Well how about this? Shirley MacLaine will join "Downton Abbey" next season as the American mother of Elizabeth McGovern's character, Lady Grantham. Announcement was made a little while ago. Per the PBS press release:
"Shirley MacLaine is a great actress and she's as American as the day is long," says Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton. "I can't wait to see her go toe-to-toe with Maggie Smith's Lady Violet."
Carnival Films’ managing director, Gareth Neame said, "My late grandfather directed Shirley MacLaine in Gambit in 1966 so it is a delight for me that she will be joining us on Downton Abbey. Julian has written another brilliant character in Martha Levinson."
Mark those words "toe-to-toe with Maggie Smith's Lady Violet." That's obviously where this is going but the additional gives a nice and needed dimension to Lady Grantham too -- who is after all so vital to the show and about whose U.S. provenance is so little known. (Heiress...father is a dry goods titan from some place like Cincinatti...and so forth.)
A recently posted McGovern interview, by the way, about Americans versus the British on the show...