Downton Abbey: Shirley MacLaine says she and Dame Maggie Smith were “lovers” in a previous life!

Downton Abbey newbie Shirley MacLaine is of course a staunch believer in reincarnation, and as such, she recently claimed that in a previous life, she and her Downton co-star Dame Maggie Smith – who plays the Dowager Duchess – had been lovers!

Shirley of course plays the role of Lady Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson, in the show’s third series, and as Martha and the Dowager Duchess clash on-screen within moments of meeting, Shirley and Maggie spent a good deal of time together filming.

TV Biz reports that Shirley — who recently claimed she was a lover of Roman emperor Charlemagne — said of Maggie, “We were lovers in another life. We met 40 years ago backstage at the Oscars.

“I was up for something and there was this big chocolate cake on the catering table. Whatever I was up for, I lost…

“Now Maggie tells me, ‘You know what you did, dear? You tucked right into that cake and said, ‘F*** it, I don’t care if I’m thin ever again!’

“Maggie remembers more than me — but then she’s a year younger.”

It seems the jury’s out as to whether she was joking or not!

However, on the subject of joining the cast of hit drama Downton Abbey, Shirley said, “I walked into my hairdresser’s in Malibu and they were talking about it.

“Then I ran three months of it and was addicted. But when it was announced I was to play Martha, I didn’t know anything about her.

“The ladies in my hairdressing place said she was Jewish and looking for a man, so I thought it worth investigating.”

And finally, of Martha’s clashes with Maggie’s character Violet, Shirley said, “The clash boils down to Violet’s resistance to change.

“Martha is trying to explain that you must grow out of this addiction to tradition because this is what has gotten you into a war.

“Martha is in America at a time where it’s fun, rambunctious. She has money, probably, and represents the New World.”

Downton Abbey returns to our screens in the autumn.

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.