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'Downton Abbey' will reportedly add a black character in Season 4

February 27, 2013|By Meredith Blake

“Downton Abbey” fans can expects some big changes when the series returns for a fourth season.

And no, we’re not just talking about Lady Mary’s new life as a single mother or wild child Rose’s impending move to the Crawley family abode. If a report from the British tabloid the Sun is to be believed, “Downton Abbey” will be adding its first black character next season.

 According to the paper, producers of the hugely popular period drama have put out casting calls for men ages 25 to 30 to play “Jack Ross,” described as “a musician (singer) at an exclusive club in the '20s.” (A representative of “Masterpiece” declined to comment on the report.)

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“Downton Abbey” has not entirely lacked in diversity, especially given the highly insular world it portrays. Of course, there’s gay footman (and newly appointed under-butler) Thomas Barrow, whose sexual orientation became a pivotal plot point in Season 3. There’s also Thomas Branson, the Irish Catholic chauffeur who won the heart of Lady Sybil. Even back in Season 1, there was the dashing and doomed Turkish diplomat, Mr. Pamuk.

Fans of period drama will recall that “Mad Men” added a young African American secretary named Dawn to the series last season. It was an addition that some thought was long overdue, given the show’s setting in New York City in the late 1960s. While the same can’t be said of “Downton Abbey” – no one expects the British upper-crust of the 1920s to be anything but lily white, after all – the addition nevertheless comes as welcome news: The show is never more enjoyable than when outsiders come along and upend the worldview of Lord Grantham and his privileged clan.

What remains to be seen is just how this possible new character will cross paths with the Crawley family. Given his profession, young Rose’s appreciation for jazz and “Downton Abbey’s” love of transgressive relationships, it doesn’t seem too hard to do the math.

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