Is Maggie Smith Leaving ‘Downton Abbey’?

Maggie Smith in 'Downton Abbey'

UPDATED 4/16/2012, 1:40 PM ET: A spokesperson from Downton Abbey‘s studio has denied this weekend’s report that Dame Maggie Smith is departing the series.

Say it isn’t so. There’s distressing news for fans of Downton Abbey. A British newspaper has reported that Dame Maggie Smith has told Downton creator Julian Fellowes that she wants off after the show’s third season. (Own Season 2 of Downton on DVD.)

Smith, of course, plays Violet Crawley, the redoubtable Dowager Countess on the show, and has made the character a fan favorite with her withering zingers. (“Weekend? What is a weekend?”)

“Dame Maggie poised to end her acid reign at Downton Abbey after third series,” read the headline in the Daily Mail over the weekend. The story said that Fellowes had convinced the 77-year-old, London-born actress to remain with the series through Season 3’s Christmas special, but that she had not renewed her contract beyond that.

The paper quotes a source as saying, “[Smith] is keen to pursue other roles so Julian is preparing to write her out. He always has several endings so it won’t be too difficult for him, but losing Maggie will be a great loss.”

Smith, who was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1970 and raised to a Dame in 1990, has won two Oscars and been nominated another four times. In recent years, she has gained a whole new generation of fans via her tart performances as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter films.

The third season of Downton Abbey begins airing on ITV in England in the fall and on PBS next January.

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Will you still watch Downtown Abbey even if Maggie Smith departs?

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