"Today will be a day of very mixed emotions," Gareth Neame tells PEOPLE of announcing the news
After confirming on Thursday that Downton Abbey will conclude after its sixth season, executive producer Gareth Neame discussed the decision, admitting, “It’s a very emotional day for all of the people involved in the show.”
“The danger with this sort of thing is to let them go on forever,” Neame told reporters during a conference call.
Neame stated repeatedly that ending the show was a joint decision between producers and cast. He also dismissed claims that creator Julian Fellowes solely forced the issue or that the show is shuttering under pressure from exiting cast members (particularly Golden Globe winner Maggie Smith), falling ratings or the show’s networks (ITV in the U.K., PBS in the U.S.).
“We’ve always tried to get our timing right – we’ve always tried to move the story and our characters on at the right point,” said Neame. “It has been about integrity and the integrity of the initial concept … of a bespoke, well-crafted piece of popular television.”
Though he remained staunchly mum on what will happen in season 6, he confirmed that it will follow the same format as previous seasons (11 hours, including a special on Christmas night), that the timeline is “moving into the year 1925” and that all cast members will return – though Smith’s Lady Violet is unlikely to find love.
As for a rumor Downton spin-off or feature film, Neame said there are no concrete plans but that producers are “very interested” in a movie.
More immediately, they are “well underway” with the concluding season. All the scripts haven’t been written yet, said Neame, but “we very much have an eye to where the characters will end up … and I think they will make the sixth season the most satisfying of them all.”
• With reporting by PATRICK GOMEZ