17/04/2012 04:31 BST | Updated 17/04/2012 04:59 BST

Downton Abbey Producers Deny Rumours That Dame Maggie Smith Is Leaving

The producers of hit period drama Downton Abbey have fired back at reports suggesting Dame Maggie Smith is leaving the series.

Internet rumours over the weekend hinted that the actress, who plays the Dowager Countess in the TV hit, would not return following the upcoming third season.

But a representative for Carnival Film and Television Limited - the company behind the drama - insists the reports are false.

The insider tells the Los Angeles Times: "Series three is currently filming with Maggie along with the other cast. We do not comment on future story lines, however there is no truth in the story that Maggie is leaving the show."

The speculation follows reports from earlier this month suggesting Smith "very difficult" to work with.

US executive Rebecca Eaton told Downton Abbey fans, "Maggie Smith is a handful, it's true. She's very difficult. She knows her worth, and she's tricky on the set, but she delivers when the time comes."