Dan Stevens may have first gained fame as Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey (and broken many hearts by leaving the show early), but the actor has long-since moved on from that popular role to forge a reputation as a performer who can do a lot more than wear a suit, talk posh and look handsome. If his previous work didn’t break with Downton emphatically enough, Stevens’ wild turn as the schizophrenic David Keller on Legion certainly did. For evidence of Stevens’ willingness to take on any imaginable guise, persona or mask in the name of creating the fantasy, look no further than his performance as The Beast in the current smash hit Beauty and the Beast.

Though Stevens at one point seemed eager to get away from the sort of period trappings so integral to things like Downton Abbey, his appearance in Beauty and the Beast shows the actor again feels comfortable embracing the past. Another of Stevens’ upcoming projects will have him going back to the 19th Century to portray one of literary history’s most formidable figures; in Bharat Nalluri’s The Man Who Invented Christmas, Stevens plays famed A Christmas Carol author Charles Dickens.

A first look at Stevens’ take on Dickens (via EW) sees him with long hair and a quizzical expression on his face, holding up a newspaper with his own name on it in giant type.

Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens in The Man Who Created Christmas First Look at Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens

The movie, written by Mozart in the Jungle‘s Susan Coyle, promises to portray Dickens as less of a petrified literary hero and more of a real human being. In the article, Stevens explained what drew him to the movie:

“It was a really spooky, intriguing, funny piece. I just thought it was a really fresh take on that whole world. Particularly in England, Dickens is placed on a pedestal. But the guy was, at turns, quite playful and childish, and, at turns, quite dark and not a very pleasant man.”

Christmas picks up Dickens’ story at a low point in his life and shows how his circumstances led him to create A Christmas Carol and its many now-iconic characters, including Ebenezer Scrooge, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and of course the little, crippled boy Tiny Tim. Dickens’ fable of a miser’s redemption has obviously had a profound impact on the culture, and greatly influenced the evolution of Christmas into the holiday it has become, hence the title

With his turn as an apparently dark and complex Dickens in The Man Who Invented Christmas, Dan Stevens adds to his ever-growing repertoire of diverse characters who are absolutely nothing like the relatively bland Matthew Crawley. The very busy actor also has the Thurgood Marshall biopic Marshall, the romantic-comedy Permission and the sci-fi flick Redivider coming up in 2017.

Source: EW

Next: 15 Best Adaptations Of A Christmas Carol

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