September 23rd, 2013
02:00 PM ET
When "Downton Abbey" returns to the U.S. for its fourth season, it actually won't pick up right where it left off.
Fans know that the third season ended with a major - and depressing - death, and creator Julian Fellowes told CNN that he's giving the story a little breathing room from the season three finale. (Spoiler alert: If you haven't watched season three in its entirety, stop reading now.)
"In the fourth (season), really the central strand is the rebuilding of (Michelle Dockery's) Lady Mary," Fellowes told CNN at the Emmy Awards Sunday. "You will have a chance to witness how she recovers. We begin the show six months after (Dan Stevens') Matthew dies."
In the season four premiere, everyone is rallying around Dockery's poor Mary, "trying to bring her out of her grief." Thankfully, "she does slowly come out of it," and this season won't be total mourning.
"As much as there’s a dark side with Matthew going, there’s lots of light to it," Dockery continued. "The '20s have really kicked off, so there are a lot of changes, it’s wonderful. It’s about the characters adjusting to that change."
There are lots of behind-the-scenes changes on "Downton" this season, too, as the period drama diversifies. In the spring, executive producer Gareth Neame revealed that "Downton" has added its first recurring black character to the story, with Gary Carr tapped to portray charismatic jazz singer Jack Ross.
According to Fellowes, Carr will have "a strong narrative" throughout the season.
"It just felt right," Fellowes continued. "We wanted to show that the world was changing and broadening and this is a new era - not just the music, but the people playing it was different than before the war."
One thing's for certain: American audiences have already marked January 5 on their calendars, so they don't miss a moment of season four's bow.
"I love the enthusiasm for the show over here," Fellowes told CNN. "It’s like nothing I’ve ever known. It’s a whirlwind of affection."
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