As most everyone that is a P1 Downton Abbey watcher knows, the long-awaited series three, which begins in September on ITV1 in the UK and in January 2013 on PBS in the States, starts with Shirley MacLaine’s arrival at Downton days before the wedding of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley. She immediately riles the Dowager Countess of Grantham (surprise, surprise) with her straight-talking American ways. According to the Telegraph, while the Hollywood veteran actress left the cast of Downton a bit starstruck, joining the cast was a bit of a shock to the old Hollywood system that MacLaine has been a part of for her Oscar-winning career.
According to producers, MacLaine was just a bit “surprised” at the amount of filming she was required to do each day and struggled to keep up with the script, but gamely spent extra time each evening learning her lines.
Director Brian Percival went on to explain that Hollywood productions, with their bigger budgets, work to a different timescale. “It was a surprise to her the amount you’re supposed to get in the can every day,” he said.
“She struggled at first with the rhythm of the language. She really struggled to remember it. She hated the thought she was letting people down by not getting it, so she worked really, really hard at night to get it right,” said producer Liz Trubridge.
Early struggles or not, Gareth Neame, the show’s executive producer, said MacLaine was the dream choice for the role. “They key thing was to make sure we had an actress who was a match for Maggie Smith,” he said, “and that made the list very small.”
In addition to MacLaine, others that will be joining the cast for series three include Matt Milne as Alfred the new footman, Cara Theobald as the new kitchen maid Ivy, Lucille Sharp as Martha Levinson’s maid Miss Reed and the just released bit of information greatness that Twilight star MyAnna Buring would be appearing in the show’s Christmas special.