Filming pictures from season 4 of Downton Abbey. Check out Shirley MacLaine!
THE champagne is on ice and Downton Abbey’s new cast lounges in the sunshine at a society picnic in our first glimpse of the hit show’s latest series.
These exclusive pictures were taken during filming for the Christmas special of the ITV period drama which is expected to return in September with eight new episodes.
They show returning cast member and Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine sitting beside new star James Fox, who is tipped to play drunken toff Sir John Bullock.
Judging from the splendid array of champagne bottles on the table, the character is living up to his billing.
Meanwhile Downton’s heir, baby George, is among the charges being taken for a parkland stroll by their nannies. George is the son of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley, who was killed in a car crash in last year’s Christmas special.
The pictures also give fans their first glimpse of sultry actress Daisy Lewis, who plays a scheming governess for toddler Sybil. Showbusiness sources say she will strike up a relationship with Sybil’s widower father Branson, which will lead to a “secret affair”.
Daisy, 35, isn’t a stranger to TV viewers, having appeared in Doctor Who as Javit and in an episode of Lewis.
It’s all change in the series, with nine new cast members on the set following the departure of three big names, Dan Stevens (Matthew), Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil) and Siobhan Finneran (O’Brien).
The most interesting casting announcement is Hollywood actor Paul Giamatti (Sideways, The Truman Show and Saving Private Ryan) who will play “free spirit” and playboy Harold, Martha’s son and brother of Cora.
In comes actor Tom Cullen as Lord Anthony Gillingham, an old Crawley family friend whose history with Lady Mary dates back to childhood, and actor Nigel Harman as visiting valet Green.
Dame Harriet Walter plays Violet’s friend Lady Shackleton, opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa is a singing house guest, while Joanna David guest-stars as the Duchess of Yeovil. Julian Ovenden appears as aristocrat Charles Blake.
We will also see the first black character, sparking a race-related story line. Death In Paradise and Bluestone 42 actor Gary Carr is jazz musician and singer Jack Ross.
After the loss of so many high-profile actors, there is speculation that series four will be the last penned by creator and writer Julian Fellowes. He has a new project to write for the US market.
Many cast members have speculated that “five would be the limit” if it were commissioned once more by ITV.
Downton Abbey has proved as big a hit abroad. Sales of the next DVD are expected to be greater in China than in the UK and American audiences continue to be obsessed with the aristocratic goings-on set at Hampshire’s Highclere Castle.
Downton broke US records recently with the Series Three season finale beating all broadcast and cable competition to become the highest-rated show on American television that evening. The series averaged 11.5 million viewers, with the finale 12.3 million.
Look! It's Paul Giamatti! I'm actually REALLY excited about him playing Cora's brother. I think he'll be great.
Random Downton nanny? I don't think this is the character that Branson is supposed to be getting in on with though.
James Fox who I mostly know for being the father of Laurence Fox who is the husband of Billie Piper.