Beverly Hills, Calif. — PBS’ Downton Abbey began its farewell lap on Saturday at the network’s TCA 2015 Summer Press Tour.
“Saying goodbye is going to be very, very hard,” said Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton. “But we are very, very proud.”
Eaton was joined on stage by cast members Joanne Froggatt, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Penelope Wilton and executive producer Gareth Neame.
“We all felt now is the right time,” said Neame of the decision to end the show after six seasons. “It’s about leaving a little bit earlier than you might.”
Neame did say a Downton movie is possible but there are no firm plans.
Filming is set to wrap on the series Aug. 15. Though, the cast has begun to close some sets, including Highclere Castle, the abbey.
“As soon as they said cut on that one day, you realize it was just pretend,” said Carmichael.
“We didn’t want to leave,” added Dockery.
The goodbyes began at the start of PBS’ press tour during president and CEO Paula Kerger’s executive session.
“Downton has made a big difference for a lot of reasons,” she said of the network's highest rated show, adding that the series brought a lot of people back to public television. “You have these wonderful projects and sometimes they hit at exactly the right moment.”
That time for PBS was nearly five ago when the public television network was struggling to attract viewers and trying to pick up the pieces from the recession.
The network is already looking ahead, pairing the final season of Downton, which premieres Jan. 3, with Mercy Street beginning on Jan. 17, its first original scripted drama in 10 years.
“I do believe that Downton won’t be the last great drama,” said Kerger.
The verdict is still out, though, on whether Mercy Street will be able to emerge from the Abbey’s shadow.