"Downton Abbey" is open to diversity its upcoming fourth season. The hit PBS drama series has added actor Gary Carr to the cast ensemble to play the first black character on the show, a jazz singer named Jack Ross.
"We are delighted to introduce another fantastic, dynamic character to Downton Abbey," says executive producer Gareth Neame in a statement. "His addition will bring interesting twists to the drama which we can't wait for viewers to see."
London-born actor Carr, who has appeared on TV series "Bluestone 42" and "Death in Paradise", joins previously announced new cast members, including Kiri Te Kanawa, Julian Ovenden, Nigel Harman, Joanna David and Harriet Walter. Tom Cullen is additionally cast as Lady Mary's potential new love interest.
Series creator Julian Fellowes previously said it would be "rather nice to open it up ethnically a bit." He, however, pointed out, "You have to work it in in a way that is historically believable, but I am sure we could do that. [The show] certainly ought to have an Indian character from that period."
They apparently have found a way for it as executive producer Gareth Neame told New York Times on May 1, "A few people have said, 'Why isn't there more diversity?' And the argument would be, we would depict it if were true and accurate. It's a bit like saying, 'I don't approve of the class system, at all, that existed on the show.' It did exist, and we should depict it in the way that existed. It doesn't mean I approve of it. But Britain was not a multicultural country in 1920."
"The aristocrats would certainly spend a lot of their time in London, and would have been to clubs and so on, where they would have been exposed to African-American singers who came over to Europe around about that time," he added. "But the servants would really have had absolutely no exposure to a black person whatsoever. They would have no experience of it."
"I wouldn't want to say we've done some sort of box-ticking exercise of, 'We ought to make the show more diverse and multicultural.' We really haven't done that. We tried to reflect something that was accurate and that was going on at the time, while always thinking of ways to surprise and entertain, with all the twists and turns that we have."
The U.S. premiere date for the fourth season of the British period drama has not been announced yet. Dan Stevens and Siobhan Finneran have confirmed that they will not return to the show's new season.