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Downton Abbey 2 - What We Know So Far

Fans of Downton Abbey are in for a treat: A second movie is officially coming your way — and a lot sooner than you might suspect. On April 19, Variety confirmed filming on Downton Abbey 2 is officially underway. And although there's no word on what the Crawley family will be up to in the sequel just yet, it seems the movie will very much be a family affair.

The first Downton Abbey movie, which was itself a continuation of the hit ITV-PBS period drama, proved to be a box office hit for Focus Features grossing more than $194 million worldwide. In the 2019 film, the Crawley family scrambled to prepare for a visit from the King and Queen of England, all while dealing with an assassination attempt, a preganancy announcement from Edith, and new romances. At the end of the movie, the family's matriarch, the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), revealed to Mary (Michelle Dockery) that she didn't have long to live, which begs the question of whether or not the fan-favorite character will return for the second film.

Read on to find out everything we know about the Downton Abbey sequel, including the latest on whether or not the Dowager Countess will be back to serve up more piping hot tea to her family members.

When will Downton Abbey 2 be released?

The second Downton Abbey movie will be released in theaters on December 22, 2021. While that may seem like an incredibly fast turnaround, it seems behind-the-scenes work on the movie has been going on for quite some time.

During a February 2021 interview with the British radio program The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show, actor Hugh Bonneville teased (via Entertainment Weekly), "If everybody who is offered a vaccine takes a vaccine, we can make a movie. We will make a movie. It's the usual thing, the planets are circling, they're beginning to get into alignment, but there's this thing called coronavirus knocking around. Until that is under control in a sensible way, we're not going to be able to get all those ducks in a row."

At the time, he noted he had already seen the script, which means the movie has been in the planning stages for more than a year. And now that the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is well underway, filming on Downton Abbey 2 has officially begun.

Will the entire Downton Abbey cast return for the second film?

While a complete cast list hasn't been released, Variety reports the entire original cast will return for the second film. That includes Bonneville, Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Allen Leech, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, and more. Meanwhile, Smith isn't specified by name in the announcement, but Entertainment Weekly is reporting that the Dowager will be back.

There's no word yet on whether or not Lily James, who played Lady Rose Aldridge in the later seasons of the TV show, will return for the second film. James has become one of Hollywood's most in-demand stars since the series ended, and as a result, she didn't appear in the first Downton movie. Since Rose lives in America with her husband, her absence is easily explained, but it would still be nice to see her reunited with her cousins Mary and Edith this time around.

In addition to the original cast, the second film will include several new cast members, too. Variety confirmed Hugh Dancy (Hannibal), Laura Haddock (Guardians of the Galaxy), French actress Nathalie Baye (Catch Me If You Can) and Dominic West (The Affair) have all joined the movie in undisclosed roles.

What will Downton Abbey 2 be about?

Details on the movie's plot are maddeningly scarce, but we do know the script was penned by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. Meanwhile, Goodbye Christopher Robin director Simon Curtis will be at the helm this time around (Michael Engler directed the first film).

While it hasn't been officially confirmed, the official announcement suggests the second Downton Abbey film could be holiday themed, which would be fitting given the premiere date. Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski said in a statement: "There's no place like home for the holidays, and we can't imagine a better gift than getting to reunite with Julian, Gareth [Neame], and the entire Downton family in 2021 to bring the Crawley's back home for their fans."

Whether or not the Crawleys will be decking the halls or not when they return to the big screen this December, Downton Abbey 2 definitely feels like an early Christmas present for fans of the series.