Drama at Downton Abbey as Dame Maggie Smith looks set to quit the show
She is the formidable and witty matriarch who is beloved by the tens of millions of fans of Downton Abbey.
But Dame Maggie Smith, who plays Dowager Countess of Grantham, has panicked the bosses of the popular period drama by not signing a new contract.
Dame Maggie, 77, has yet to put pen to paper to secure her future on the show which is currently filming its third series.
In doubt: ITV bosses are believed to be panicking about the future of Downton Abbey as Dame Maggie Smith, who plays Dowager Grantham, has yet to sign a new contract
Bosses are already looking ahead to the fourth and possibly fifth series and Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary, and Hugh Bonneville, who plays Earl Grantham, have reportedly already signed contracts guaranteeing they will be in the upcoming seasons.
They join Elizabeth McGovern who plays Cora,
Countess of Grantham, Joanne Froggatt, who stars as housemaid Anna, and Brendan Coyle
who plays valet John Bates, who have also said they are returning.
But Dame Maggie, along with Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, have yet to sign on the dotted line and, according to the Mirror, bosses are concerned that they may be ready to quit the show.
Deciding his future: Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, has also reportedly not signed a new contract
A source said: 'Downton Abbey has a
history of major surprises, and the producers are not opposed to
changing casting within the show to add to the drama.
'But it’s hard to imagine the series without Maggie Smith or Dan Stevens involved in some way.
'To write the Dowager Countess out of the series, or even kill off the character, would be Downton’s boldest storyline yet.'
Confirmed: Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary, and Hugh Bonneville, who plays her father Earl Grantham, are believed to have signed up for future series
According to the paper, Siobhan Finneran who stars as
housekeeper Miss O’Brien and Jessica Brown Findlay, who plays Lady
Sybil, have also yet to sign new contracts.
At the end of the Christmas special, fans saw Matthew Crawley propose to Lady Mary but the show's writers are keeping the wedding plans under wraps until the third series starts in the autumn.
The show's creator and writer Julian Fellowes has never answered questions about the future of the show but executive producer Gareth Neame has said he hopes the series will carry on for many more years.
Returning: Joanne Froggatt and Brendan Coyle, who play housemaid Anna and valet Mr Bates, have secured their Downton future
Will the lady be without her maid Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Cora, Countess of Grantham, will be returning but Siobhan Finneran, who plays her maid Miss O'Brien, has yet to sign
A spokesman for Downton Abbey’s UK producer Carnival said: 'We are currently filming series three of Downton Abbey in which all the cast have returned.
'ITV have not yet commissioned a fourth and fifth series which, if they happen, would be a long way off.'