Maggie Smith on CBS’ Sunday Morning

Dame Maggie Smith, who has had a late career resurgence due to the Harry Potter series and Downton Abbey sat down with CBS Sunday Morning yesterday to talk about her career.

Today is Maggie Smith’s birthday! At the tender age of 81, Smith is currently doing her final promotional push for Downton Abbey, which just aired it’s series finale over Christmas in the UK, and will start it’s final run in the states next Sunday. She also is hawking her new movie The Lady in the Van, which opened in limited release in the US at the beginning of December. As part of the promotional tour, Smith, who plays a the strict but beloved Dowager Duchess on Downton, the same way she played the strict but beloved Head of House Gryffindor in the Potter movies, sat down with Mo Rocca and talked about her career.

I love that Smith’s refusal to watch herself in Downton drove the production to give her the full box set. And though it’s not mentioned in the interview, it was Smith’s refusal to sign on for another season after this one that brought the show to decide to make this the final season. We should all be thankful she never felt that way about the Potter series. In fact, hardcore fans of Harry Potter know that, in addition to the work of playing the role of Minerva McGonagall, who has to stage a take over Hogwarts after Dumbledore’s passing, Smith was also battling cancer at the time of filming. Despite her illness, and some of the other side car illnesses, like Shingles, that came along with having an weakened immune system, Smith gamely came in every day to work on the production, because she was so dedicated to telling the story. But then again, the Potter costumes and flowing witches robes were probably much more comfortable than corsets.

Maggie Smith can be seen in Downton Abbey on PBS starting in the new year.