Downton Abbey mania is not over yet. Though the beloved TV series took its final bow in 2015 and a film adaptation followed in 2019, the story will continue on with a sequel, which is set to hit theaters in December this year. Though rumors about the upcoming project have been in circulation for years, plans for a follow-up film have been officially confirmed.

Here’s what to know about Downton Abbey 2.

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The release date is December 22.

Mark your calendar for Wednesday, December 22; Downton Abbey 2 will be released in theaters just in time for Christmas this year. Production on the film began the week of April 12, Focus Features announced.

“After a very challenging year with so many of us separated from family and friends, it is a huge comfort to think that better times are ahead and that next Christmas we will be re-united with the much beloved characters of Downton Abbey,” producer Gareth Neame said in a statement.

The original cast is returning, with some new additions.

The original principal cast will reprise their roles for the sequel, including Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham), Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Talbot), Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham), Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham), Imelda Staunton (Maud Bagshaw), and Penelope Wilton (Isobel Merton).

Actors Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye, and Dominic West are also joining the cast, but details about their characters still remain under wraps.

Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn, Woman in Gold) will direct Downton Abbey 2, following Michael Engler, who directed the first film. The show creator, Julian Fellowes, will write the screenplay once again.

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The first movie was so successful that a sequel was basically inevitable.

Less than a month after the Downton film premiered, The Sun reported that “a sequel is already in the pipeline” following the immense financial success of the first movie. Per the publication, the movie had “taken more than £110 million [approximately $134 million] globally despite being out for only 26 days,” with around $73 million of the movie’s box office coming from the United States alone.

Michelle Dockery would love the cast to “get back together” again.

Michelle Dockery, who portrays Lady Mary, previously said that a sequel completely depends on how well the first movie is received. Dockery told Harper’s BAZAAR that she loved making the movie, especially as it gave her the chance to reunite with the cast. She explained, “Because we loved doing it so much, [when we wrapped] it was definitely that feeling like, Oh, we could do this again, and it would be wonderful to all get back together.”

Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary star in the Downton Abbey movie. (Photo: Liam Daniel)

Dockery continued, “We have such a good time. But that really depends on how it’s received. It will be really interesting to see the reaction.”

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The characters have more stories to tell.

Joanne Froggatt, who portrays Anna Bates, is excited about the future potential of all of Downton Abbey‘s characters. Hinting that she’d return for a movie sequel, Froggatt also previously told BAZAAR, “I guess it’s down to the fans, isn’t it? I mean, if it’s popular and people love it, and, of course, there’s scope to do something else.”

Froggatt also revealed, “I think this story can be never ending when you’ve got that many different characters, personalities, relationships—whether they be romantic or friendships or feuds. Whatever those relationships are, you’ve got this melting pot of all these amazing stories that can come up from there. I don’t think you’d ever say it’s the end of the story.”

Sophie McShera, who plays Daisy in Downton Abbey, concurred with Froggatt and told BAZAAR, “Definitely we’d all be up for always revisiting these characters. We love them.”

Sequel ideas had been discussed for years.

Producer Gareth Neame told The Hollywood Reporter in September 2019, “We’ve got the beginnings of ideas of what we might do next—if that would happen.”

Meanwhile, Allen Leech, who plays Tom Branson in the show and the movie, told THR, “What I love about what Julian always does is when it looks like he’s finishing a storyline, he’s actually starting one.”

Leech continued, “It would be very interesting to see what would happen. I think we would all be up for it. It all comes down to how this one does. If people really love it and there really is an appetite, then why wouldn’t we do it?”

The movie’s director, Michael Engler, confirmed to Vanity Fair, “I think there always is potential.”

The pandemic has delayed filming.

Downton Abbey‘s patriarch, Hugh Bonneville, revealed that the Downton Abbey sequel would start shooting as soon as cast members have had the COVID-19 vaccine. Per Variety, Bonneville revealed on BBC Radio 2’s The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show in February, “Here’s the deal, if everybody who is offered a vaccine takes a vaccine, we can make a movie, we will make a movie. … It’s the usual thing. The planets are circling. They are beginning to get into alignment.” He continued, “There is a thing called coronavirus knocking around and until that is under control in a sensible way, we are not going to be able to get all those ducks in a row. Mixing my metaphors here.”

“But there is certainly the intention to do it,” he said. “We would love to do it, we are desperate to do it, and I think it’s the sort of pleasurable release of a movie like the first one was, that audiences would enjoy after all of this mess we have been through.”

This story first appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US