Downton Abbey - Maggie Smith

The incomparable Maggie Smith heads up the cast for Downton Abbey and chats about her role [created especially with her in mind by screenwriter Julian Fellowes].

I am just surprised to be doing anything at my age actually. When you think of where I am now and where I’ve come from, I am very pleased and very grateful to be standing up and delivering Julian’s great lines.

She herself says of acting that it is more than a job, “I love it; it never crossed my mind to be anything else…I’m privileged to do it and I don’t know where I’d be without it.

It is very satisfying to play a character such as Violet, and I have a lot of fun with her – Julian is good at those sorts of ladies. This is the third old lady I’ve played for him, so I am getting the hang of it now,” she laughs. She plays Mrs Oldknow in Julian’s film From Time To Time, and Lady Trentham in Gosford Park, (on left) a character inspired by Julian’s great aunt.

What I think is brilliant is that this is Julian’s original script and not an adaptation of anything and to have these wonderful ideas to work with, that you know are original, is quite simply stunning.” For Fellowes the choice of Maggie to play the Dowager Countess was an easy one. “Maggie Smith has a unique sense of comedy, based on a somewhat ironic view of real life, making it both funnier and more sad. But perhaps her greatest ability, or at least the one that most intrigues me, is how she can convey deep and powerful emotion without a trace of sentimentality,” explains Fellowes.

From the outset of Downton Abbey, Violet is clearly trying to hang onto her position as matriarch of the Crawley family – opinionated, immensely proud, passionately loyal to her son Robert and insufferable to her daughter-in-law Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), whom she has always regarded as a living compromise the family has had to make. When the entail in her late husband’s Will threatens to deprive her grand-daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery), of her rightful inheritance and Cora’s American money, Violet finds herself joining forces with her daughter-in-law. When asked if they are to be friends, Violet replies: “We are allies, my dear. Which can be a great deal more effective.”

When the Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton from Wives & Daughters), meet at the beginning of episode two, an unexpected battle of wills ensues between the two women. During the course of the series, both characters find themselves humiliated by the other with personal battles lost and won along the way. “I am very cross with Mrs Crawley and her son, because I feel they are kind of going to get away with the Estate and with lots and lots of money - it’s all happened because some family members have gone down in the Titanic and I consider these Crawleys to be common upstarts.”

Off set, the relationship between Maggie and Penelope Wilton couldn’t be in greater contrast. “Mercifully, it’s not the same in real life. We get on very well and often take strolls together around the grounds of Highclere.” In fact Penelope Wilton says that apart from having a great script to work with, one of the key reasons for taking the part was to work with Maggie Smith.

And I can't help but wonder...
how many of the other cast members would affirm the same reason!

More details posted here: Downton Abbey


  1. How I have enjoyed Downton Abbey 2010 - I have the DVD's - my granddaughter and I enjoy putting her little one to bed at night and watching an episode while we relax in the evening. We are both waiting anxiously for this seasons DVD's to become available, so we can enjoy some more nice evenings. Thank you so much! Connie Donath, St. Paul, MN

  2. @Anonymous
    Happy to hear that I'm not the only Downton Abbey fan! Great that you can share it with your granddaughter!



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