- - Thursday, March 8, 2012

“Downtown 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 Mr. Stevens is the earnest Matthew Crawley amid the upper crust of Downton 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,” Mr. 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 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. They have 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, Mr. 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.

As for how the drama is going at his other historical project, “Downton Abbey,” Mr. Stevens said 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,” Mr. Stevens said. “I seem to have not had many laughs for a while, so that would be nice.”

Chesney, Aldean among performers for CMAs

Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert and Toby Keith are among the stars who will perform at the Academy of Country Music Awards next month.

Eric Church and Luke Bryan round out the first wave of performers announced by the academy on Thursday.

Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton will co-host the 47th annual awards show, which will air live April 1 from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on CBS.

Mr. Chesney leads all nominees with nine and Mr. Aldean is next with six. Both are up for the night’s top honors — entertainer, album and male vocalist of the year.

‘All-American Muslim’ dropped by TLC network

A TLC network reality television show about Muslim families living in the Detroit area is ending after one season. TLC spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg said Wednesday the “All-American Muslim” series won’t be back. Its eight-episode run ended in January.

“All-American Muslim” attracted attention when a conservative Christian group called for an advertiser boycott. At least two companies announced they were pulling ads. TLC said the protest caused a backlash in which new advertisers signed on.

After a strong start to the series, ratings faded. The series was considered a long shot to return.

‘Desperate Housewives’ jury hears conflicting testimony

A former writer on “Desperate Housewives” on Wednesday contradicted testimony by the show’s creator that a decision to kill off Nicollette Sheridan’s role had been made four months before the actress claimed her boss struck her on the set.

The testimony by Lori Kirkland Baker was the latest twist in Miss Sheridan’s wrongful termination and battery lawsuit against “Housewives” creator and executive producer Marc Cherry and ABC.

Mr. Cherry and Ms. Baker told jurors how plots are discussed months in advance using index cards, brainstorming sessions and assistants taking notes.

Mr. Cherry testified that he announced at a writers’ retreat in May 2008 that he had received authorization from top studio and network executives to kill off Miss Sheridan’s character Edie Britt. He said a photograph of note cards from the sessions that included the coded message “Steven drinks OJ” signaled that Britt’s days were numbered.

Hours later, Ms. Baker testified that the first time she heard about the decision to kill Britt was in December 2008, the same month ABC cleared Mr. Cherry of wrongdoing in his dispute with Miss Sheridan in September 2008.

She acknowledged she was not present for all discussions about plot points. The former writer and co-executive producer said she considered suing Mr. Cherry after her contract was not renewed for the sixth season of “Desperate Housewives.”

Former ABC studio executive Mark Pedowitz told jurors on Tuesday that he gave Mr. Cherry approval to kill off Britt at a May 22, 2008, meeting that Ms. Baker did not attend.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.

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