Published Monday, 17 September 2012
Shirley MacLaine made her Downton debut at the weekend. (© ITV)
The veteran US star plays Martha Levinson, mother of Cora Crawley, who arrives just in time for the wedding of Lady Mary and Matthew.
"My character comes in and shakes the whole thing up," Shirley said.
And sure enough, it wasn't long until Martha was exchanging dry put-downs with Violet - the inimitable Dowager Countess of Gratham, played by Maggie Smith.
"Oh dear, the war has made old women of us both," she declared on greeting her nemesis.
"Oh no," Violet fired back her pointed barb. "I stay out of the sun ..."
The character really does come in like a small tornado.
Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary)
While their co-stars were at first in awe at being in such esteemed company, they were soon put at ease. Relatively speaking.
"The chats with Shirley in between takes, yeah ... I will never forget," actor Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley) said, looking a little lost for words.
"Nor will I repeat half of them."
And Shirley MacLaine was certainly already familiar with them and the characters they play, wasting no time in making a beeline for Rob James Collier (Thomas) to declare him the "evil one".
"She was just like: 'Oh, here he is. Why are you so bad?' Sorry, I'm stood next to him - I think I'm badder than he is!"Siobhan Finneran (O'Brien) protested, before starting to laugh.
"She had the love for Rob."
With the inhabitants of Downton now moving into the Roaring Twenties, the ITV show is still proving popular - hitting a peak of 9.6 million viewers.
That was more than double the 4.3 million who tuned in to the BBC's Inspector George Gently, which had an hour-long overlap with Downton on Sunday night.