'Downton' star gets another period project

FILE - In this July 31, 2011 file photo, actor Dan Stevens poses for a portrait, in Beverly Hills, California. The "Downton Abbey" star has had a double-dose of drama this month. The British actor, who plays Matthew Crawley, has been shooting the third series of the Golden Globe-winning country house TV series set in 1920 - and another period piece at the same time. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

LONDON (AP) — "Downton Abbey" star Dan Stevens has been spending twice as much time in the past.

Along with shooting the third season of the 1920s-set Golden-Globe-winning TV show, he's been filming and executive producing another period project in London, playing one side of an Edwardian love triangle in the movie, "Summer in February."

The tight schedule means Stevens is the earnest Matthew Crawley amid the upper crust of Downtown Abbey one day — then a 1913 land agent who finds himself in a community of unconventional artists the next.

"It's been a bit of a headache, but fortunately they're not too far apart in terms of period, which is one good thing," Stevens told The Associated Press on the set of his new film in Twickenham, outside London.

Jumping between two sets is not something he'd do again, but "Summer in February" is a a passion project for the 29-year-old.

The film is based on a book by a teacher from his old school, Jonathan Smith, who also adapted the screenplay, and they had been talking about the project since the actor was a teenager.

"The book came out around the time that I met him and he always joked that if it got made into a film or TV show, that I'd make a good Gilbert," he said.

Based on a true story, Stevens' character is Gilbert Evans, a land agent for the Lamorna Valley estate in England's picturesque, southwestern county of Cornwall, which has become home to a group of artists.

Australian actress Emily Browning plays the object of his affection, Florence Carter-Wood, and Dominic Cooper is Evans' charismatic competition, A.J., who would go on to fame as artist Sir Alfred Munnings, one of England's best painters of rural scenes.

"These artist colonies at this time, the early 20th century, were strange little places really," Stevens said. "People dressed in period clothing, but often wearing them in quite unusual ways and behaving, not necessarily according to how people might ordinarily have behaved."

"That's been quite fun to explore, it's not a conventional period drama in that sense, it's more a love story," he adds.

As for how the drama is going at his other historical project, "Downton Abbey," Stevens says it's been exciting to be back — and that new addition Shirley MacLaine has just completed shooting her scenes.

When he finishes the new season, however, he's ready to move on from the past.

"I would like to do something modern and possibly funny," Stevens smiles. "I seem to have not had many laughs for a while, so that would be nice."

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