Dan Stevens reveals the real reason he left Downton Abbey

The actor played Matthew Crawley in the first three series

We think we speak for everyone when we say that Matthew Crawley's death in the 2012 Christmas special of Downton Abbey remains one of the most shocking and heartbreaking moments on British television.

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After surviving both World War I and the Spanish flu, Dan Stevens' beloved character sadly met his end in a car accident the same day that his wife Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery, gave birth to their son. 

Nine years may have passed since we saw the tragic events unfold on screen, but it seems the question of why exactly Dan chose to leave the series is still on people's minds. See what Dan had to say when he was recently quizzed about his exit below...

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WATCH: Matthew Crawley tragically died in the 2012 Christmas special

Speaking in a new interview with The Australian, the 38-year-old actor revealed that he was afraid he'd be "typecast" as a romantic lead if he continued playing the role and was keen for more "variety" in his work.

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However, he admitted that his attitude has now changed, saying: "I try not to be resistant to too many things. I think it's more about when interesting roles come along, really."

Dan previously called his decision to leave the show at its peak a "desire for freedom", telling The Telegraph: "I don't see money or a particular status as an actor as a goal but I want to do the best work I can in as interesting a range of roles as I can."

Dan left the ITV series after three seasons in 2012

Meanwhile, despite having cut ties with the Downton franchise nearly a decade ago, Dan told Digital Spy that he still gets asked if he's going to make an appearance in the films. "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?'"

MORE: Downton Abbey film sequel: what's the future for Violet Crawley, Countess of Grantham?

The year after leaving the ITV series, Dan landed his first leading role in a film in 2014's thriller The Guest, where he played David, a soldier turned murderous mastermind. Following its success, he went on to star in the Night at the Museum sequel and Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast film alongside Emma Watson.

More recently, he proved his comedy chops playing Russian singer Alexander Lemtov in Will Ferrell's 2020 comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. Viewers can catch Dan in the new sci-fi series Solos, which is streaming now on Amazon Prime, as well as the upcoming Starz drama, Gaslight.

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