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'Downton Abbey' adds Harriet Walter, Kiri Te Kanawa in guest role; Shirley MacLaine returns

Maggie Smith, left, as the Dowager Countess and

Maggie Smith, left, as the Dowager Countess and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary in PBS' "Downton Abbey." (Credit: Carnival Films)

Shirley MacLaine will return to 'Downton Abbey' in next season's finale while renowned stage actress Harriet Walter and opera star Kiri Te Kanawa are joining in guest roles, the show announced yesterday. Joanne David, another big English TV star, is also joining in a guest role. 

  Walter's especially intriguing because she's an esteemed Shakespearean actor, and well-known on British TV, now about to get some exposure to U.S. audiences. (She's also been on Broadway, recently in "Mary Stuart.")  New Zealand born Te Kanewa is an opera great - a household name to opera buffs for decades (her role's expected to be brief, more along the lines of a cameo, than recurring.) Julian Ovenden is yet another very big get for the show.

 For a bit of perspective, some of these names may not be all that well-known to U.S. TV viewers, but they certainly are in the U.K., so this is all reasonably important casting news

Tom Cullen as Lord Gillingham, an old family friend of the Crawleys who visits the family as a guest for a house party

Nigel Harman as Green, a valet

Dame Harriet Walter as Lady Shackleton, an old friend of the Dowager

Joanne David in a guest role as the Duchess of Yeovil

Julian Ovenden as aristocrat Charles Blake

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa as a guest who sings in the house

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