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Shirley MacLaine Joins Cast of Downton Abbey

Shirley MacLaine Joins Cast of Downton Abbey

Academy Award-winning actress Shirley MacLaine will join the "Downton Abbey" cast for its third season, according to a press release on Monday.

Elizabeth McGovern, who plays the Countess of Grantham on the British drama, previously told the U.K.'s Sun newspaper that some of her American family members would soon pay a visit to Downton.

McGovern and the rest of the cast and crew are excited to work with veteran actress MacLaine, who will play the countess' mother, Martha Levinson.

"My late grandfather directed Shirley MacLaine in 'Gambit' in 1966 so it is a delight for me that she will be joining us on 'Downton Abbey,'" executive producer Gareth Neame, said in a statement. "Julian [Fellowes] has written another brilliant character in Martha Levinson, who will be a wonderful combatant for Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess, and we are excited at the prospect of Shirley MacLaine playing her."

The British ITV series, which takes place on the fictional Downton Abbey estate in North Yorkshire, documents the lives of an aristocratic family and their servants during King George V's tenure.

"It is so exciting to have an actress of Shirley MacLaine's stature joining our brilliant 'Downton Abbey' cast for Series 3 and a tribute to the show's success on both sides of the Atlantic," Laura Mackie, director of drama at ITV, added in a statement.

Shirley MacLaine, who won the Academy award for best actress in 1983 for "Terms of Endearment," has also won numerous the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and Golden Globe awards. The actress, 77, who is the older sibling of veteran actor Warren Beatty, has also authored several books of her own and has produced and directed her own films.

The third season of "Downton Abbey" will air in the United States in the fall of 2012 and in the winter of 2013. Season two of the series currently airs Sunday nights on PBS.

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