Downton Abbey's fourth season will welcome the hit costume drama's first black cast member: Gary Carr. Known for his regular appearances on British television, Carr is set to become a recurring character on the otherwise Caucasian series. After some criticism over the lack of ethnic diversity over the last three seasons, it looks like the series is starting to open up. On top of this casting news, Downton Abbey is also preparing to launch a few lines of merchandise.
After three successful seasons, executive producer Gareth Neame announced that a product line based on the show's set decorations and period clothing will launch. "We'll be working across an entire range of products coming out this year. From fashion, apparel and homeware and furniture to wallpapers, beauty products and stationary," he explained.
Neame described this merchandising strategy as "very cautious," saying waiting so long for this launch was beneficial. "No one wants to launch products if the show's going to be a flop," he said.
Of course, the show is clearly a hit. Downton Abbey's third season was the most watched drama of 2012 in he U.K. and the latest season finale beat out all other cable and broadcast shows in the United States.
Neames also spoke of Gary Carr's casting, saying, "His [Carr's character] addition will bring interesting twists to the drama which we can't wait for viewers to see in [season four]." Carr is set to portray Jack Ross, a "charming and charismatic" young jazz singer.
New cast members also include Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Tom Cullen, Julian Ovenden, Nigel Harman, Joanna David and Dame Harriet Walter. Regular cast members including Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Jim Carter are set to return for the fourth season as well. Plus Shirley MacLaine will reprise her season three role of Martha Levinson in the fourth season.