Maggie Smith hints she may be ready to leave 'Downton Abbey'

Maggie Smith hints she may be ready to leave 'Downton Abbey'
Maggie Smith arrives for the premiere this month of "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" in London. (Andy Rain / European Pressphoto Agency)

"Downton Abbey" fans, you may want to sit down before reading this: Maggie Smith may be ready to leave the show.

In an interview with London's Sunday Times newspaper promoting her new film, "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," the actress indicated that she's ready to say goodbye to playing Violet, the tart-tongued Dowager Countess of Grantham.

"They say this is the last one, and I can’t see how it could go on," she said in response to speculation about the future of the costume drama, which ended its fifth season on PBS with a heartwarming Christmas special Sunday night and is currently filming its sixth, and possibly last, season in Britain. 

She added, "I mean, I certainly can't keep going. To my knowledge, I must be 110 by now!"

Not quite: Assuming Violet was about 70 at the beginning of the series, which was set in April of 1912, her character would now be in her mid 80s. (In reality, Smith turned 80 in December.) That's certainly an advanced age, particularly for someone in the 1920s, but it's nowhere near as far-fetched as other elements of the soapy drama.

A bigger question is whether "Downton Abbey" can (or should) go on without Smith. Though Violet is merely a supporting character in a large ensemble, her droll one-liners (e.g., "What is a weekend?") are essential to the show's appeal, and in recent seasons she has become more central to the story line, getting very involved in her granddaughters' often messy personal lives.

But Smith is hardly the type to stay too long at the party, no matter how much everyone wants her to remain. After all, Smith skips the Emmys every year even though she's won multiple times for "Downton Abbey."

And it's not like she'd miss watching the show: The actress admitted in a "60 Minutes" profile that she'd never seen an episode

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