09:34 31 January 2012
Shirley MacLaine has joined the cast of Downton Abbey for the shows new series.
The Oscar-winning actress has been cast as Lady Grantham's mother, Martha Levinson, in the hit period drama.
The six-time Academy Award nominee is described as a "wonderful combatant" for the Dowager Countess, played by Dame Maggie Smith.
Laura Mackie, director of drama at ITV said:
"It is so exciting to have an actress of Shirley MacLaine's stature joining our brilliant Downton Abbey cast for series three and a tribute to the show's success on both sides of the Atlantic."
Series three of Downton Abbey is expected to air in the autumn in the UK, while filming for the Julian Fellowes-penned drama will begin in February.
Producer Carnival Films' managing director, Gareth Neame, also commented on the casting:
"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.
"Julian 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."
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