Reading Between the Lines of Shirley MacLaine’s ‘Downton Abbey’ Interview

ALTI’m more excited than Lady Sybill at a Marxist rally waiting for the third season (or “series” as the Brits call it) of PBS hit Downton Abbey and nothing makes me more excited than the guest starring turn of screen legend and all around amazing broad Shirley MacLaine. She gave a short interview about the upcoming season to TV Guide. If you just read it, you don’t really learn a lot, but if you look underneath the quotes, there is a ton of subtext.

MacLaine is going to play Martha Levinson the mother of the wealthy Lady Cora. She’s only in the first two episodes (sad face emoticon). Here’s what else she had to say.

Quote: “I sort of had to make her personality up.”

What It Means: Like season two, creator Jullian Fellows was so busy trying to get the season into shape that he didn’t really give her that many character traits.

Quote: “She is from Long Island and finally lands at Downton Abbey and sees what’s happening to the place when everyone’s coming back from the war.”

What It Means: Martha, being from Long Island, is totally nouveau riche and tacky and wants everything to be covered in bling and animal prints. She also thinks that war is depressing.

Quote: MacLaine says she has scenes with Mr. Carson but none with her favorite Mr. Bates.

What It Means: Looks like Bates is still going to be trapped in jail, but it seems like Martha is totally going to be getting her swerve on with the help.

Quote: On her character’s realtionship to Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess, “Our characters’ relationship is probably not what you’d think.”

What It Means: They’re not going to fight. How can this happen? Can you really have these two together and not have at least one scene where Shirley throws a bouquet of flowers on the floor and stomps out and Dame Maggie sniffs, “Well, I’ll say…” and sits there grasping at her little silver-tipped cane? How can this not happen. This must happen. Maybe it will be like when two superhero teams get together and initially they fight but then they combine their powers against a common enemy.

Quote: “The whole place seemed haunted and full of otherworldly spirits.”

What It Means: Shirley sees dead people.

Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan


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