Dame Maggie Smith isn’t leaving Downton Abbey, the hit show’s executive producer has insisted.
It has been reported that the 79-year-old will quit Julian Fellowes’ period drama before it comes to an end.
But Gareth Neame told The Hollywood Reporter: “Maggie Smith will be in the show as long as she wants to do it.
“She’ll be back this coming season. She’s a huge part of the show, and I think she enjoys doing it.”
He added: “I think it’s remarkable for someone who’s had such a long and illustrious career to be still delivering work of this calibre.
“One has also really got to make reference to the remarkable combination of Julian Fellowes and Maggie Smith. She’s almost like a muse to him.”
Gareth also said he was constantly asked when the show, also starring Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael and Michelle Dockery, was going to end.
“The more people enjoy something, the more they want to know when it will end… Maybe they want to plan accordingly.”
But he said: “I would never want anyone to think we went too long. It’s about us trying to find a balance and calling things at the right time.”
Speaking about the departure of Dan Stevens, he said that he envied the US system which allowed producers to tie in actors to TV shows with long-term contracts.
But he added: “We don’t pay the salaries that would make people want to put the handcuffs on. I wish I had lots more flexibility, but there’s a reason it’s this way. And I think there are advantages. I wish I had more control, but I don’t supposed I ever will.”