Joel Ryan / AP
"Downton Abbey" could have been a bit different.
The British series, which has been a stateside success on PBS, apparently wanted to cast Gillian Anderson in one of its lead roles.
The 43-year-old "X-Files" actress, next appearing on PBS' "Masterpiece Classic" update of "Great Expectations," told TV Guide Magazine that she was originally approached to star on the Emmy-winning series.
"Hopefully people will embrace it with the same love that flowed toward 'Downton Abbey,' " Anderson said of her upcoming period piece. "I was actually offered a part in 'Downton.' "
She later admitted the role was Elizabeth McGovern's Cora Crawley.
Anderson is no stranger to PBS' Masterpiece or Dickensian television -- she starred in 2005's "Bleak House" mini -- but her participation would have presented a small issue for "Downton Abbey": she's a bit young to play the matriarch.
McGovern is seven years her senior. It's not a lot, but it makes quite a difference considering Anderson is just 13 years older than "Downton's" oldest daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery). Still, this is a woman who's playing the the withered spinster Miss Havisham in "Great Expectations," a character Dickens' placed in her mid-50s.
"Downton Abbey" is currently filming its third season. It will debut later this year in Britain, with a stateside premiere expected for early 2013.
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