Downton Abbey

Shirley MacLaine joins 'Downton Abbey'

Jan. 30, 2012 at 2:42 PM ET

Another American is setting up residence at "Downton Abbey."

ITV and Carnival films announced Monday that Shirley MacLaine is joining the U.K. series for its upcoming third season. The Oscar winner's addition makes her the second American cast member (and character) on the British period drama.

She's set to play Martha Levinson, the American mother of Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern), and joins the cast as they begin shooting the new season next month.

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“My late grandfather directed Shirley MacLaine in 'Gambit' in 1966 so it is a delight for me that she will be joining us on 'Downton Abbey,' " said Carnival managing director Gareth Neame. "[Creator] Julian [Fellowes] has written another brilliant character in Martha Levinson, who will be a wonderful combatant for Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess and we are excited at the prospect of Shirley MacLaine playing her.”

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The third season, which reportedly takes the narrative into the 1920s, is expected to premiere in the U.K. in September, with a U.S. premiere to follow.

"Downton Abbey" is currently in its second stateside season on Masterpiece Classic. The latest batch of episodes saw a 20 percent jump in viewership for British audiences, and the American ratings are up by nearly 30 percent, with the premiere bringing in 4.2 million viewers.

Earlier in January, "Downton Abbey" won the Golden Globe for best television movie or miniseries.

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