Downton Abbey Boss Addresses Maggie Smith Departure Buzz: 'It's Entirely Up to Her'

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Maggie Smith Downton AbbeyIs Downton Abbey‘s Dowager Countess down for the count?

Amid rumors that Dame Maggie Smith will depart PBS’ Emmy-winning phenom at the end of the upcoming third season, series creator Julian Fellowes sat down with TVLine to set the record straight about the future of Downton‘s acid-tongued treasure.

In short, the ball is in her court.

“I can’t tell you, ‘Oh, yes, she’s definitely contracted [for Season 4] — because she isn’t,” Fellowes admitted to me Saturday during a media-packed day at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Beverly Hills. “It’s entirely up to her when she stays and when she goes.”

VIDEO | Downton Abbey Season 3 Sneak Peek — Maggie Smith vs. Shirley MacLaine

As TVLine reported back in March, most of Downton‘s principal cast — including Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), Elizabeth McGovern (Cora), Hugh Bonneville (Robert), Joanne Froggatt (Anna) and Brendan Coyle (Bates) — are signed on through a potential fourth and fifth season. Smith, however, opted against making a formal long-term commitment.

“With Maggie, you never know,” shrugged Fellowes. “Other [actors] sign on for the next series and they sign for this and they sign for that, but she doesn’t. She stays her own person.

“But as far as I’m concerned,” he adds, “I hope she stays with the show until Downton falls down.”

RELATED | Downton Abbey Cast Reacts to Emmy Nods

Fellowes, meanwhile, squashed speculation that another Downton fixture — leading man Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew — may be eying an early exit. “Dan is in the show,” he maintained. “A lot of stuff started up because he’s going to be on Broadway [this fall in The Heiress], but it’s a limited run. He’s only in it for three months, but of course everyone pounced on that.”

Downton‘s third season is expected to bow stateside in early 2013.

Comments (24)

  • I’m glad about Matthew. If he left, there would be no reason for me to continue watching.

    Comment by Rrrrrr – July 21, 2012 03:25 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Totally agree .. his involvement in this series is the reason why I will continue to follow it. So I was thrilled when I read this.

      Comment by Anita – July 22, 2012 03:53 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Omg! Dame Maggie can’t leave, I would have a hard time watching without her.

    Comment by Bonnie Colvert – July 21, 2012 03:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • While I adore Maggie Smith, you can’t really buy that her character would live another 20 years.
    I’m glad to see Anna and Bates will return so we’ll get to see all the Bates children! :)

    Comment by Alicia – July 21, 2012 03:42 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The Queen of Drama is being a drama queen. What’s the problem? Go Maggie!

    Comment by Templar – July 21, 2012 04:52 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Glad to see Dan and Maggie aren’t leaving. I never really thought Dan would as he’s such a major character. Does make me wonder now who is the character being killed off in season 3. It makes me think it’s got to be Branson, Sybil, or one of the servants like O’Brien. I can’t see them getting rid of Thomas with Rob’s popularity or someone like Carson or Mrs. Hughes. I would hate to see any of them leave but I sadly keep thinking that as Branson and Sybil’s baby comes one of them is going to die and the other will raise the baby.

    Comment by Amanda – July 21, 2012 05:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I agree. With the Irish revolution I’m thinking the baby will be coming to Downton with or without parents. I can’t see Branson not putting his life between Sybil and danger so it’s probably going to be him. Sybil comes home disillusioned and broken with baby or the baby shows up with a servant for someone to fall in love with. My hope is for Thomas to find the man of his dreams. Would Lord Grantham give them a cottage to live in on the estate like he’d offered Bates and Anna?

      Comment by Kim – July 23, 2012 10:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Please don’t go, Countess!

    Comment by aleksa – July 21, 2012 06:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • No one can leave this show, the cast is terrific and each character is valuable to the plot even though not all of them are likeable. Dame Maggie Smith needs to stay and I hate the fact her contract for seasons 4 and 5 is in the air.

    Comment by l2u9 – July 21, 2012 06:35 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Its beyond me why she would leave the show…. I mean it’s not like she has so much going on with her life.

    Comment by Gerald – July 21, 2012 06:45 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Yes but she did just beat cancer, I would assume she would reach a point in her life when she just retires and relaxes for a while… Can’t blame her at all if she were to choose that, if anyone has earned it, it’s her!

      Comment by Hods – July 21, 2012 07:46 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Maggie Smith is a 77-year old acting legend who won 2 Oscars, 5 BAFTA Awards , 2 Golden Globes, 2 Emmy Awards,2 SAG Awards and a Tony Award and a Laurence Olivier Award and unlike many critically acclaimed actresses, she found herself in several Box Office hits, as well, including Sister Act, Hook, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, the Harry Potter-franchise and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Thanks to these films she has never lost her relevance in the industry, so saying that “it’s not like she has so much going on with her life” is ridiculous : she recently starred in an international BO-hit (Marigold), wrapped the HP-franchise which was by the way a 10-year-commitment AND beat cancer. For her, Downton Abbey is just the tip of the iceberg. If she wants to retire, she should, she deserves it…but I REALLY hope she won’t, she is magnificent as Dowager Countess…and I also think she might be up for another Oscar this year with the ‘Quartet’.

      Comment by mantua – July 21, 2012 10:28 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I’m sure she more in her pinky finger than you do.

      Comment by Keenan – July 22, 2012 02:08 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Erm, pretty sure Gerald was being sarcastic. At least I hope so, since obviously Dame Maggie Smith is one of the worlds most in demand actresses and is absolutely never short of things to do.

      (people also seem to forget Britain works differently to America. Shorter seasons, longer gaps in between, Dame Maggie can do Downton AND other things too.)

      For me, I hope she stays until the end. But, its pretty easy to write her character out through death; it just wouldn’t be the same show without her.

      Comment by ben – July 22, 2012 03:39 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m not sure what the fuss is about. Why would any actor want to be locked into contracts? The fact Dame Maggie Smith hasn’t signed her life away doesn’t mean she is bailing out of the show. It would seem from this article that she will stay as long as it suits her and on her terms – smart woman!!

    Comment by Natasha Chadwick (@N_Chadwick) – July 21, 2012 07:51 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • As long as Dan is staying I’m good!

    Comment by A – July 21, 2012 08:57 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Not that I want to see Dan Stevens go anywhere….quite the contrary. BUT I could see how it might service the plot for him to go missing in som way. Hard to believe they will just let Lady Mary and Matthew run off into the sunset now with potentially several years of story left to tell. One can hope though!

    Comment by Beanergirl – July 22, 2012 07:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Yeah….her character is getting old since they just jumped through like 5yrs last season.Gotta move forward and I think she’ll be done this season.

    Comment by Shaun – July 22, 2012 12:47 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Love this show, now looking forward to buying the next season!

    Comment by Heather – July 22, 2012 03:00 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • If Maggie Smith left DA I really sure viewers are gonna be down! I mean, she’s the best character in the show. She’s an awesome actress. She is – and she will be – a God in this work (of the cinema).

    Comment by Reward – July 23, 2012 01:15 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • While I certainly hope M. Smith returns…Dan Stevens is an absolute requirement!!

    Comment by Ann Reardon – July 28, 2012 10:14 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Dame Maggie,thank you for all your work. If you leave you will be missed deeply. And if you do leave all the best in the world to you……

    Comment by Pam – August 15, 2012 09:12 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Pheww!! I was really worried about the whole “Dan Stevens may not come back”… it wouldn’t have any sense to have Matthew and Mary together to broke them appart a year later.

    Comment by Tinemi – November 23, 2012 05:45 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Time for Judie Dench…

    Comment by Max530 – February 18, 2013 12:23 AM PDT  Reply To This Post

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