenever they like.
“That’s me just speculating, not me giving a hint that they’re going to be more episodes because the TV show, as far as we understand it, is done. We’ve decided when to end it, and that’s that,” he said. “I don’t think there will be any spin-offs, as much as I think Mr. & Mrs. Carson would be a good half-hour show or Spratt & Molesley would be a good half-hour comedy.”
But fans disappointed by the lack of Downton on television should fret not. Neame is hopeful that his next and previously announced collaboration with Fellowes, NBC’s The Gilded Age, may finally get off the ground.
And who knows, maybe some familiar faces will pop up in late 19th century America.
For even more Downton Abbey, pick up LIFE’s Downton Abbey: Behind the Scenes of the Iconic TV Show.