What can “Downton Abbey” fans expect when the PBS series starts its third season in January?
“Matthew and Mary do get married,” ”Masterpiece” executive producer Rebecca Eaton said Wednesday at a Winter Park party. She previewed the British drama, which is in production, for supporters of WUCF TV, Central Florida’s new PBS station.
In the new “Downton” season, everyone is waiting for the arrival of the mother of Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), a character played by Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine. They’re waiting for MacLaine’s character because the British family, especially Violet (Oscar-winner Maggie Smith), needs money again, Eaton said.
“There are some wonderful scenes between Maggie and Shirley MacLaine — Shirley MacLaine being as ditsy as ever,” Eaton said. “And Maggie barely restraining her sneer in having to deal with this American. Maggie Smith is a handful, it’s true. She’s very difficult. She knows her worth, and she’s tricky on the set, but she delivers when the time comes.”
Eaton supplied more teases: “Somebody will be born, and somebody will die, somebody pretty key in the cast, unfortunately not going to make it. It’s the 1920s now.”
Eaton said she originally passed on “Downton Abbey” because she didn’t believe American viewers would want to see another take on “Upstairs, Downstairs.”
“Thankfully, no one else in this country snapped it up,” Eaton said. “Then I heard that Maggie Smith had been cast to be in it and I thought, ‘We have to do it.’ Because she, like Judi Dench, like Eileen Atkins — there are a few British actors, if they’re in, I want it because I just think they’re going to be good.”
So “Masterpiece” joined as a co-producer. “Nobody had any idea it would take off the way it did,” Eaton said.
The second season of “Downton” was “the biggest thing that’s happened to ‘Masterpiece’ in 25 years,” Eaton said.