Downton Abbey heartthrob Dan Stevens is making his Broadway debut in The Heiress, and while fans of the hit British series know him as the handsome, sensitive and charming Matthew Crawley, the play will find him taking on the dastardly role of penniless suitor Morris Townsend. Stevens won’t play the character as a typical bad guy though—in fact, he thinks villains are boring.
“Everybody who knows the play says, ‘Oh, you’re playing Morris. He’s a villain, a gold digger,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, that’s one way of looking at it,’” Stevens told Time Out New York. “But it’s not as interesting to play if he arrives twiddling his metaphorical mustache. The moral ambiguity between those three lead characters is more complex than that. I’m enjoying finding a real humanity for them, which is not always easy, because they behave in quite strange ways.”
In the play, Morris, who is courting the wealthy but plain-looking heiress Catherine Sloper (Jessica Chastain), must first answer to Catherine’s father, the stern Dr. Austin Sloper (played by David Strathairn). The doctor suspects Morris is only after his family’s money and doesn’t love Catherine at all—especially because he spends most of his time fawning over their lavish house in Washington Square. But Stevens has another interpretation: “I think Morris is both in love with Catherine and her lifestyle,” the actor mused. “The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.”
As if Stevens weren't busy enough prepping for his November 1 opening night, he also has 145 novels to read! The actor is serving as a judge for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction...it's just too bad he's not currently on the Downton Abbey set to get some reading done in those elaborate libraries! In addition to his professional duties the actor is also making time to tour the Big Apple with his newborn son, Aubrey, and his daughter Willow, who is almost three. “We’ve been enjoying the park and the Museum of Natural History, finding the good kids’ stuff to explore,” he said. “Willow’s very excited by New York—yellow taxis and things like that.”
While strolling the streets of New York City, Stevens admits he’s been getting lots of attention from Downton Abbey fans. “It’s almost bigger here than it is back home,” he said of the hit series. “They really love it here. But that kind of attention is not debilitating.” If Stevens plans to sign on for season four of the series, he’s keeping it a secret. “There’s a lot of speculation, isn’t there?” he said. “It should be interesting to see what happens.”
The Heiress begins previews October 6 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.