'Masterpiece' Producer Rebecca Eaton On Making Downton Abbey

Jan 3, 2014

The day is nearly here for the Crawley family, and their staff, to return to television screens across the county.

The PBS Masterpiece hit Downton Abbey kicks off it's fourth season this Sunday night. The first episode will premiere at 9 p.m. on WJCT Television.

Credit downtonabbey_official / Instagram

Emmy award winning Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton joined Melissa Ross for a preview of the new season.

"I'm not going to tell you anything," Eaton joked about spoiling the new season.

Eaton is also the author of Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS, released late last year.

"It was offered to us in early early idea form, and I thought, we don't really need this," Eaton said of how Downton came to PBS.

The show was shopped around to several other outlets, including HBO, before being picked by Masterpiece. Eaton said she had no idea it would be a hit when she signed the deal.

"We do lots of shows like this, so we thought it would be just as good as those shows and pull in a good, strong audience for us, but we didn't know it was going to be a blockbuster at all," she said.

READ: An excerpt from Making Masterpiece by producer Rebecca Eaton

The show has been sold to more than 200 territories, Eaton said, noting the size of the former British Empire.

"If I knew that we would be making the next one right away," Eaton said, when asked why the show has struck such a chord with viewers.

Eaton attributed the popularity of the show in part to the writing, costumes, and setting, but also to the fascination of people with the history of the time.

As for Sunday's premiere, Eaton said the abbey is in deep mourning following the loss of a key character in season three, and that another character from the first three seasons will also not be appearing in the new edition for reasons that will be revealed in the first episode.

Season 4 of Masterpiece's Downton Abbey premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6, on WJCT-TV.

You can live tweet with PBS and Downton insiders, including actress Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore) during Sunday's premiere by using the hashtag #DowntonPBS.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.