As if it's not bad enough that those of us in the U.S. have to wait like a year for the currently-filming season three of Downton Abbey, here comes another piece of news that's making me lunge for my smelling salts: Dame Maggie Smith, who plays the much-loved Dowager Countess, has not signed on for any future seasons.
According to the Telegraph, there are a number of actors who have already inked deals for seasons 4 and 5: Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), Elizabeth McGovern (Cora), Hugh Bonneville (Robert, Earl of Grantham), Joanne Froggatt (Anna), and Brendan Coyle (Bates). Whew.
However, the names that are missing from the roster makes you wonder what a Countess-free Downton Abbey might be like. Or one without evil O'Brien. Or ... MATTHEW?
Now, I don't want you to panic, but the actors who have yet to sign contracts for seasons 4 and 5 include Dame Maggie Smith (the Countess), Siobhan Finneran (O’Brien), Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil), and Dan Stevens (Matthew).
I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for this, though. They're probably haggling over compensation details, now that the show's gotten so popular and their original contracts carried them through season 3. There's no rush to get it done, since the show hasn't even been officially renewed beyond season 3. Also ... um ... well, they're probably ...
OH GOD THEY'RE GOING TO KILL OFF THE COUNTESS EVERYBODY FREAK OUT
*fans self* Okay, okay. It'll be fine. They'll pay her what she deserves, right? We won't lose the Countess over some stupid contract dispute, RIGHT?
It's just that I would miss her so much. She has the very best lines in the show (my favorite: "Oh that's a relief. I hate Greek drama, when everything happens off stage."), and her character consistently provides the tart comic relief that is one of the differentiating factors between this particular soap opera and, say, All My Children.
There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the announcement that season 3 will feature Shirley McLaine as Cora's American mother, but can she possibly replace the Countess-shaped hole in our hearts if the worst happens? I THINK NOT.
As for Matthew potentially not signing on, well, that would be a bummer too. I guess they could kill him off in a war and have Lady Mary sit around mooning over him, but that would be pretty awful. I'd hate to see O'Brien go, too—I mean, she's diabolical, but she's a complex character who isn't purely wicked. I'm interested to see what's going to happen with her over time.
Lady Sybil ... well. Eh. Shrug.
The biggest loss would definitely be the Dowager Countess, but I'll cross my fingers that everyone's contracts will be ironed out soon and the whole gang will stick around for the seasons to come. In the meantime, let's enjoy the Countess at her sharp-tongued finest:
Who would you miss the most if they didn't return after season 3: the Countess, Matthew, O'Brien, or Lady Sybil?
Image via PBS