Rejoice, Downton Abbey Fans: The Dowager Countess Returneth

Downton Abbey fans, we can all breathe a (gigantic) sigh of relief. Though we already knew that everyone’s favorite costume drama was going to be back for a fourth series, filming is set to begin in just a few weeks – though word on the street from the Television Critics Association Press Tour this week says that Downton Series 4 will still bow in January 2014 in America.

Anyway, yes, that’s all awesome and everything, obviously, but let’s get to the news we really care about – for what is Downton without the acerbic wit and cutting one liners of the Dowager Countess? Well, thankfully, we won’t have to find out anytime soon. TV Line News reported exclusively yesterday that executive producer Gareth Naeme has confirmed Dame Maggie Smith has signed on for the drama’s fourth series. (Warning: Series 3 spoilers are present over at that site so tread carefully if you visit it!) 

Smith was originally contracted for the show’s first three series, but there had been some doubt about whether the actress would choose to continue on past that point in the role that’s won her a boatload of acting awards in recent years. In another interview with TV Line earlier this year, creator Julian Fellowes explained that Smith was in charge of her own destiny on the show.

“I can’t tell you, ‘Oh, yes, she’s definitely contracted [for Season 4] — because she isn’t,” Fellowes said at the time. “It’s entirely up to her when she stays and when she goes.”

“With Maggie, you never know,” he added. “Other [actors] sign on for the next series and they sign for this and they sign for that, but she doesn’t. She stays her own person. But as far as I’m concerned, I hope she stays with the show until Downton falls down.”

We do too, Julian. We do too. Series 4 certainly seems like a good start!