Maggie Smith is one of the most celebrated actresses of our time with iconic roles in films like ‘Gosford Park’, and the ‘Harry Potter’ movies and now she has moved on to play the feared Countess of Grantham in the British series ‘Downton Abbey’.
As much as the characters in ‘Downton Abbey’ fear and respect the Countess of Grantham by her mere presence alone, some say that the actress is just as fearsome in real life. U.S. executive producer Rebecca Eaton opened up about working with Smith at a recent screening of the show for American audiences and admitted that sometimes Maggie can be “a handful” on set. She said;
“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.”
Regardless of Smith’s ‘difficulties’ on set, Eaton said that it was Maggie’s casting in ‘Downton Abbey’ that made her want to be part of the series. She said;
“I heard that Maggie Smith had been cast to be in it and I thought, ‘We have to do it’. Because she, like Judi Dench, like Eileen Atkins – there are a few British actors, if they’re in, I want it because I just think they’re going to be good.”
Producers know that fans can’t wait to see the interaction between the Countess of Grantham (Smith) and Cora Crawley’s mother, Elizabeth McGovern (played by Shirley MacLaine), so they were good enough to release a few juicy details about the meeting. Eaton said;
“There are some wonderful scenes between Maggie and Shirley MacLaine — Shirley MacLaine being as ditsy as ever and Maggie barely restraining her sneer in having to deal with this American. 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.”
American audiences won’t have a chance to check out season 3 of ‘Downton Abbey’ until early 2013, but British viewers will likely see the series back on the air in the fall.
Photo: Masterpiece, PBS