After ‘Downton Abbey,’ stars move on to outlaw roles

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Michelle Dockery’s new role as a sleazy ex-con on “Good Behavior,” is a far cry from her coolly elegant Lady Mary on “Downton Abbey.” | TNT

What’s happening to certain “Downton Abbey” stars is downright criminal.

Joanne Froggatt, the TV drama’s vulnerable Anna Bates, is morphing into a 19th-century serial killer in PBS’ “Dark Angel.” Michelle Dockery, who plays coolly elegant Lady Mary, is a sleazy American ex-convict in TNT’s “Good Behavior.” And Kevin Doyle, the good-hearted Mr. Molesley, is a bad-hearted police detective in Netflix’s “Happy Valley.”

The end of “Downton Abbey” on PBS’ “Masterpiece” tonight after six seasons means new career paths for its stars, with both the upstairs and downstairs crew embracing change-of-pace roles — although devoted viewers may want to enshrine them forever as their beloved characters.

Joanne Froggatt will portray a 19th century serial killer on PBS’ “Dark Angel.” | PBS

Joanne Froggatt will portray a 19th century serial killer on PBS’ “Dark Angel.” | PBS

“Anybody who’s watched and loved ‘Downton’ is going to remember these characters for the rest of their lives,” said executive producer Gareth Neame. But cast members “can’t put a pin in their career and say that’s it.”

British actors are especially keen on variety and like “to move away from things they’ve been previously successful with,” Neame said.

Froggatt said change is part of acting’s allure.

“After playing a role that you’ve loved playing for years, there is a certain part of you that goes, ‘I fancy doing something a bit different,’ ” she said.

That’s the path taken by Dan Stevens, who’s avoided lord-of-the-manor roles since playing Matthew Crawley in the drama’s first three seasons. Among his upcoming projects: the films “Beauty and the Beast” and sci-fi drama “Colossal,” and “Legion,” a Marvel Comics-based TV pilot for FX.

After the “Downton Abbey” finale, here’s where to find its former gentry and servants:

• Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham): Possibly the actor staying closest to his “Downton” pedigree, he plays Lord Louis Mountbatten in the Indian independence movie “Viceroy’s House.”

• Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith): Takes on a sibling role again in the 1940s history-based romance, “A United Kingdom,” introducing her sister to her future husband, an African prince.

• Brendan Coyle (John Bates): Plays English politician Augustine Birrell in the historical Irish film drama “The Rising.” Also in the romantic movie “Me Before You,” based on the novel by Jojo Moyes.

• Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Cora): Writing and recording her fourth album with the band Sadie and the Hotheads. In April, starting rehearsals at the National Theatre in London for “Sunset at the Villa Thalia.”

• Lilly James (Lady Rose): Takes on a classic part, Elizabeth Bennet, in an adaptation of the non-classic parody of Jane Austen’s novel, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” In “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss,” a German soldier falls in love with James’ Jewish Dutchwoman.

• Allen Leech (Tom Branson): In the film “Hunter’s Prayer,” based on Kevin Wignall’s novel “For the Dogs,” Leech plays the former boss of a hired assassin whose assignment goes awry.

• Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley): As lonely wife Pauline in the upcoming British TV series “Brief Encounters,” set in the 1980s, Wilton is one of four women whose lives are changed when they start selling exotic lingerie at house parties.

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