Dame Maggie Smith on Posing for “Wretched Cellphone Things”
Dame Maggie Smith has just finished her run in Downton Abbey as the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham, and the final season is about to begin airing in the US. Smith was recently nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for her role in her latest film, The Lady in the Van, which sees the actress take on a completely different role – and prompted her first chat show appearance in over 40 years, with Graham Norton, alongside co-star Alex Jennings.
In a new interview with NPR, Smith reflects on the lines she had in Downton Abbey, being recognized across the world for her role as the Dowager, and growing as a character actor.
On the witty lines that that the Dowager delivers in Downton Abbey, she says,
Well, I don’t – I don’t know. They’re all – they’re Julian’s lines, in fact, Julian Fellowes’ lines, who wrote it. Well, I must say, there were some really lovely things to say. And we just had great fun together.
Downton Abbey was responsible for making Smith recognizable all over the world, and she reflects that this was something she never expected at all – not helped by the rise of the selfie.
I find it very odd to be recognized. I’ve spent a very long time without that happening to me. And it’s a very, very strange sensation. […] Well, it depends. I mean, sometimes it’s very nice. But sometimes, you just would like to do things on your own without thinking about whether you’re going to be stopped to pose for one of those wretched cell phone things.
Of course, we all know and love Smith as Professor McGonagall, a role that flung her into the consciousness of a new generation. But reflecting on her earlier career, Smith talks about her development as a character actress, denying an early review that refers to her as “dish” and talks instead about embracing older characters.
I think that’s got something to do with one’s not being a dish, which I was trying to point out – because then you become a character actor. And you have much more chance of developing and going on. I mean, God knows it must be lovely to be beautiful. But that’s a really difficult thing to lose. But if you’ve been into character acting really all your life, it’s an easy transition. You just go from one to the other. You suddenly realize, [‘]oh, I see I’m somebody’s mother this time[‘]. Then I’m somebody’s grandmother. And so it goes on.
The final series of Downton Abbey will begin airing in the US this week on PBS, while The Lady in the Van was released in December last year.
Will you be watching Downton Abbey? Did you see The Lady in the Van? Let us know your thoughts on Dame Maggie Smith’s latest roles in the comments below!