Actress Leaving 'Downton Abbey': Why Was Maid O'Brien Siobhan Finneran So Unhappy? [PHOTOS & VIDEO]

By Staff Reporter March 4, 2013 10:58 AM EST
(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

Actress Siobhan Finneran is leaving "Downton Abbey," much to the dismay of fans who relished her role as the scheming maid O'Brien. O'Brien has been a major source of conflict on the period drama, stirring up trouble with the Crawley family as well as with the other servants downstairs. From her hand in Lady Cora's miscarriage to her determined efforts to destroy the valet Thomas' life, the character has made an indelible mark on the lives in the show. With the actress leaving "Downton Abbey," the period drama will start its fourth season without its finest villain.

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According to Gareth Neame, one of the show's executive producers, the actress leaving "Downton Abbey" is not something the writers or producers came up with.

"The entire decision was Siobhan's," Neame told Today. "Her initial contract came to an end and she didn't want to renew her contract. We certainly would all be very happy to have her back in the show."

He added that the story line will always have room for the actress to resume her role in the future, should she wish to do so.

The actress leaving "Downton Abbey" acknowledged her character as "a nasty piece of work" in a 2012 interview with HuffPost TV, and one that she quite enjoyed playing. Finneran brought complexity to the role, explaining, "I've always carried around with me [the idea that] something has happened to her to make her the nasty piece of work that she can be."

Though fans and creators alike are clearly sad to see the actress leaving "Downton Abbey," Finneran's O'Brian is hardly the first significant character to leave the period drama, which has never been afraid to change up the roster as episodes go by. Six new characters will be joining the show in season four. Neame is sure that the actress leaving "Downton Abbey" isn't such a terrible thing as far as the big picture is concerned.

"The thing about these exits is they are really what keep the whole thing alive. We like to see this core in the 20 to 25 characters in the way they all interrelate. But it is ... the going of established characters and bringing in of new characters that keeps the whole thing very much alive."

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