Many know actor Dan Stevens for his role as the chivalrous good-doer Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey, but this fall the 31-year-old will break out of his golden boy persona with a handful of new roles. Stevens recently spoke with Guardian, sharing that it was a gut instinct to depart the Masterpiece series, one that has worked out in his favor. “Have I had a good time [since leaving]? Yes. Would I have enjoyed it if I had stayed? Possibly. Possibly not. Without getting into contract stuff [he left during contract-renewal discussions], it’s no secret that’s what it was. It was a big choice to make at the time. But quite an exciting one.” Stevens added, “It was the first time I had done a long-running TV thing. Some people are better suited to that than others. I felt like a change. We had just had our second child, who was three months old when we moved to the States.”
Since leaving Julian Fellowes‘ aristocratic world behind, Stevens has been busy working out at the gym and taking part in military training in preparation for his latest role in director Adam Wingard‘s The Guest. Stevens plays the role of a soldier whose arrival in the lives of the Peterson family only brings pain. “It was shot in New Mexico and I went out early for a month of military training. I had to learn how to handle a Glock [pistol] and how to take guns apart. I hadn’t done that kind of thing before. It was so far outside my ken. Really exciting.”
When asked about whether he used a body double for his shower scenes, Stevens laughs at the thought. “No. I worked very hard. I’m not a natural gym bunny and there was a lot of pain involved. I was training for four hours a day for a month, and then we shot for two months and I continued that training. Aesthetically, it was surprising. I have never looked like that in my life. My wife was very happy.”
That doesn’t mean that Stevens has become a gym rat by any means. “I’m not suddenly evangelical about it. If I had to do it for another role, I could do it again. I feel like I’m ready for anything. I had been coasting in a state of ‘not much gym’ for five years. And suddenly ‘lots of gym’. And a bit of martial arts mixed in. And discipline. I’m not always good at that.”
The Guest is due out in theaters on September 17.