The actor previously played Lady Mary’s husband, Henry Talbot, on the upstairs/downstairs saga.
While Downton Abbey: A New Era reunites the beloved sprawling ensemble cast that make up the extended Crawley family and their many household staff members, there is one performer notably absent from the new film. Matthew Goode, who joined the franchise as Henry Talbot in season 5 and later wed Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), sadly is nowhere to be seen onscreen despite previously returning for the franchise’s first film.
Goode's absence, however, doesn’t come as a total surprise given that he has not appeared in any of the trailers or images leading up to A New Era’s theatrical debut. In fact, while speaking to ET, creator Julian Fellowes and Dockery explained why Henry is not present for the Yorkshire country estate’s many activities, including the arrival of a movie production led by director Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy).
[Warning: Some spoilers for Downton Abbey: A New Era]
While much of the Crawley family is headed to the South of France after learning that the Dowager (Maggie Smith) mysteriously inherited a new villa, Mary decides to stay put at Downton where she’s accepted an offer from Barber to film his newest silent movie.
During all the activities leading up to the family’s departure and the film crew’s arrival, it’s eventually revealed that Henry is also abroad as he continues to race cars around the country. Of course, this is even despite the fact that Tom Branson (Allen Leech) married Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton), helping to secure the Crawleys’ fortune and fate at the estate.
While Mary seems shockingly OK with receiving yet another letter that explains why Henry simply can’t make it back -- and implying that he may seem to love racing more than he loves her -- she becomes consumed by the arrival of Barber and his two stars, Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock), and keeping everything in order both upstairs and down.
So much so that Mary ends up saving Barber’s film by converting it from a silent movie into a talkie. This, of course, leads the two to grow closer. However, before he can make any sort of advance, she makes it clear that her love for Henry remains steadfast. But she also hints that she enjoys the flirtation nonetheless.
For Fellowes, it proved to be an opportunity to show Mary’s growth from a snobbish, spoiled girl into a modern aristocrat, who “is able to make friends with people from a completely different background and be attracted to them and not assume that they have nothing in common,” he says.
Not only that, but “we’re moving Mary on,” he continues, explaining that “she’s in charge of Downton. She’s becoming a contemporary figure. She is not going to have difficulties dealing with the people she’s going to have to deal with if she keeps hold of the estate.”
When it comes to the growing chemistry between the two characters, Fellowes says “to give [the storyline] a slightly romantic, sort of underpinning was entertaining.” Especially because in the end, when she tells him, “There’s nothing more attractive for an old married woman is to find that you’re still an object of desire.”
“And I think that that’s quite nice for her to have that,” he adds.
Understandably, with a cast as massive as this, it’s also hard to get everyone together. As was the case with Goode, who is currently starring in the Paramount+ series The Offer. “It’s always like herding casts because there are so many actors,” Dockery explains. “It takes a while to get everybody in one place, at the right time.”
“But we did it, which is great,” she says, even if her on-screen husband was the only absentee.
Downton Abbey: A New Era is now in theaters.