NEW YORK - Shirley MacLaine will be returning to "Downton Abbey" next season, and opera star Kiri Te Kanawa is joining the cast.
MacLaine will reprise her role as Martha Levinson, Lord Robert Crawley's freewheeling American mother-in-law, Carnival Films and "Masterpiece" on PBS said Saturday. MacLaine appeared in episodes early last season.
New Zealand-born soprano Te Kanawa will play a house guest. She will sing during her visit.
This undated publicity photo provided by PBS shows Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson from the TV series, 'Downton Abbey.' Carnival Films and MASTERPIECE on PBS today announced that six new cast names are joining the series plus the return of Shirley MacLaine for next season's finale.
Other new cast members and characters include:
- Tom Cullen as Lord Gillingham, described as an old family friend of the Crawleys who visits the family as a guest for a house party (and who might be the one to mend Lady Mary Crawley's broken heart).
- Nigel Harman will play a valet named Green.
- Harriet Walter plays Lady Shackleton, an old friend of the Dowager Countess.
- Joanna David will play a guest role as the Duchess of Yeovil.
- Julian Ovenden is cast as aristocrat Charles Blake.
"The addition of these characters can only mean more delicious drama, which is what 'Downton Abbey' is all about," said "Masterpiece" executive producer Rebecca Eaton.
Meanwhile, the producers have confirmed that villainous housemaid Sarah O'Brien won't be back. Siobhan Finneran, who played her, is leaving the show.
These announcements come shortly after the third season's airing in the United States. It concluded with the heartbreaking death of popular Matthew Crawley in a car crash, leaving behind his newborn child and loving wife, Lady Mary Crawley.
Matthew's untimely demise was the result of the departure from the series by actor Dan Stevens, who had starred in that role.