'Downton Abbey': Dan Stevens talks about leaving the showAdd to Favorites | Downton Abbey
"We were always optioned for three years," Stevens tells The Telegraph of London (warning: the Telegraph story contains major spoilers about the "Downton" Christmas special that aired in the U.K. earlier this week). "And when that came up it was a very difficult decision. But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things.
"It is a very monopolising job. So there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be."
Stevens, who's currently starring in "The Heiress," on Broadway, says he will miss his "Downton" castmates, who have become "like family" to him.
"We have been living together for three years and have been on the most amazing journey," he says. "I don't think any of us, with the possible exception of Maggie [Smith], have had this kind of explosion in our career paths, and may never again. It has been so bizarre, and only those who have been through it can understand it."
Season 3 "Downton Abbey" has its U.S. premiere Jan. 6 on PBS.