Laura Carmichael's Downton break 'thanks to Dame Maggie Smith likeness'
Actress Laura Carmichael has revealed she was cast in Downton Abbey because she looked like Dame Maggie Smith.
Carmichael played Lady Edith, granddaughter to Dame Maggie's Dowager Countess of Grantham, in the ITV period drama.
Appearing on BBC Breakfast, she said: "Our casting director Jill ( Trevellick) said she could trace a line from Maggie to me.
"Because I don't really look like Hugh (Bonneville) or Elizabeth (McGovern) - but she could sort of work in the family tree through Maggie, which I love."
Bonneville and McGovern played Carmichael's on-screen parents, Robert and Cora Crawley - or the Earl and Countess of Grantham.
Downton Abbey has now finished after six series, with the finale seeing perpetually unlucky-in-love Lady Edith finding happiness at last with Bertie Pelham, the seventh Marquess of Hexham (played by Harry Hadden-Paton).
Carmichael, 29, was kept guessing about her character's future - but there were some clues.
She explained: " I feel like they were sort of dropping hints, the producers and writers.
"When we went to Brancaster (Castle), which became Edith's home when she became Marchioness - when we were on that location, some of the crew were going: 'Do you like it, Laura? Nice house, isn't it? Maybe we'll come back here next year.'
"And of course, that's her castle now."
Carmichael will soon tread the boards as she stars in The Maids at Trafalgar Studios in London.
She plays the mistress of two servants, Solange and Claire, who fantasise about killing her.
Before starring in Downton Abbey she was working as a secretary at a doctors' surgery - but her breakout role has opened doors, she said.
She explained : "It has been great. I think for any actor you just want to be in the conversations that people are having about new projects, and so when you're in something like Downton, which a lot of people have seen, that's very helpful."
Carmichael also said live theatre was nerve-wracking.
She said: "You just have to power through it ... live performance is like being a rock star in that way. It's the closest you'll get to it, isn't it?"