If there’s one thing you can count on Maggie Smith for, it’s her honesty. She’s honestly talked about how her Downton Abbey character should be long dead and gone by now, and now she’s being honest about both her Harry Potter role as Professor Minerva McGonagall and her Downton Abbey role as the Dowager Countess. Turns out, they weren’t ‘satisfying,’ according to the actress.
Well, dang Maggie Smith. What the heck does that mean? In a brand new interview, Maggie Smith openly called these particular movies out for not being “satisfying,” but on the bright side she did clarify her comments, noting,
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.
For the record, Dame Maggie Smith is not trash-talking either of the major franchises she has been a part of in recent years. When one is a Dame, one does not trash talk. Regardless, she more mentioned she’s not really working hard to inhabit a character in either franchise.
She also told the Evening Standard that she and former Harry Potter co-star Alan Rickman used to joke about how their work together was all basically “reaction” shots. So why did she then take on a similar sort of role in the Downton Abbey universe? She also notes it is because the acting work she wanted to do in the theater wasn’t coming along.
Or, per Maggie Smith:
I wanted to get back to the stage so much because theatre is basically my favorite medium, and I think I felt as though I’d left it all unfinished. But there wasn’t anything that came along.
It may be a little jarring to hear an acclaimed actress feel close to neutral on some of her most iconic roles in popular culture, but I guess if you think about it, Maggie Smith has had a full career, and she’s experienced the highs and lows of acting gigs. Now, she has enough clout to pick and choose her projects. She’s no longer the new girl in the business and is not going to be the actress who’s just happy to be there.
I’d think the neat dialogue and period scenes in Downton Abbey could be tricky and fun on occasion, but the Dowager Countess isn’t one for the highs and lows of emotion or other acting facets that might come up in other acting jobs. In fact, she’s generally downright stoic. And in Harry Potter, a lot of the stuff Maggie Smith was tasked with doing did involve looking stern. At least Alan Rickman’s character got to do that and other things.
Ultimately, this quote from Maggie Smith is just the latest edition of “Bold Comments From Maggie Smith.” But I take her point and I appreciate it. She does say she’s “deeply grateful” for the roles after all.
Now, she’s doing the theater work her heart was pining for, in A German Life, which has landed her awards. Her last stage appearance prior to this was back in 2007 when the actress was in full Harry Potter swing.
Downton Abbey may be looking at a big screen sequel, but. – SPOILERS – the movie did give Maggie Smith an out should she want one. Producer Gareth Neame has joked about misdiagnoses, but the Dowager Countess may not be long for her fictional world. We’ll ultimately have to wait and see what happens, but this really seems like things could go either way.