British actor Dan Stevens is best known for his portrayal of Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey, a career high point that he is parlaying into other high-profile projects.
Born on October 10, 1982, British actor Dan Stevens was adopted by a family in Croydon, England, and spent his young life as a rebellious kid who found an outlet on the stage. Even so, he chose to eschew drama school in favor of formal education at Cambridge. But he still got stage experience, which, together with his talent and dashing good looks, led him to work with British theater royalty, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Peter Hall. His breakthrough role as Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey is allowing him to tackle a host of even higher-profile projects.
British actor Dan Stevens was born on October 10, 1982, in the English county of Surrey, and soon after was adopted by a family in Croydon. His younger brother is also adopted. Stevens has described himself as a rebellious youth, frequently getting in trouble or being suspended. He has speculated on whether being adopted fueled his unruly behavior but has had no impetus to locate his biological parents because he reveres his loving family, although he doesn't rule out that curiosity in the future.
Landing the lead role of Macbeth while in school gave him a focus for his energies. Stevens won a scholarship to the Tonbridge School, a prestigious boarding school, which gave him opportunities to exercise his newfound passion. But despite finding an outlet on the stage and being accepted into the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, he chose a formal education, reading literature at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He felt it would give him a greater breadth of reference and experience.
An early career coup was playing Orlando in As You Like It opposite Rebecca Hall for her director father, Sir Peter Hall, who soon became a mentor to the young actor. Stevens was nominated for an Ian Charleson Award for his performance.
Dame Judi Dench became another mentor when they were playing together in Noel Coward's Hay Fever in London's West End.
In addition to stage work, Stevens quickly began getting work in films, covering the classic monster genre in Frankenstein and Dracula before moving on to the BBC miniseries of Sense and Sensibility.
But the big career breakthrough came when Stevens was cast as Matthew Crawley in the Masterpiece Classic series Downton Abbey. Fans were devastated when his character died at the end of Season 3. But Stevens felt it was time to move on, clarifying that they were contracted for only three seasons anyway. He admits he will miss the cast, with whom he has grown close. He described Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham) and Allen Leech (Branson) as "hilarious brothers" and Dame Maggie Smith as "a joy." He also told the Telegraph that he would miss Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) because "after everything we have been through, it will be sad not to see the relationship continue."
But with his career in full swing, he joined the Broadway cast of The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry James' Washington Square starring Jessica Chastain. Stevens played Morris Townsend, a role made famous in the 1949 film version by Montgomery Clift.
Yet another renowned film role that has been batted about as a possibility for Stevens is Mr. Darcy, whose shoes have been filled by the inimitable Laurence Olivier and Colin Firth, for a Pride and Prejudice sequel of sorts, penned by mystery novelist P.D. James.
Whatever he chooses to do, Stevens is committed to returning to the stage frequently, per advice he got from Judi Dench. "She told me once, 'Always remember we're not proper grown-ups.' It makes me smile when I think about that, because it is absolutely accurate when it comes to actors," he told the Daily Mail.
In 2012, Stevens also took on the task of being a judge for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, England's prestigious award for writers, which meant he had to read 145 novels. He told London's Daily Telegraph: "Whenever we met as judges it was like some of the finest supervisions I had at university, talking about literature with brilliant people." On the other hand, in the early stages of trying to read so many novels, he said, "I can't even begin to describe the depths of despair I was in at some points."
But that didn't dissuade him from writing himself, becoming a regular columnist for London's Daily Telegraph, where he has admitted he is a fan of both poetry and cricket. He also co-founded an online quarterly literary "magazine" called The Junket, for which he serves as editor at large.
Stevens married South African jazz vocalist–turned–singing teacher Susie Hariet, after meeting her in 2006 when they were working in adjacent theaters. "We met and it was pretty instant," he has been quoted as saying, adding that she is impervious to the British class system, which he finds refreshing. Their daughter Willow was born December 2009, and son Aubrey in May 2012. "… I'd never met a Willow, never met an Aubrey—and now I have," Stevens said. He has said that his two children have made acting both more and less important to him.