Maggie Smith once candidly confessed she “wasn’t acting” in ‘Downton Abbey’
(Credit: Netflix)

Film News

Maggie Smith once candidly confessed she "wasn't acting" in 'Downton Abbey'

In a world where sequels are a dime a dozen, Downton Abbey managed to charm its way back into our hearts with not one but two follow-up films. “Six seasons and a movie” was the mantra Abed got going, only for it to become an unfulfilled wish of the entire Community fandom. While we wait for Greendale’s finest to arrive on the big screen, the saga of the Crawley family has continued with gusto.

The sequel, aptly titled Downton Abbey: A New Era, is currently climbing the top ten films chart on Netflix UK. Directed by Simon Curtis and penned by the illustrious Julian Fellowes, the brains behind the beloved television series Downton Abbey: A New Era hit screens in 2022, continuing the opulent tale that has mesmerised a global audience for years. With an ensemble cast featuring the likes of Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, and, of course, the inimitable Dame Maggie Smith, this film whisks you away to the South of France.

Set in 1928, the film follows the Crawley family once again. As the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Smith’s Violet Crawley reveals she not only inherited a villa in the South of France from the Marquis de Montmirail but that she is leaving it to her granddaughter Sybbie. She simply wishes for Tom Branson and the late Sybil Crawley’s only child to be on equal footing with the rest of her privileged cousins.

One of the film’s central plotlines involves a film production company’s interest in using the Downton Abbey mansion as a backdrop for a silent film titled The Gambler that has to transition into a talkie, sparking curiosity and drama among both the upstairs and downstairs inhabitants. 

However, despite the film’s success and its recent climb up Netflix’s top ten list in the UK, not everyone was completely satisfied with their roles. In a revelation as shocking as a Dowager Countess put-down, Dame Maggie Smith herself admitted that she didn’t find her roles in the Downton universe particularly fulfilling or challenging. 

Smith, who portrayed the sharp-tongued Dowager Countess Violet Crawley, confessed to the Evening Standard, “I am deeply grateful for the work in Potter and indeed Downton, but it wasn’t what you’d call satisfying. I didn’t really feel I was acting in those things.” Smith reminisced about how she and the late Alan Rickman (who immortalised Professor Snape in the Harry Potter franchise) would complain that all they did on those films were reaction shots. “I wanted to get back to the stage so much because theatre is basically my favourite medium,” Smith said candidly.

Despite Smith’s reservations, Downton Abbey: A New Era has waltzed onto the streaming platform with all the pomp and circumstance fans had come to expect. You can watch Downton Abbey: A New Era on Netflix and catch the trailer here: