Former Corrie star Rob James-Collier was offered lots of roles similar to his evil valet in Downton Abbey, but is glad he held out for new ITV crime drama The Level

Rob James-Collier is best known to TV audiences as Downton Abbey’s villainous valet Thomas Barrow, but there’s not a livery in sight in his new series, The Level.

The former Downton star plays a detective who finds himself investigating the murder of a notorious drug trafficker in ITV’s new crime thriller. He knew his first part after his role in the hit period drama would be important and didn’t mind waiting for the right one.

“When I left Downton I wanted to do something completely different,” said Robert. “I waited seven months and was delighted when they offered it to me. It’s the absolute antithesis to Downton so it was perfect.”

As The Level unfolds, the heroes and villains soon get mixed up and it becomes clear that some of the detectives on the case might be playing both sides. Robert knew he wanted the part immediately.

“I read the first three episodes in one go when I got the scripts!” he explained. “It’s very fast and exciting.”

“I was offered a few baddies after Downton,” he explained. “And a few gay baddies funnily enough! But you want to move it away and show you can do something else, otherwise you get pigeon-holed.”

He was also very keen to return for a second series if The Level is a success…

“Of course I’d love to come back for another series,” he says. “I’ve just bought a new house and I’d like to keep paying the mortgage on it … If my character survives of course!”

The Level premieres on ITV on Friday, September 30