Maggie Smith's Feelings on 'Harry Potter' and 'Downton Abbey' Might Rub Fans the Wrong Way

Dame Maggie Smith's incredible career stretches back to the 1950s, but she is best known today for two of her biggest late-career roles, Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter films and Dowager Countess Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey. Surprisingly, the star of stage and screen said that neither of those roles were "satisfying" for her. She said she was "deeply grateful" of working in the two franchises, but those roles didn't challenge her as much as others.

"I am deeply grateful for the work in Potter and indeed Downton, but it wasn’t what you’d call satisfying," Smith, 84, told ES Magazine, reports The Guardian. "I didn’t really feel I was acting in those things."

Smith played McDonagall in seven of the eight Harry Potter films, only skipping Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 1. In 2010, she joined the cast of Downton Abbey as the Dowager Countess, a role that earned her Emmys in 2011, 2012 and 2016.

In 2019, Smith agreed to play the Dowager Countess in the hit Downton Abbey movie, and was reportedly the last member of the main cast to sign on. There have been rumors about a sequel, but nothing is confirmed. Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Cora, told there have been "availability checks" and commented on Smith possibly coming back.

"Every single year during the run of the series Maggie would say 'This is my last'... Then, back she’d come. I think she gets bored when she’s not working," McGovern said.

Smith has an interesting relationship with Downton Abbey, even once admitting she never watched a single episode of the series. In 2015, she told CBS News' Sunday Morning she still had not watched it.

"No. But they gave me the boxed set. And I’m going to do all sorts of things now, ’cause I’m free!'" she told Sunday Morning.

Elsewhere in her new interview with ES Magazine, Smith discussed her recent return to the stage to star in A German Life, in which she plays Joseph Goebbels' secretary Brunhidle Pomsel. Immediately after taking the part, she felt "doubt, doubt, doubt."


"It was actually easier to learn than Downton Abbey, because it wasn’t fragmented," she said of the play, written by Christopher Hampton. "I wasn’t just ordering tea or something."

Smith will next be seen in Gil Kenan's A Boy Called Christmas, which is scheduled for release next year. She has two Oscar wins out of six nominations.