Downton Abbey producers have assured fans Dame Maggie Smith is to keep her place in the cast after rumours suggested the veteran actress will make an exit during the show's fifth season.

The 79 year old plays the Dowager Countess of Grantham in the popular period drama, and recent reports suggested Smith had grown tired of the gruelling work schedule and decided to make the upcoming fifth series her last.

However, executive producer Gareth Neame is adamant Smith has no plans to quit, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "Maggie Smith will be in the show as long as she wants to do it. She'll be back this coming season. She's a huge part of the show, and I think she enjoys doing it. I think it's remarkable for someone who's had such a long and illustrious career to be still delivering work of this calibre."