Gillian Anderson Says She Turned Down Role on 'Downton Abbey'

Gillian Anderson Bleak House Elizabeth Mcgovern Split - H 2012

Gillian Anderson Bleak House Elizabeth Mcgovern Split - H 2012

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.

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"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.