Shirley MacLaine will join the cast of Downton Abbey for its third season.

The Oscar-winning star of Terms of Endearment will play Martha Levinson – mother of American heiress Cora – and go toe-to-toe with Maggie Smith’s Lady Violet.

“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 executive producer Gareth Neame in an official statement.

The period drama has been a big success in the UK, US and Australian television markets.

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