Quick, without thinking, yell out your favorite character on Downton Abbey. You said the Dowager Countess, right? Of course you did, Lady Grantham is EVERYONE'S favorite character. Oh, sure, we all love Carson and his huffy ways and we have a soft spot in our hearts for Mr. Bates and even hateful Thomas has become sort of a sympathetic character lately, but Dame Maggie Smith's portrayal of the countess is what really makes the show.
So get this: how crazy is it that after three seasons of playing such a fantastic character, with all those perfectly-delivered zingers and impeccable facial expressions, Maggie Smith has never watched herself on Downton Abbey? In fact, she's never even seen the series.
Seventy-eight-year-old Dame Smith sat down for a rare interview that will be aired this Sunday on 60 Minutes, and I have to say, you really get a sense of that wonderfully prickly countess in her responses. When asked if she was proud of the show, she paused for a moment before confessing,
I haven't actually seen it, so I don't -- I don't sit down and watch it.
Interviewer Steve Kroft seemed taken aback by this, and asked why. She responded,
Because it's frustrating. I always see things that I would like to do differently and think, 'Oh, why in the name of God did I do that?'
Kroft prodded her to say what she gets out of her Downton role if she never bothers to see it, at which point Dame Smith channeled some of that dowager archness to snap back,
It's the delight of acting.
I love that she's as clipped out of character as she is in, and I love her reasoning for not slavishly tuning into the show along with the rest of us. I suspect it's more than a little rare for a famous actress not to be 100 percent devoted to watching her own performances, don't you?
Also, you've got to love her response to being asked about her reputation as a perfectionist:
You're trying to say that I am what everybody says ... I'm scary and I understand that totally. Old people are scary and I have to face it, I am old and I am scary and I am very sorry about it but I don't know what you do.
Oh god, I bet she IS awesomely intimidating when they're filming. (Not it to biff a line while the countess is watching.) Everything about this makes me an even bigger fan ... even if I am a tiny bit scared of her.
Check out the preview clip of this Sunday's interview:
Are you a Maggie Smith fan?
Image via PBS