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Maggie Smith wants off 'Downton Abbey,' report says

How much longer will the Dowager Countess of Grantham be hanging around Downton Abbey? That's the question prompted by a report in Britain's Daily Mail that Dame Maggie Smith wants out of "Downton Abbey" after its third season. According to the report, Smith asked series creator Julian Fellowes to write her acid-tongued character out of the series so she can return to her career on stage and screen.

However, a representative for Carnival Film and Television Limited, co-producers of the hit PBS series, says, "Series 3 is currently filming with Maggie, along with the other cast. We do not comment on future story lines; however, there is no truth in the story that Maggie is leaving the show." What is assured is that someone will get written out of the show during the now-filming season. "Masterpiece" executive producer Rebecca Eaton was recently speaking to PBS supporters in Florida and revealed that the new season of "Downton Abbey," taking place in the 1920s, would feature a birth and a death. "Somebody pretty key in the cast, unfortunately, is not going to make it," she said, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

She also addressed the status of Smith herself, whose on-set behavior doesn't sound too far off from that of the Dowager Countess herself. According to Eaton, "Maggie Smith is a handful, it's true. She's very difficult. She knows her worth, and she's tricky on the set, but she delivers when the time comes." The new season, which will air in the United States in January, will also feature Shirley MacLaine as the American mother of Lady Cora (played by Elizabeth McGovern).

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