Executive producer Gareth Neame recently shared his thoughts on new and recurring characters in Downton Abbey season 4, as well as the approach of the creative team to important changes in the Crawley’s lives.

E! Online has shared a recent interview with Gareth Neame, executive producer of ITV’s popular drama Downton Abbey, discussing Mary Crawley, Gary Carr, and what viewers can expect in the upcoming season 4. The future of Lady Mary is a particularly sensitive topic of speculation (and some anxiety) among fans, especially since the show cast actor Tom Cullen in the role of an appealing suitor, Lord Anthony Gillingham. Neame allayed fears that Matthew’s widow would be moving on too quickly for comfort, however.

But Lady Mary will not be seeking suitors in Downton Abbey season 4, Neame promises. “Mary is a woman in a state of deep bereavement and there’s no way she’s looking for anyone else,” Neame assured fans. Unfortunately, Mary’s status might force her into scenarios she is not yet ready for. “She is, nonetheless, a very beautiful and eligible young woman,” Neame said, “So I have no doubt there’s going to be male interest in her.” Mary herself, however, is “definitely not on the look for love.”

Neame also adressed what remains the massive elephant in the drawing room: how the departure of Dan Stevens (and thus the death of Mary’s husband Matthew) will affect Downton Abbey season 4 in general. “It clearly will make a huge difference,” he admitted. “But I can assure you that it’s given the show a whole new impetus. We’ve gone off in a whole new direction and it’s very exciting to see the whole new season come together.” Though Matthew will undoubtedly leave a large car shaped hole, Neame promises that the creative team has “Some great new ideas. The show’s in really good health.”

In addition to Mary’s suitors, another source of buzz for Downton Abbey season 4 is the addition of the character of jazz musician Jack Ross, played by Gary Carr. Carr will be the first black character on the show, though Neame doesn’t consider the choice particularly groundbreaking. “I don’t think it’s a huge story to us,” he said, “But obviously, we’re set in 1920… in rural Yorkshire – it wasn’t a diverse time.” In order to craft a story line that remains “authentic” to the period, Carr’s character will be an American singer who travels to London. “That would have happened at that time,” Neame said, “But of course, it allows some interesting plays on attitudes to race and people who are different.”

“The show will feel the same as it’s always felt,” Neame concluded, “But hopefully with great new stories, and a new energy.”

Filming for Downton Abbey season 4 is currently ongoing, and the show will return to ITV in the fall. The new seasons will air on PBS in early 2014.

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Edited by Brandi Delhagen