One of the highlights of the coming episodes is the addition of Shirley MacLaine as Lady Cora's mother, Martha Levinson, who comes to Downton for Mary's wedding. "She is extremely outspoken," MacLaine says of the character. "Martha's basic role in these episodes is to plead with the Dowager Countess to wrest herself, if possible, away from tradition. Because that's what caused the war in the first place. And to become more flexible in relating to change."
For those hoping to see Martha and The Dowager Countess' feuds explode in a Dynasty-esque fountain fight, you will be sorely disappointed. But those looking for verbal fireworks are in luck! "The gunfight at the OK Corral does not happen between Maggie [Smith] and me," MacLaine adds. "We do a little sparring, we have our moments but it's more sophisticated than that."
"Martha is not just a crass, cranky American coming in there to call a spade a spade. She's very smart and to a large extent sensitive as to what's going on with all her daughter's children. And Maggie's character is so well established but you have to look beyond what is her expected reaction to Martha. The Dowager Countess is a human being who has complications and a past of some pain that Martha understands - and to some extent addresses herself to."