Downton Abbey: See first pics from series 3, plus Rob James Collier on meeting icon Shirley MacLaine!

Whoop with joy Downton Abbey fans for ITV have released two brand new pictures from the new series, and in addition, Rob James Collier – who plays footman Thomas – has revealed that when Shirley MacLaine turned up for her first day on set, she took him completely by surprise by being overjoyed to meet him.

But first, of the pictures, regrettably there are – as mentioned – only two, one of which is above and the second is after the jump.

Over now to what Rob – who formerly played the role of Liam Connor in Corrie – had to say of meeting Ms MacLaine, who will play Martha Levinson…

Speaking to What’s On TV mag, he said, “It was a completely surreal experience. On the first day the staff are greeting her outside the front of the house.

“And at the rehearsals she got out the car, this Hollywood icon, and she was kind of looking for someone.

“And everyone was there, the entire cast, and she went ‘It’s you!’ pointing at me.

“I did the classic ‘She can’t be talking to me’, looked behind me, but it’s just hedges there, and I thought ‘She can’t be talking to the bush!’

”She came over to me and she’s like ‘The evil one! Why are you so evil?!’ And I was like ‘Hello Shirley, nice to meet you, I’m Rob, how you doing?’ and she was like ‘Never mind that, why are you so evil?!’

“She was a massive fan of the show, so it was great to see. She had no airs or graces. She was just quizzing us about our characters.

“The fact that she even knew who I was was just a bonus.”

The new series of Downton airs in the autumn, and I cannot wait!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.