03.04.13 8:45 AM ET
The Red Blooded Blue Bloods Hoping To Mend Lady Mary's Heart
Six new characters will enter the lavishly-staffed world of Downton Abbey next season, including these two young aristocratic hotties who will be attempting to mend the broken heart of Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), following the unfortunate death of new dad Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), who was, attentive viewers will recall, killed in a road accident (particularly careless given how few people could afford a vehicle in the inter-war years).
Played by Tom Cullen and Julian Ovenden, Lord Gillingham and aristo Charles Blake are among a host of new characters, including—the clearest sign of a jumped shark yet—an opera singer played by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, 68, who will visit Downton Abbey in the new series, scheduled for the autumn in the U.K. (U.S. viewers will have to wait until January 2014.)
Dame Maggie Smith's fiery Dowager Countess will get a confidante in the form of Lady Shackleton, played by Dame Harriet Walters. And Shirley MacLaine, meanwhile, will reprise her role as Martha Levinson, the mother of Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), in the Christmas Special, set to air in December on ITV.
"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 4," said executive producer Gareth Neame. "We hope audiences will be as excited about them as we are."
The casting announcements come after the series has lost three of its actors, including Stevens, Jessica Findlay Brown (who played Lady Sybil Crawley), and Siobhan Finneran, who announced on Friday that she would not be returning to Downton for a fourth season.
To date, the series has won nine Emmys, two Golden Globes, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for the ensemble cast, the first time the cast of a British television show has won the award.