“Downton”‘s New Battle Of The Battleaxes

She has already seen off competition from the formidable Shirley MacLaine, but it appears Dame Maggie Smith is about to enter into a new battle of the battleaxes in the coming series of “Downton Abbey.” The actress, who plays the Countess of Grantham in the ITV period drama, is to clash with her new lady’s maid, played by Sue Johnston, as well a young socialist who causes uproar at the Abbey. Sarah Bunting, the idealistic teacher who appeared briefly in the last series, is to infiltrate the inner sanctum of the stately home in coming episodes, setting the “cat among the pigeons” in the Downton family. Johnston, who plays new lady’s maid Decker, was chosen specifically by the show’s creator Lord Fellowes as able to hold her own against the sharp tongue of Dame Maggie’s Dowager. The new season premiers September 21 in the U.K. (and thus to any 8-year-old with computer skills) and January 4 on PBS in the States.

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