'Downton Abbey' Did Not End Because Maggie Smith Quit, According to Producers

Pam WrightLife

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Downton Abbey producers are denying reports the much-beloved British show ended because actress Maggie Smith, 80, would not return for a seventh series.

The Sun reports that executive producer Gareth Neame said the show would not have been the same without Maggie Smith's character Lady Violet Crawley, so a decision was made to end the show on a high note.

“We easily could have gone for a seventh season but if I’d have said ‘We haven’t got Maggie’, it would have been a shadow of itself,” he told the newspaper. “We all feel very blessed. Nobody regrets ending when we did. We have a final season that’s as strong as the first because we quit while we were ahead.”

According to Snap.pa, a spokeswoman for Carnival Films denied the cast had any part to play in the decision to end Downton after six seasons.

Downton Abbey ended at season six because the producers and writer wanted to close the show on a high and that has been clearly demonstrated with the Downton Abbey finale on ITV being the most-watched show on television across all broadcasters on Christmas night. The show did not end because any of our cast wanted to leave,” said the spokeswoman.

The final episode of Downton Abbey aired in the U.K. on Christmas Day with a record-breaking 6.9 million viewers tuned in to bid farewell to the Crawleys.

The U.S. will get its chance to find out what happens to Lady Edith, Lady Mary, and Mr. and Mrs Bates when the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey premieres Jan. 3, 2016, on PBS.

Pam Wright