mixed feelings

Shirley MacLaine on Downton Abbey and Eight Teases for Season 3

PBS screened new footage from Downton Abbey during a press conference Saturday night in Los Angeles, and you can expect plenty of sparks flying between Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess and MacLaine’s Martha Levinson, the American mum of her ladyship. MacLaine revealed Smith first sassed her many years ago when the two met backstage at the Oscars. MacLaine had been nominated and lost, and Smith told her, “You know what you did, dear? You tucked right into that chocolate cake and said, ‘Fuck it, I don’t care if I’m ever thin again.’”

MacLaine finished her scenes for the series earlier this year, and said sitting alongside the Downton cast and creator Julian Fellowes was like “being back with the family.” Good thing, too. Only family would tolerate her theory for the Emmy-winning show’s immense popularity. “What Julian’s done so brilliantly is make 15 characters with just the right amount of time on screen, which fits with the Internet tolerance for emotional knowledge,” she said. “A program for attention deficit disorder,” Fellowes cracked. MacLaine was then asked if she’d been a fan of Downton before joining its cast. Nope, but her hairdresser in Malibu was a fan, and it was she who convinced the 77-year-old actress to take the part. MacLaine said her hairdresser even knew about her character before she did. “That’s basically why I did it, to see if my hairdresser lady was right,” MacLaine said.

The third season of Downton Abbey premieres on January 6. For now, eight pretty good spoilers from the new footage:

1. Sample sass between Martha and the Dowager:

Martha: Oh dear, I’m afraid the war has made older women of us both.
Dowager: I wouldn’t say that, but I keep out of the sun.

2. Sybil and Branson will be invited back to dine at Downton. Unfortunately, the family’s former chauffeur gets all political up in Lord Grantham’s space and upsets his in-laws. Carson is especially displeased.

3. Oooh, dirty talk. When Mary asks Matthew if he’s looking forward to their wedding, he grins and says, “I’m looking forward to all sorts of things.”

4. But Matthew and Mary are also going to bicker bitterly and there will be yelling and tears.

5. Mr. Bates is still in jail and Anna’s determined to get him out of there. Unfortunately, she’s running out of ideas.

6. So much for Sir Anthony Strallan refusing to woo Edith. The May-December relationship is in full bloom when we return.

7. The handsome new help is named Alfred, and it looks like O’Brien will take a shine to him at the expense of Thomas.

8. Lord Grantham reports the family’s fortune is gone, including most of Cora’s money! He will sob a lot. We would too.

Shirley MacLaine on Downton Abbey