From Eastenders to opera singers, introducing the new cast members of the hit show
Downton Abbey is getting a makeover this season with six new cast members. Fans needn't worry that their favourite existing characters will be getting the chop, as some of the show's biggest names will be incorporated into new plotlines - including Lady Mary, who is coping with the loss her husband Matthew at the end of the last season and is rumoured to have two new love interests joining the cast.
Former Eastenders star Nigel Harmen who played badboy Denis Rickman from 2003 to 2005, will play a valet called Green, while Tom Cullen will play Lord Gillingham, an old family friend of the Crawleys, who is being lined up as a potential love interest for Lady Mary. Famed character actress Harriet Walter is also jojining the show as Lady Shackleton, and old friend of the Dowager Countess.
Stage star Julian Ovenden is cast as aristocrat Charles Blake and period actress Joanna Davis will be playing a guest role as the Duchess of Yeovil. New Zealand opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will be playing a house guest and will be showing off her vocal talent during her appearances.
Familiar faces returning to the small screen include Irish actor Allen Leech and Shirley MacLaine, who are reprising their roles as Tom Branson and Martha Levinson, Lord Robert Crawley's freewheeling American mother-in-law, respectively.
"The addition of these characters can only mean more delicious drama, which is what `Downton Abbey' is all about," said the show's American producer Rebecca Eaton.
Executive Producer Gareth Neame added: "'Downton Abbey' has seen many great characters visit the house over the years and we couldn't be more thrilled to welcome the new faces that will be joining the regular cast of 'Downton' in series four. We hope audiences will be as excited about them as we are."
And it's a case in with the new and out with the old , in some cases. Mischievous housemaid Sarah O'Brien, played by Irish ctress Siobhan Finneran, won't be returning. "I'm not doing any more," she confirmed. "O'Brien is a thoroughly despicable human being - that was great to play." Unsurprisingly neither will Matthew Crawley (played by Dan Stevens), but we had that figured out when he was killed off in the season finale.
Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle are among its other returning stars.
Dalkey actor Allen opened up about what to expect in the new series, saying that many of the new plot points will surround Lady Mary. “She’s trying to get over the death of her husband and that’s a very central arc to it," he explained. "Downton is in a period of change, like it always is.”