Shirley MacLaine Joins ‘Downton Abbey’ Cast

Shirley MacLaine will play Lady Grantham's mother on trans-Atlantic hit ‘Downton Abbey’

Shirley MacLaine is coming to "Downton Abbey."

Shirley MacLaine will join the cast of Downton Abbey

The veteran actress has signed on for a starring role in the hit historical drama for its upcoming third series, Carnival Films, which co-produces the show, said Monday. MacLaine will play the newly created character Martha Levinson, the mother of Lady Grantham.

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Gareth Neame, managing editor for Carnival Films, promised that the Levinson character will be "a wonderful combatant for Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess," adding, "we are excited at the prospect of Shirley MacLaine playing her."

"Downton Abbey," which airs on ITV in the U.K. and on PBS' "Masterpiece" in the United States, has shown growth on both sides of the pond, growing its audience by 20 percent in the U.K. and by 30 percent in the U.S. with its second series.

In addition to her upcoming role in "Downton Abbey," MacLaine has several big-screen offerings underway, including the comedy "The Locals" opposite Alan Arkin and the Ben Stiller-directed adaptation of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."