08/14/2013 10:03 am ET

Michelle Dockery Talks Lady Mary's Suitors; 'Downton Abbey' Executive Producer Calls Them 'Praying Mantises'


Any man looking to win Lady Mary over in Season 4 of "Downton Abbey" has a lot on his plate, according to actress Michelle Dockery.

“The new actors coming into the show as suitors are really brave, because God knows what can happen,” Dockery told Page Six of the suitors -- played by Tom Cullen and Julian Ovenden -- coming in to woo the now-widowed Lady Mary, who suffered the sudden death of her husband Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) at the end of Season 3. When the show returns, there's no doubt his death has sent all of "Downton" into a bout of chaos and grief.

"My first reaction [to finding out Stevens was leaving] was, 'Oh, crap! What is going to happen?' Because I thought, 'Where can the story go now?' We’ve spent all this time having this on/off, will they/won’t they relationship, and then suddenly it was coming to an end," Dockery said at the Television Critics Association Summer 2013 press tour. "So initially I was concerned about what would happen ... But I think that, as much as it was sad to see Dan go, the same as it was to see Jessica [Brown Findlay] go, it opens up opportunities for Julian [Fellowes] to write a new chapter and something quite different, not only for Mary, but the knock on effect it has for other characters. Initially I was I was concerned, but now I’m not because it’s a great [season], and it’s a very different [season] to what it could have been."

As for those "brave" suitors, "Downton" executive producer Gareth Neame joked to Page Six, "They’re kind of like praying mantises, aren’t they? They come into it once and that’s it."

For more from Dockery and Neame, click over to Page Six.

"Downton Abbey" Season 4 premieres Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 on PBS.

"Downton Abbey"