The veteran actress did so once again in an interview with the Evening Standard, during which she undermined some of her most-loved work. "I am deeply grateful for the work in Potter and indeed Downton but it wasn’t what you’d call satisfying," Smith said. "I didn’t really feel I was acting in those things." Indeed, Smith said that she and Alan Rickman (known to Harry Potter fans as Severus Snape) used to joke that their job in the series was exclusively to film reaction shots.
Smith was famously reluctant to join the Downton Abbey movie, which was shot long after the series finished in 2016. In an interview with the British Film Institute, she pushed back on the suggestion that there should be a movie made at all. "I just think it's squeezing it dry, do you know what I mean?" Smith said. "I don't know what it could possibly be. It was so meandering, what would you [do]? Anyway that's not my problem."
She did have one unconventional idea with how she might return to Downton, though. "I was firmly convinced it would start with the funeral," Smith said in the same interview. "I could croak it. It would just start with the body. But I don’t know."
Of course, that's not how it went down in the end: Smith signed on to the Downton movie after all, and the Dowager Countess survived the film's full runtime (although by the end, she did reveal that she was suffering from a serious health problem). It's unclear whether she'll return once more for the possible sequel.
But before any Downton or Potter fans get upset with Smith, consider this: Perhaps she wasn't "really acting" because of her natural affinity for the zinger-slinging Countess and intimidating Transfiguration professor. The Standard notes that director Christopher Columbus is said to have been too afraid to go to Smith's trailer himself, and chose to send Daniel Radcliffe to get her instead—something a Downton character would at least consider, were they required to ask something of the Crawley matriarch.
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