- "Downton Abbey's" fifth season begins January 4
- The cast and executive producer have talked about what's to come
- The EP promises "substantial twists and turns"
After the New Year, it'll be "Downton Abbey" season.
PBS announced Tuesday at the Television Critics Association press tour that its popular "Masterpiece" program will kick off its fifth season on January 4.
Executive producer Gareth Neame also attended the TCAs with some "Downton" stars, delivering some juicy hints about what's to come.
Season 5 will pick up six months after the events of the Season 4 Christmas special, and Michelle Dockery's Lady Mary will be feeling more like her old self after grieving for so long.
"She's embracing her new life, really," Dockery told reporters. "She's through the grief now and I kind of see (Season) 5 as the new Mary. ... She's got a bit of her bite back, which we had in (Season) 1."
And while she's feeling more open to love -- although not with Allen Leech's Tom Branson, to some fans' dismay -- Mary and her sister Edith are still as combative as ever.
Laura Carmichael, who plays the perpetually unfortunate Edith, said that things still aren't looking up for her character.
"Mary doesn't know Edith has a daughter," Dockery said. "So Edith certainly won't get any sympathy from her unknowing sister."
Actually, quite the opposite: "Mary's mean to Edith especially in this season," Dockery went on. "Me and Laura love it when they're mean to each other, it's more fun to do."
As for those downstairs, Leech is just thankful his Tom Branson's still on the show after the death of Sybil. And Joanne Froggatt's Anna and Brendan Coyle's Mr. Bates are talking about maybe having some kids ... when Anna's not questioning whether Mr. Bates is a murderer, that is.
"There are a lot of questions for Anna and Bates still," Froggatt said. "There's this thing between them where they both know they're not quite being honest with each other."
Producer Neame confirmed that we won't get more Shirley MacLaine or Paul Giamatti this season, but that we can expect some "really substantial twists and turns."
Leech observed that "as the series has progressed, the stories have become more personal." Now, in the fifth season, "it's an individual journey for each character more so than it ever has been before."