Downton Abbey Series 4: No return for Shirley MacLaine’s character, Martha Levinson? But Dame Maggie Smith says she wont retire!

by Anna Howell

After a phenomenal reception from her series 3 debut, Hollywood legend, Shirley MacLaine may not be making a Downton Abbey return in series 4, as show bosses says that she is too busy!

Shirley burst on to our screens in series 3 as Martha Levinson, the head-strong American mother of Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), and instantly struck a chord with viewers on both sides of the pond.

Shirley’s character Martha played out in direct contrast to the other living legend in the cast, Dame Maggie Smith, whose character, the Dowager Countess, had dug her 1800 hells into the ground, petrified of her world being brought forward into the modern 1920’s swing of things.

Meanwhile, Shirley’s character, Martha, openly embraced the new, modern world, and encouraged her daughter and granddaughters to do the same, leaving the Dowager Countess more than a little put out.

Between Martha and the Dowager we, the viewer, were treated to some of the most comical and well written scenes the show has ever produced, piecing together the last of the jigsaw, and for once making us believe that Downton could embrace the modern, post-war world.

But, alas, it would seem that, whilst Dame Maggie Smith has insisted she isn’t going anywhere, Shirley MacLaine may not be reprising her role in the new series currently being filmed.

Julian Fellowes, the creative genius behind the hit ITV period drama (for now, anyway – read more here!) has admitted that it may prove to be a bit tricky trying to get MacLaine back as she is so busy on other projects.

He explained to US TV how his hopes for a return from her have been dashed somewhat due to her other commitments:

“She’s very busy and she has a lot of film offers.

“I would love to have her back in series four. I think Shirley agreeing to be in the show was a real mark of how successful it was.”

The writer went on to explain how MacLaine herself had seemed keen, and sure that a return was on the cards, but has since had to back away.

Fear not, however, as MacLaine’s sparring partner, the Dowager Countess, played by the iconic Dame Maggie Smith, is definitely not too busy for series four.

In fact Dame Maggie told US TV that she has no plans to retire, but that the show may have to consider killing off her character due to her age, explaining:

“Violet must be about 100-and-something now.”

Watch a clip of Shirley in Downton action below: