Downton Abbey Casts Shirley MacLaine as Lady Grantham's Mother

Maggie Smith’s acid-tongued Countess will no doubt have something delightfully bitchy to say about this: Oscar winner Shirley MacLaine is joining the cast of Downton Abbey as the mother of Elizabeth McGovern’s American-born Lady Grantham.

According to The Daily Beast, MacLaine will appear during the international phenom’s third season, which begins production next month (just as Season 2 winds down on PBS.)

“My late grandfather directed Shirley MacLaine in Gambit in 1966,” said executive producer Gareth Neame in a statement, “so it is a delight for me that she will be joining us on Downton Abbey.”

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Cantare says:

    Oh, no. I’m hooked on Downton Abbey, but I have a longstanding oath never to watch anything with Shirley MacLaine in it. Whatever will I do? Are they serious? What an awful idea.

    • Mary says:

      I so agree. The casting has been so good up until now. I hope this isn’t a start of a downward spiral. Don’t want to use the words “jumped the shark” and “Downton Abbey” in the same sentence yet…

      • Elliott says:

        If you think the casting has been brilliant heretofore, I don’t see why you would doubt the choice of Ms. MacLaine. I’ll bet the two grannies will play off each other brilliantly and hilariously!

    • maggie says:

      I don’t know what your problem with Shirley MacLaine is, but DA has been pretty good at casting, so they must think she’s right for whatever they want the character to be. Lady Grantham is an American, and I would rather have them cast an actual American, rather than someone doing a bad American accent.

    • Queen says:

      I think it was a stroke of genius adding Shirl to the cast. I am anticipating some great jabs between her and Maggie…good times

    • Pam says:

      “Not a big Shirley Mac fan” I agree with you–Whatever were they thinking when casting this part? I hope her screen-time is reserved for only (toe-to-toe)scenes with Maggie Smith. (I can’t take much of her). I REALLY don’t want to see her all over the house, treating Lady Cora like a child, down in Rippon and over at Matthew’s house, too. She’s such a scene-stealer that she’d be turning over the soup-kitchen tables and bossing Daisy around along with Mrs. Patmore. Really! I can imagine her wrecking havoc everywhere her foot touches. She’s enough to even get Matthew and Mary impatient. This is the poorest choice *for me!!* and I am basing this opinion on what I’ve seen during her many years in show biz – how she’s been successful is beyond my comprehension. I fear she’ll be the wierd-o like in “Steel Magnolias” and make the American grandmama look odd and not in a cute way.

    • Linnie says:

      What will you do? continue to enjoy the show of course. After all,they had the good taste to cast Ms Mclaine as an American.
      Did you happen to see Gillian Anderson portraying Wallis Simpson speaking with an English accent? How silly really, espacially since Ms Anderson, like Mrs. Simpson,is American and lived in the UK only a few years (with her American parents).

    • DAFAN says:


  2. Karen119 says:

    There MUST be someone else out there who could play Lady Grantham’s mother!!

  3. Zoe says:

    Pure genius. I can’t wait.

  4. Shirley Mc??….really??Oh why ,Oh why did I have to die…….VeraBates RIP

  5. Bad Breaker says:

    I think either Helen Mirren or Judi Densch, sporting an affected American accent, would be ideal. But if they are planning on making the mother a brash, nouveau riche type, MacLaine could pull that one off.

  6. dana says:

    Jessica Lange in some aging makeup would be a much better choice!

  7. Cari says:

    Hmm… not so sure how I feel about this one. Not a big Shirley Mac fan but I can somehow see her playing Elizabeth McGovern’s mother. Especially as BadBreaker commented aobve if she does it as a “brash, nouveau riche type”, which I think the character of Lady Grantham’s mother would be. Remember, Lady Grantham’s money is invested in Downton. Regardless, I love this show and am so glad America has embraced it. I just wonder if we will be seeing the Christmas special that aired in the UK. Anyone know?

  8. Valerie says:

    She has the grit to stand up to Maggie Smith, but they could have gotten someone who looks a bit more like Elizabeth McGovern!

    • Toto says:

      If you don’t have a problem with the very blue eyed Lord and Lady Grantham having a dark brown eyed daughter, why would you quibble about Cora resembling her mother. None of the daughters favor either of their parents. Perhaps Cora favors her father.

  9. Mr Paul says:

    You mean like how Maggie Smith looks just like Hugh Bonneville….?

    • Linnie says:

      Surely you are not berating Ms. Smith’s looks? She is fabulous and I adore all of her performances. Did you see her as Ms. Brodie? Brilliant.

  10. Lisa Johnson Mandell says:

    Brilliant! This show can do no wrong. Best entertainment on television.

  11. Melanie says:

    Heard the Christmas special is coming- just will be long wait for us in the USA. Torture!

  12. dee123 says:

    YES! Those two & their acid remarks are going to be priceless!

  13. Elliott says:

    I find a lot of these comments short-sighted. I’m sure an enormous amount of thought went into the choice of this actress. And the make-up artists can work wonders with her appearance. I’ll bet you Fellowes will crack us up with the interaction between the two grannies !!

  14. cc says:

    Shirley Mac Laine is a wonderful actress, if people don’t watch anything she’s in, then they don’t know what they’re missing ~ don’t judge and actor by one performance or their political views.
    I am very happy to hear there will be a season 3, sorry I have to wait that long to see Shirley and Maggie going at it.

  15. Christophe says:

    I think all the people weirded out by MacClaine forget that she is a stunning actress. Can you name a role where she was terrible?? With Maggie Smith the two are going to be AMAZING together.

  16. Mafalda Neto says:

    I was kind of hoping for Jane Fonda on this one, but i like this idea too.

  17. angela says:

    A great show…a darn shame that the viewer now has to be manipulated into going for a Jewish cora and all the idiotic drama that entails. Oh yeah, great for Shirley because she gets paid….I mean for once can I just have some good ole fashioned American and British roots without the wishing factor