Nigel Harmon has defended the decision to include a shocking rape scene in ITV's Sunday night drama Downton Abbey. Some viewers were left stunned at Harmon's character Mr Green attacked the maid Anna Bates.

The former Eastenders actor dropped into This Morning today to speak about the scene, saying, "It was a shocking storyline and a bold storyline, and something that when I was sent the script and read it I was amazed by and excited by, if that's the right word. For a show like Downton Abbey it really leaps out as a bold and risky idea.

"I've worked with Joanne Froggatt and Brendan before and we got together and had a rehearsal with and had a rehearsal with Catherine Morshead the director, and we just went for it."

"What we didn't want to do was try to signal what was about to come," Harmon added, "We had this man turning up who's a bit cheeky and over confident, and he's come up from London to Yorkshire, so we had all of that, but we didn't want to signal what could be the shadow lurking him. And so we wanted to go for something that, as it would be in life, would be very shocking. "

Katy Rink, of the Telegraph, noted that ITV are by no means the first broadcaster to portray rape on-screen, though wrote "Any awkwardness we may have felt is illogical. And yet it was there.Was it simply that it didn't fit with our expectations of the nation's beloved Sunday evening period drama? But last week we were carping about the sluggish pace and pappy content. We can't have our cake and eat it. Surely it is the dramatist's role to challenge expectations?"

Viv Groskop over at The Guardian wrote, "The horror in Downton is usually fairly pantomime. This felt possibly too real, too desperate. I can't quite forgive it."

Downton Abbey season four continues on Sunday (October 13, 2013).

Joanne FroggattJoanne Froggatt's Character Was Raped In Sunday's Episode of Downton Abbey

Brendan Coyle
Brendan Coyle, of Downton Abbey