Dame Maggie Smith has played the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey for six series – but she has yet to find time to actually watch it.

However, the actress, 81, plans to watch the period drama now it has finished for good.

Maggie Smith



Maggie Smith (Joel Ryan/AP)

 

She told CBS News: “They gave me the boxed set. And I’m going to do all sorts of things now, ‘cause I’m free!”

The story of her on-screen aristocratic family wrapped up with the Christmas special, which – except for the Queen’s speech – topped the Christmas Day ratings.

But although it was a period drama, Dame Maggie has revealed she got away without wearing corsets.

Dame Maggie Smith



Downton’s Dowager Countess had a stiff upper lip – but no corsets ((NBC/Universal/ITV)

 

“In actual fact, I have to say that I did cheat a bit,” Smith admitted. “Because I promised that if I sat up, bolt upright, I made it look as though I were wearing corsets.”

And on the secrecy surrounding how the series would end, she joked: “Nobody was allowed to see the script. You had to read it and then eat it, just in case. Do not leave it anywhere!”

But despite plans to relax with a box set, Dame Maggie has kept busy – starring as Miss Shepherd in The Lady In The Van, a movie based on the real-life story of a woman won spent the last 15 years of her life living in a van in playwright Alan Bennett’s driveway.

Dame Maggie Smith in The Lady In The Van



Dame Maggie Smith in The Lady In The Van (Sony Pictures)

 

Dame Maggie said: “I cannot begin to imagine how it must have been in reality, or what Alan had to cope with.”

She added: “You pass all the time people just on cardboard on the street – she had a van. But you see these people just in doorways and it’s just, I mean, what do they do all day?”