Shirley Maclaine may well be one of the world's most experienced actresses but she has admitted that she found the shooting schedule for Downton Abbey to be rather gruelling. Maclaine plays the role of Lady Grantham's mother, Martha Levinson and the show's director Brian Percival has told the Daily Telegraph that the demands of working on the show were tough for her.
"It was a surprise [to her] the amount you're supposed to get in the can every day," he explained. The producer, Liz Trubridge added that the 78 year old actress initially struggled to learn her lines for the script but eventually managed to master what was required of her. "She hated the thought she was letting people down by not getting it, so she worked really, really hard at night to get it right," said Trubridge. In real life, Shirley is renowned for her lively and boisterous character, which is quite at odds with the character of Martha Levinson. It is expected that she and Dame Maggie Smith will be engaging with some onscreen 'fireworks' as their characters come to blows.
MacLaine's character is set to play a pivotal part in the highly-anticipated third series of Downton Abbey. The executive producer Gareth Neame explained that the role was not an easy one to fill. "The key thing was to make sure we had an actress who was a match for Maggie Smith and that made the list very small." The writer, Julian Fellowes, added "They punch at equal weight. When they're on screen, you want to look at them both."