Maggie Smith to leave Downton Abbey

Smith plans to hang up the Dowager Countess of Grantham's pearls after the next series - "I must be 110 by now"

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Dame Maggie Smith says the next series of Downton Abbey will be her last.

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“They say this is the last one, and I can’t see how it could go on,” Smith has told the Sunday Times, alluding to recent speculation that the hit ITV drama will come to an end after the sixth series.

“I mean, I certainly can’t keep going,” she continues. “To my knowledge, I must be 110 by now. We’re into the late 1920s.”

Smith, who has won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for her role as the sharp-tongued dowager, also says the global success of Downton Abbey hasn’t been entirely welcome.

“One isn’t safe after doing Downton. What’s sad is I’ve gone through my whole life without any of that. I could go round galleries and things on my own and I just can’t do it now. If someone decides to get at you, you can’t get away.”

A particular bugbear are selfies: “What’s awful is it used to be just autographs, but now everyone wants photographs. You begin to feel like all those people who believed photographs took the soul away. There’s nothing like privacy, but nobody will have that soon. Nobody’s private any more.”

Smith, who recently turned 80, is currently starring alongside Judi Dench and Richard Gere in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and recently finished filming The Lady in the Van, which is based on Alan Bennett’s autobiographical play of the same name.

Smith plays the titular homeless pensioner who lived on Bennett’s driveway for 15 years during the 70s and 80s.

Watch the trailer for The Lady and the Van

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Read more: Does Julian Fellowes’ new period drama mean the end of Downton Abbey?