Downton-Abbey-logoReports confirm that Shirley MacLaine will return to Downton Abbey for its fourth series.

The acclaimed actress will reprise her role of wealthy American Martha Levinson; the mother of Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern). MacLaine appeared in the first two episodes of Downton’s third season as Martha stayed with the Grantham’s for Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) wedding to Matthew (Dan Stevens). The character of Martha was something of a sparring partner for Maggie Smith’s character of Violet, the Dowager Countess.

Downton Abbey writer & creator Julian Fellowes stated at the National Television Awards in January he hoped to bring back the actress for the fourth season – especially for further sparring scenes between Martha and Violet.

The fourth season of Downton Abbey will introduce some new characters as well following the exists of Jessica Brown Findlay, Dan Stevens and Siobahn Finneran whose exit was revealed over the weekend. Former EastEnders actor Nigel Harman will join the cast as new valet named Green. Law & Order UK actress Harriet Walter will play Lady Shackleton; a friend of the Dowager Countess.

Foyle’s War/The Royal actor Julian Ovenden will play the aristocratic Charles Blake while Welsh actor Tom Cullen as Lard Gillingham; a family friend of the Crawley’s and possible new suitor for Lady Mary if press speculation is to be believed. Opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa will also appear in the fourth season but details of her character has not been revealed.

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