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One of TV's greatest shows is about to get even better! Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine has signed on to join the cast of Downton Abbey for season three of the hit PBS show. Carnival Films and ITV, producers of the series, announced the news today, saying Shirley will begin filming scenes next month. 

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She will be playing new character Martha Levinson, who is Lady Grantham's mother. Carnival Films' managing director, Gareth Neame, says her character "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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And Laura Mackie, director of drama at ITV, added in a press release, "It is so exciting to have an actress of Shirley MacLaine's stature joining our brilliant Downton Abbey cast for series three and a tribute to the show's success on both sides of the Atlantic."

What do you think of the casting news? 

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