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Shirley MacLaine Joins the Cast of Downton Abbey

01/30/2012 at 05:15 PM EST

Downton Abbey: Shirley MacLaine Joins the Cast
Shirley MacLaine (left) and Maggie Smith
Splash News Online; Getty
Look who's coming to Downton!

Shirley MacLaine will join the cast of British period drama Downton Abbey for its third season, producers confirmed Monday.

MacLaine, 77, will play Martha Levinson, the American mother of Elizabeth McGovern's wealthy countess, Lady Cora Grantham. The Oscar-winning screen legend will go toe to toe with Maggie Smith, who portrays the tart-tongued Dowager Countess Violet, according to the show's producers.

Gareth Neame, managing director of Carnival Films, which produces the series, said the new character "will be a wonderful combatant for Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess and we are excited at the prospect of Shirley MacLaine playing her."

The second season of Downton Abbey, which airs in the United States on PBS, concludes on Feb. 19. Production for the Golden Globe-winning show's third season, which will reportedly take place during the 1920s, will begin in the spring. The show is expected to air in September in the U.K., followed by a U.S. premiere.

News of MacLaine's casting was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

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