'Downton Abbey' set for 'whole different direction'

'Downton Abbey' executive Gareth Neame has said the show is going to "turn in a whole different direction" in the next series.

The Emmy winner has revealed the ITV1 period drama will focus on character Lady Mary Crawley's attempts to rebuild her life in the aftermath of the death of her husband Matthew Crawley's death in the Christmas special.

Speaking to E! Online, Gareth said: "This is a lesson in something that seems like a really big loss in the moment [that] will actually turn into a great opportunity.

"It will also be a great opportunity for the show, for it to take a turn in a whole different direction."

'Downton Abbey' - which stars Michelle Dockery as Lady Crawley - is expected to return to screens in the autumn and the next run will also include another festive special.

It was recently revealed that Maggie Smith is reprising her role as Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, in series four.

Creator Julian Fellowes had not been sure if the 78-year-old star - who won the Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of the Dowager - would return, but she alleviated fears by putting pen to paper on a new contract.

Matthew was not the only character to be killed off last year.

Lady Sybil Crawley - played by Jessica Brown Findlay - tragically passed away during childbirth.

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