Filming has secretly begun on a new series of Downton Abbey.
The period drama, whose last episode aired just over eight years ago, makes a surprise return for a seventh season.
Bosses were hoping to bring back some of the big-name actors such as Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern and Joanne Froggatt, who appeared in the previous six seasons and two spin-off films.
While it is not known if everyone has signed up, bosses are said to be “delighted” with their casting.
The return of the programme, which was filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire and covered the many social changes and world events between 1912 and 1928, is expected to be on screen by the end of the year.
The cast of the first season of Downtown Abbey, which premiered in 2010, is shown above.
For the new season, bosses were hoping to bring back some of the big-name actors such as Hugh Bonneville (left), Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern (right) and Joanne Froggatt, who appeared in the previous six seasons and two spin-off films. .
It is understood it will be on ITV, where it aired from 2010 to 2015.
Old episodes of Downton look good on the channel’s streaming platform, ITVX, so TV insiders will hope they do everything they can to prevent it from reaching rivals like Netflix or Amazon.
A source close to the project told the Mail: “Filming has been going on for a few weeks now, it’s all very, very secret. There are people working on it who have never seen secrecy like this.
“Those working on the set have been forced to sign confidentiality agreements not to reveal the game, but there is a lot of excitement about the return of Downton.
“Before it was a great success and there are many more stories to tell, it seemed a shame not to be able to do more, but they have made it a reality.”
The Mail on Sunday revealed last May that bosses were hoping to revive the series and in December creator Julian Fellowes did not rule out a return when asked if he would return.
He told Radio Times: “I’ve said goodbye to Downton so many times and I’ve written the last scene about six or seven times. “I’ve now gotten out of the habit of making standing statements about it no longer existing.
“It just gives me a lot of pleasure that so many people enjoyed it, so to feel like you created a show that people are excited about and that they had a good time, I love it.”
The final episode of the show, which served as a launching pad for the careers of Dockery, who played Lady Mary, Lily James, who played Lady Rose, and Jessica Brown Findlay, who played Lady Sybil, aired on Christmas Day 2015. with an audience figure that reaches a maximum of 7.4 million.
In the finale, viewers saw Edith, played by Laura Carmichael, and Bertie, played by Harry Hadden-Patton, finally get married, on New Year’s Eve 1925.
The final series was followed by two films, one in 2019 and another in 2022.