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The Americans Invade 'Downton Abbey'


That most British of shows will feature more American talents with Paul Giamatti

The occasionally sweet, always shrewd, sometimes downright calculating Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham (played by Elizabeth McGovern), is the Yankee with the cash that's been keeping Downton Abbey's finest in frocks and pheasant-hunting gear.

Her family tree is a most exciting one, even on the New World side. She's got a straight-talking tycoon mother (Shirley MacLaine) and now a little brother.

Paul Giamatti will be appearing on that most British of period melodramas, playing Harold, the free-spirited, playboy younger brother. Free spirits on a vaunted 1920s manor? We're anticipating some ruffled patrician plumage.

Harold doesn't appear until the fourth season's Christmas special, and The Guardian reports MacLaine will be back for that episode as well.

It's a good move to cast American talent as the show is at least as big a hit on these shores as it is in the U.K. The series has garnered PBS the highest ratings in its 40-year history. And a crush on the straight actor, Rob James-Collier, who plays the gay character Thomas.

Other new cast members include opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, the former EastEnders actor Nigel Harman, brooding cutie-pie Weekend star Tom Cullen, another pretty face in Julian Ovenden, Joanna David and Gary Carr who will be the first major black recurring character on the show.

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Matthew Breen