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Downton Abbey Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

An ensemble show like few others, "Downton Abbey" was a cultural phenomenon during its time on the air. The show was nominated for no less than 69 Emmys, and at the height of its popularity, it averaged 13.3 million viewers per week, according to Forbes. This period drama followed the lives of the Crawley family and their impressive household staff over the course of six seasons that spanned 12 years

Though most shows choose to focus on a limited set of roles, "Downton Abbey" was unique in its ability to give almost every member of their huge cast an intriguing and complicated storyline. The writers intermingled the show's narrative with true historical events, such as the sinking of the Titanic in the series premiere, which added a layer of authenticity to the plight of the characters. Now, with the news that a new "Downton Abbey" project is in the works, fans are more excited than ever to see their favorite characters again. Unfortunately, there are some cast members who did not live to join the reunion, but they will be remembered and missed by their costars and fans alike. 

Tim Pigott-Smith died a few years ago

Although he only appeared in one episode, Sir Philip Tapsell arguably had one of the largest impacts on the show. He was an egotistical obstetrician treating the pregnant Lady Sybil Branson. Played brilliantly by Tim Pigott-Smith, Tapsell's arrogance led him to ignore the warning signs of pre-eclampsia pointed out by the local general practitioner, and at his urging, the family continued with a home birth instead of going to the hospital. This decision resulted in one of the show's most tragic deaths as Sybil dies shortly after delivering her daughter. The scene of her husband Tom helplessly clinging to her while she suffocates to death is one of the most devastating in the series, and the consequences of that day reverberated for the rest of the show's run. 

According to the New York Times, Tim Pigott-Smith died in April 2017 at the age of 70. He was an acclaimed British character actor who won a BAFTA for the 1980s mini-series "The Jewel in the Crown" and earned a Tony nomination for his role in "King Charles III" the year before he died. His abilities ranged from the classic drama of "King Lear" to the slapstick comedy of Rowan Atkinson's "Johnny English."

Nicky Henson lived with cancer for almost two decades

"Downton" fans will remember Nicky Henson best as the down-and-out stage entertainer Charles Grigg, who blackmails the Crawley's butler, Carson, about his past. After getting banished in Season 1 by the Earl of Grantham, he returns in Season 4 a humbled and repentant man. Grigg expresses remorse for his actions and informs Carson that although an ex-lover they both pursued years ago chose Grigg, Carson was clearly the better man. This allows them both a modicum of closure, and it's a first step in mending their friendship. 

The Guardian confirmed in December 2019 that Nicky Henson died at the age of 74 from cancer. Diagnosed 19 years before his death, he told the PA news agency in 2018 that "For the last 18 years, I've regarded myself as being in extra time, which I never expected to have, so I'm very thankful for it." His career spanned almost 60 years, including an unforgettable guest performance in "Fawlty Towers" as a bare-chested, playboy charmer.

Bernard Gallagher and Christopher Rozycki died within a year

Bernard Gallagher played Bill Molesley, the stalwart gardener and loyal participant of the village flower show, as well as the father of Joseph Crawley. Bill held a friendly rivalry with The Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), and although her character rarely showed compassion for others, Molesley seemed to be the exception. In Season 1, she gave him her award from the flower show, and in Season 4, she offered his son Joseph a job. 

Christopher Rozycki played Count Nikolai Rostov in Season 3, a refugee from Russia. As Time pointed out, the episode fed into the aristocratic views of the Crawleys, who were sympathetic towards Russian elites, rather than banishing them like socialists. It also highlighted an oft-forgotten part of Russian history and the burgeoning of anti-Semitic sentiments in Europe. 

HolbyTV reported that Rozycki died in 2015 after an accidental fall at the age of 71, and Gallagher died of pneumonia the following year at 87, as confirmed by The Guardian. Their roles on "Downton Abbey" were some of their last appearances. Before either of them joined the series, they worked together on another popular British ensemble show called "Casualty." As part of the show's original cast, they launched what is currently the longest-running primetime medical drama in the world, according to Guinness World Records.

Terence Harvey and Jane Wenham are no longer with us

Though best known in the U.K. for his part as Alistair on "Hollyoaks," Americans are more likely to remember Terrence Harvey as Jarvis, the Downton Abbey's estate manager. His character symbolized the resistance to changing times and the consequences of being unable to adapt. When Matthew Crawley began making adjustments to how Downton was farmed, Jarvis saw this as a threat to his way of life and took personal offense. In a fit of anger, he resigned his position of 40 years and departed the estate. According to his obituary in The Times, Terence died suddenly in 2017 at the age of 72.

Jane Wenham had a minor role in Season 1 as Mrs. Bates, who exposed her daughter-in-law Vera's treachery to Anna Smith. According to the Guardian, she passed away at 90 years old. Wenham was a celebrated stage actor, best known for her television roles in shows like "Porridge," "Bergerac," "Last of the Summer Wine," "The Darling Buds of May," and "Inspector Morseand." 

Ronald Pickup and James Green died within a month of each other

Both Ronald Pickup and James Green helped usher out "Downton Abbey" in its final season. Ronald Pickup portrayed Sir Michael Reresby, who denies Thomas Barrow a job at his dilapidated estate, but is then hired by Sir Mark Stiles, played by James Greene. Sir Michael finds the job exceedingly dull and eventually returns to Downton. 

The Metro reported in January of this year that James Greene died at 89 after a short illness. The following month, Ronald Pickup, 80, was also confirmed deceased by the BBC. Pickup was most recently recognized for his role as Norman Cousins in the 2012 film "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and its sequel, "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." He was most prolific during his great classic roles in the 1980s (via The Guardian). Similarly, the Belfast Telegraph wrote after his death that James Greene was a television staple for decades, with appearance on shows like "The Crown," "Call The Midwife," "Merlin" and "Midsomer Murders."