Downton Abbey's Maggie Smith & Elizabeth McGovern: Before They Were Stars

01/14/2013 at 10:30 AM EST

  • Maggie Smith and Elizabeth McGovern
    Evening Standard/Getty; John Barr/Liaison/Getty
  • Maggie Smith
    Evening Standard/Getty; PBS
  • Elizabeth McGovern
    John Barr/Liaison/Getty; PBS
Everyone has a past ... even the actors on Downton Abbey.

Long before they were cast as members of the aristocratic Crawley family, Dame Maggie Smith and Elizabeth McGovern appeared in a variety of films, and has the photos to prove it.

As Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Smith reigns over her costars, often offering some comic relief in the form of barbs. But prior to Downton and long before her iconic roles in Sister Act and the Harry Potter films, Smith was a fresh-faced girl engulfed in her studies.

(Smith, 78, won a Golden Globe Sunday night and is nominate ford a SAG Award for her role on Downton.)

After McGovern made her film debut in the Robert Redford directed Ordinary People, she went on to earn an Oscar nomination for her role in Ragtime. She later appeared in a variety of films and television shows, but it was when McGovern learned that Downton creator Julian Fellowes was looking to cast Lady Cora Crawley that she kicked into high gear.

McGovern, 51, told the Daily Mail that she wrote Fellowes saying, "I'm on my knees – I really want to play this part!"

See more flashback photos of the Downton Abbey cast here.

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