Shirley MacLaine to Join ‘Downton Abbey’ for Season 3

Shirley MacLaine (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Here’s reason for cheering long and loudly. Veteran actress, Oscar-winner, and bestselling author Shirley MacLaine, 77, is bringing her special brand of kooky joie de vivre to Downton Abbey.

It has been announced that the star of Terms of Endearment — she won an Oscar for that film and has five additional nominations, and that’s just in this life — will show up for the third season of the hit British series, which is set during the Edwardian and Georgian eras and airs on PBS. Season Three is expected to air in early 2013.

MacLaine will play Martha Levinson, the mother of Cora, the Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern). As fans of the show well know, Cora was an American heiress whose marriage to Robert Crawley, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), provided him with the desperately needed funding to keep Downton Abbey, his grand but costly family estate, up and running. What was a initially a marriage of convenience — Cora got a title, Robert got a plump bank account — turned into a love match over time.

In one of the current season’s still-to-be-broadcast episodes, Cora’s daughter, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), mentions that her maternal grandmother resides in New York and Newport. It is expected that MacLaine’s character will head across the Atlantic to visit Downton Abbey. What makes us think so? Gareth Neame, a managing editor for Carnival Film, which coproduces the series, promised in a statement that MacLaine’s character will be “a wonderful combatant for Maggie Smith’s dowager countess.”

Are you pleased by MacLaine’s casting as Cora’s Mum?