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Shirley MacLaine to return to 'Downton Abbey' in season 4

Carnival Films

Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson on "Downton Abbey."

Get ready for another delightful war of words on “Downton Abbey”!  Carnival Films and Masterpiece on PBS revealed Saturday that Shirley MacLaine is returning to the popular period drama for the season four finale. She’ll be reprising her role as Martha Levinson, mother of Lady Cora.

MacLaine made her “Downton” debut in season three, when she traveled from America to attend Lady Mary’s wedding to Matthew Crawley at Downton. Her witty character provided a formidable foe for Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess as the two women traded sharp barbs throughout MacLaine’s stint.

The news of the actress' return comes on the heels of confirmation that Siobhan Finneran, who plays the scheming maid O'Brien, will not be back next season. Masterpiece said that there door is open for Finneran's to come back.

In addition to Oscar winner MacLaine's return, season four will be introducing six new characters:

  • Lord Gillingham, an old family friend of the Crawleys, played by Tom Cullen
  • Green, a valet played by Nigel Harman
  • Lady Shackleton, a friend of the Dowager Countess, played by Dame Harriett Walter
  • The Duchess of Yeovil, played by Joanna David
  • Charles Blake, an aristocrat, played by Julian Ovenden
  • And an unnamed singing guest at the house to be played by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

“ ‘Downton Abbey’ has seen many great characters visit the house over the years and we couldn't be more thrilled to welcome the new faces that will be joining the regular cast of ‘Downton’ in series four,” executive producer Gareth Naeme said in a statement.

Added fellow exec producer Rebecca Eaton, “The addition of these characters can only mean more delicious drama — which is what Downton Abbey is all about.”

Carnival Films and Masterpiece on PBS also released a new photo from the season, featuring Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and her son with her husband, Matthew (Dan Stevens).  Though the child’s birth brought great joy to Downton in the season three finale, it was also marked by tragedy. As Matthew raced home to share the news of his son’s birth with the family, his vehicle was struck by another, leaving him dead on the side of the road.

Nick Briggs / Courtesy of Carnival Films

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley on "Downton Abbey," season four.

“Downton Abbey” airs on Masterpiece on PBS.

What did you think of MacLaine's performance in season three? Are you excited she's back? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page!

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