Downton Abbey, Season 3 — The Phenomenon Lives On!
The acclaimed cast returns with guest star Shirley MacLaine
January 6, 2013 on PBS
The Great War is over and a long-awaited engagement is on, but all is not tranquil at Downton Abbey as wrenching social changes, romantic intrigues, and personal crises grip the majestic English country estate for a third thrilling season. With the return of its all-star cast plus guest star Academy Award®-winner Shirley MacLaine, Downton Abbey, Season 3 airs over seven Sundays on PBS beginning in January 2013.
Written and created by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey, Season 3 is a Carnival Films and Masterpiece coproduction, in association with NBCUniversal. The series won an impressive six Primetime Emmy® Awards and a Golden Globe® in its first season. Recent honors for Season 2 include multi-category nominations from the Critics' Choice Awards and from the Television Critics Association.
Executive Producer Gareth Neame remarks, "What a rollercoaster it has been to be part of this truly global phenomenon. We couldn't be more thrilled by the way American critics and audiences have taken Downton to their hearts and I'm so excited to be getting the third season ready for everyone to see."
The press loved the second season, with USA Today marveling, "Lightning can strike twice." The Hollywood Reporter called the series "one of the great melodramas of the modern television age." And The Los Angeles Times styled it "big, beautifully acted, and romantic."
Viewers were no less passionate, with 17.1 million tuning in across the seven episodes, making Downton Abbey, Season 2 the most-watched Masterpiece series on record. It was also the most talked-about. "What sets Downton Abbey apart," wrote Reuters, "is the buzz the show is creating on new social media websites like Twitter and Facebook." And with today's multitude of viewing options, a younger audience is being seduced by Downton Abbey's sumptuously spread-out plot, notes Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton.
"In the excellence of its writing, acting, and production, Downton Abbey arrives at a perfect time," says Eaton. "Long-form episodic drama is the ideal fit for the way people watch television today. With time-shifting, DVDs, and streaming, viewers have rediscovered the joys of luxuriating in a sweeping story."
"Masterpiece has been committed to superb long-form drama since the beginning," she adds. "We've never lost our audience, and now we're attracting new and younger viewers, too."
The returning cast includes Hugh Bonneville, Dame Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Penelope Wilton, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle and a host of others, joined by Shirley MacLaine (Oscar® for Best Actress, Terms of Endearment), who plays Martha Levinson, the very American mother of Cora, Countess of Grantham (McGovern).
Years earlier, Cora rescued Downton Abbey with her New World riches by marrying Robert, Earl of Grantham (Bonneville). Now, New World and Old World are about to clash as Cora's mother locks horns with Robert's redoubtable mother, Lady Violet, played by Maggie Smith.
Last season closed with the reluctant heir to Downton, Matthew Crawley (Stevens), recovered from his war wounds and ready to tie the knot with the eldest of Lord and Lady Grantham's daughters, Lady Mary (Dockery). Meanwhile, Mary's youngest sister, Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay), has eloped to Ireland with the political-minded chauffeur, Branson (Allen Leech), and is expecting a child.
A tantalizing glimpse ahead: Downton's impeccable butler, Carson (Carter), breaks in a new footman, who happens to be the nephew of the scheming lady's maid O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran). Following Matthew and Mary's engagement, Robert sticks to his duty to maintain Downton more firmly than ever — even as other great houses are crippled psychologically and financially in the wake of World War I.
In this changing landscape nothing is assured, and could it be that even the war-weary Crawleys must fight a new battle to safeguard their beloved Downton?
Downton Abbey, Season 3 is a Carnival/Masterpiece Co-production, in association with NBCUniversal. It is written and created by Julian Fellowes. Gareth Neame and Julian Fellowes are Executive Producers. The Producer is Liz Trubridge. The first two episodes are directed by Brian Percival, who won an Emmy® Award for his direction of season one. Other episodes are directed by Andy Goddard, Jeremy Webb, and David Evans.
Explore select features related to Downton Abbey below. And for the latest cast video, photos and news, as well as access to everthing from seasons 1 and 2, visit our Downton Abbey destination page.
Get bios, video, photos and more of key Downton characters and the actors who portray them.
Video: Cast Interviews
The stars of Downton Abbey on their characters, war, love and friendship.
The World of Downton Abbey
Author Jessica Fellowes gives you access to the style and drama of the series.
A Conversation with the Countess
Find out about the fascinating history and inhabitants of Highclere Castle, the real-life setting for Downton Abbey.
Synopsis by Episode
Catch up on Downton Abbey by episode: watch short video recaps and read full synopses.
Video: Cast Q&A
Downton Abbey cast members answer fan questions and talk about season 2.