THE previous series of 'Downton Abbey' may have left fans bereft following the deaths of two of their favourite characters, but things appear to be looking up.
The show's executive producer has promised there would be no more deaths in the coming episodes, as she admitted that the team was "very conscious of the effect" such storylines had on viewers.
Speaking ahead of the fourth series, due to start on ITV later this month, the cast and production team gave a glimpse of what is to come, including Lady Edith indulging her "rebellious" side, a dazzling house party to lift the spirits and a debut appearance from Virginia Woolf.
Julian Fellowes, who writes the award-winning drama, has promised a significant change for the fourth season, with the old-fashioned "world in which Downton began" transformed into a modern era of motor cars, movies and music.
The series will begin with Lady Mary in mourning for her late husband Matthew, played by Dan Stevens, whose shock death in the Christmas episode upset fans.
The new episodes will track her coming to terms with her role as a single mother, as her family rally around to help.
Her sister Lady Edith, who took the role of the resentful middle sister until the death of Lady Sybil in childbirth in the previous series, will be seen venturing into a "bohemian lifestyle" and experiencing the "thrill of rebellion".
New film stills, taken from the first episode, show her embracing her lover Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) in the hope that he will divorce his wife and allow her to "hang out with artists and write" instead of living "under a pall" at Downton.
One scene, in which she attends a party with the Bloomsbury Set, will see an appearance from Virginia Woolf, the writer, played by Christina Carty – one of two "real" on-screen characters to appear in 'Downton's fourth series. The other will be Nellie Melba, the opera singer, played by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
The series will show Lady Edith embracing "risque" costumes, which actress Laura Carmichael described as "very revealing, even for now". The Earl and Countess of Grantham will be left to rescue daughter Lady Mary from her grief.
Hugh Bonneville, who plays the Earl, disclosed that the characters were "closer than they've ever been".
Michelle Dockery, who read books on bereavement to prepare for the role of Lady Mary, said her character would retreat to being "quite cold" as she refuses attempts to "lift her out of her grief".
Liz Trubridge, one of the show's executive producers, said: "We don't want to have any more deaths at the moment.
"The fourth (series) is more about getting into the Twenties: what young people wanted, the changes in music, the arrival of the movies, cars, transport and all that stuff."
The new series of 'Downton Abbey' will begin on ITV on Sunday, September 22, at 9pm. (© Daily Telegraph, London)