Downton Abbey Exclusive: Paul Giamatti Joins Season 4 Cast as Cora's [Spoiler]

Downton Abbey Casts Paul GiamattiDownton Abbey is bracing for another American invasion.

TVLine has learned exclusively that Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Cinderella Man) is joining the Masterpiece/PBS phenom’s Season 4 cast as Harold Levinson, the maverick, playboy brother of Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and uncle to Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Edith (Laura Carmichael).

RELATED | Downton Abbey Boss Teases ‘Bigger’ Role for [Spoiler] in Season 4

Cora-abbeyGiamatti, who earned an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his title role in HBO’s miniseries John Adams, is set to appear in the Season 4 finale alongside returning guest star Shirley MacLaine (as Cora and Harold’s mother, Martha).

Exec producer and Carnival Films Managing Director Gareth Neame describes Harold as “free-spirited” and promises that both Giamatti and MacLaine will “upset the Grantham’s apple cart” in the finale.

RELATED | Downton Abbey: Meet Lady Mary’s Hunky New Beau

Giamatti joins fellow Season 4 newbies Dame Harriet Walters (as an old friend of Maggie Smith’s Dowager), Nigel Harman (as a visiting valet named Green), and Tom Cullen (as a new love interest for Mary).

Abbey‘s fourth season will premiere stateside on PBS on Jan. 5, 2014.

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  1. Alex says:

    Thats brilliant – although I know this is more for US satisfaction than our own here in the UK, but he is a truly wonderful actor.

  2. Mel says:

    Great news, but seriously, why must we wait till the finale?

  3. Lorie says:

    Excellent choice!

  4. Corbie Mitleid says:

    *chuckle* After playing the upstanding, monogamous, nonsensical John Adams? Oh, the original Founding Father must be rolling in his grave in Boston! But I adore Giamatti’s work and am really looking forward to it.

  5. Aleksa says:

    I’d watch him in anything.

  6. Astrid says:

    I simply can’t wait!!

  7. jjovana3 says:

    This is excellent! He’s great & extremely talented. Also looking forward to Tim Cullen. What a departure from Dan Stevens type. This new guy could really bring something new to mary’s arc.

  8. kate says:

    ooo! great choice! he’s a great actor!

  9. Clive says:

    I think it’s ‘Nigel Harman’ who’s also in series 4, rather than ‘Nigle Harman’…
    But anyway, Paul Giamatti? Not someone who I’d ever have thought would be in Downton Abbey. Should be interesting.

  10. mia says:

    interesting choice, but will probably be good. They haven’t struck out yet and Giamatti is a great actor.

  11. JCK says:

    PG is great, looking forward to that. I’m less thrilled with Tom Cullen as a love interest for Mary. He’s just not refined enough for Mary’s taste and IMO he looks like a thug.

    • Bob says:

      Well, maybe this time around, they want her to fall for a thug instead of another stuffy aristocrat. Like her dearly departed sister did.

      • JCK says:

        Maybe. I hope they do a better job writing Shirley’s part this time. She’s supposed to be a Newport socialite, but last time they wrote her as coarse and vulgar.

        • JCK says:

          And there is nothing thuglike about Branson.

        • Will says:

          But isn’t that more interesting? A socialite who doesn’t fit what the viewer might be expecting? People don’t just come out of some sort of mold, each one exactly the same, fulfilling the stereotype we might have of them from a quick description of their station. Furthermore, Shirley’s character was very deliberately written as being very American, to contrast with Violet. If they were the same, there would have been no conflict, humor, or point to her presence, really.

          • Interesting? Don’t you mean heavy-handed?

          • mags says:

            Shirley’s character wasn’t written as “very American” just very vulgar. The singing, indoor picnic, and a few zingers would have been enough to establish her as a free-spirited American. They didn’t need to have her be so crass and low-class.

        • scooby says:

          Isn’t the whole thing about the American socialite parents of Cora’s generation that they’re new money? They’re not sleek and sophisticated. They got filthy stinking rich with new money and raised their children to marry so that the generation after would be seen as well-bred AND wealthy. They were trying to buy that.

          • JCK says:

            Anyone that coarse would be unlikely to have raised the gentle and refined Cora.

          • mags says:

            I don’t ever remember them saying that Cora’s family was “new money.” I guess compared to the multi-generations of Granthams, Cora’s family is new money. But it was established that Cora was a well-bred and wealthy socialite, and her family was not happy with her marriage to Robert. Cora fell in love with Robert, who was using her for her money. Robert was the one trying to buy a future for his family, not Cora or her family.

          • scooby says:

            First of all, she’s not course. Martha knows how to behave, she’s just older, filthy rich, and doesn’t have to worry about appearances, esp. with a woman she feels is rooted in the past. Besides Cora father would’ve had her raised with the intent and ability of getting her into that kind of society–finishing school or something…training at any rate. He made his money from selling dry goods. Julian Fellowes has given numerous interviews on this including to the NY Times and PBS so I suggest google if you want to read more about where Cora came from. It’s quite fascinating. He’s specifically said she’s not from some elegant DAR background. The “new money” situation is backstory for the type of woman Cora’s based on. Elizabeth McGovern said she’s actually just now reading the book he’d referred to before which will ultimately be where he gets his new “Gilded Age” show from as far as the era and types of characters are concerned.

          • D.D. says:

            See here- bad manners are bad manners; in any social calss and nowhere is it acceptable to insult your hosts, behave as though you know better than everyone else, lean over your dinner plate like an ape,etc.
            McLane’s casting was regrettable at best and the characterization of that crude Mrs. Levenson made her wildly implausible as gentle, refined Cora’s mother. The Brits just can’t bring themselves to overcome the prejudice that all Americans are rude, crude and unattractive. How borish. Americans have long since gotten a more realistic view of the English rather than the ‘tally Ho, tut tut cheerio,no sex please we’re British’ absurdities.
            Crass is crass in both these societies and money doesn’t overcome appauling behavior either one. The English have an emormous lower class and a large middle class,too, they would wise to remember. Further, the overall manners,customs and traditions of both countries are…guess what…exactly the same!

        • D.D. says:

          I couldn’t agree more! Shirley McLane’s portayal of a Newport Socialite was insulting to Americans, trite and tiresomly one-dimensional. She was rude and vulgar and would have been shunned in her own country regardless of any family wealth. Fellows should be taken to task for being so blindingly ignorant and prejudicial. The inconsiderate behavior and course manners would never be acceptable in American society on any level! In fact, it is well recorded that these mannerisms were more typical of Mr. Churchill when he was the guest of many American statesmen.
          It would be well for Mr. Fellows to understand clearly that good English manners are good American manners, given that the U.S. is British society by culture so our manners and customs are identical. One example is that the tradition of the bride and the groom not to see each other on the wedding day before the ceremony is very much upheld.
          One might even say that correct American table manners are much nicer than the English, and that the grammatical errors spoken by the Crowley family would never be accepted in educated American circles. Perhaps Julian Fellows needs to have someone…an editor perhaps…explain to him some basics, such as when to use “I” and when to use “me” in Standard English on either side of the pond, for heaven’s sake.
          American audiences have embraced his well produced series, much to his monitary benefit, but that appalling portrial of Mrs. Levenson was hard to bear and most of us were glad to see that unnecessarily insulting distraction of a characterization drive off.
          If she MUST come back into the story, let us hope that this character is rethought and comes off more plausibly as Cora’s mother. Please.

  12. Meg says:

    Uncle to Mary, Edith, and SIBYL …. oh …. *weeps*

  13. ggny says:

    Paul Giamatti and “playboy” to words that have been never used together before. Should be a fun role to watch him in

  14. cjeffery7 says:

    in the Avatar universe (non-blue-alien version) the apple cart would be a cabbage cart.
    also, “Cora’s [spoiler]” – while the spoiler tag is necessary i suppose, i found it’s answer predictable. who else would his character be? cora’s former lover? LOL. that might actually be TOO melodramatic for downton. looking forward to seeing him on the show!

  15. Robin Cohen says:

    Brilliant! Now can we kill off Shirley Maclaine’s character in exchange? Casting her was a terrible idea.

    • Shaun says:


    • JCK says:

      I don’t think the casting was a mistake. It was Fellowes portraying her as crass that was the mistake. It’s as though he was taking a swipe at Americans,

      • scooby says:

        She has a different values system than they do. Doesn’t make her crass to think that how your great grandfather did things or your being born into a certain family means you’re better than anybody. She knows what fork to use, and wouldn’t have acted the way Matthew did when he first showed up and kept putting his foot in it. She wasn’t hanging around with the staff a la Branson either but people don’t give him crap really. She still respected etiquette up until it wasn’t pragmatic. She saved that dinner party, and nobody’s going to say anything accept to attribute anything weird to her being American which is on them and their snobbery. They actually seemed to have a good time. Kathy Bates played a even brassier type of woman as the Unsinkable Molly Brown. She could’ve done a good job here, but the other Crawley actresses are tall and the body type just would stand out too much. People give Jane Fonda a hard time, but if she were willing to dress up in period garb w/a wig to cover her short hair, she’d have been brilliant. Same body type, an air of authority, used to having a lot of money for a long time, independent.

    • mags says:

      Shirley seemed to lack energy and enthusiasm in her performance. They could have cast someone like Blythe Danner.

    • D.D. says:

      Hear hear! Seeing her characterdrive off was a relief! Maybe Julian Fellows needs to meet a better class of Americans.

  16. AH says:

    Wow. That is brilliant.

  17. Julie says:

    Harriet Walter is Walter, not Walters.

  18. mags says:

    Paul Giamatti is a great actor, and hopefully won’t be saddled with a crude, vulgar character like Shirley was.

  19. Shay says:

    Oh great! Another “ugly American” to darken Downtown’s halls….Shirley was bad enough with her crass, scenery-chewing loon portrayal, now this! I understand that there is an intended contrast with the two cultures, but could we please have a few refined, as opposed to uncouth, Yanks visit the Abbey? We do (did) have them, Mr. Fellowes!!!!! (P.S. This stunt casting is too similar to Jeremy Piven as “Mr. Selfridge.” Was totally appalled by that one, too, although I admit he did actually manage to pull it off…never would have watched him in anything he appeared in stateside, however….)

  20. Shay says:

    P.S. Should have been James Spader….he somehow manages to be classy and louche at the same time!!!!! Totally believable as a debauched aristo…..or whatever “Harold” is supposed to be!!!!!!

  21. jr says:

    hope he doesn’t make it boring as everything he done before. Fellowes is risking too much… killing one of the main character and bringing inexpressive actors to his drama

  22. Andrea Beltz says:

    I think it’s perfect the way Americans are portrayed. MacLaine is brilliant. So who cares if she is crass- she can afford to be. That’s what they are trying to portray- the differences between us vulger Americans and the refined Brits. Of course we don’t all fit the sterotype, but it’s usually true. Notice when almost anywhere in Europe, many Americans stick out like sore thumbs, wearing bright obnoxious sports logos and usually overweight too. Sorry to be so harsh on my own, but I think it’s still the same whether its 1930 or present day. Then it must have been attitude where today it seems to be appearance. I can’t wait for season 4!