Shirley MacLaine Talks Filming Downton Abbey In 'Haunted' Castle: It Was A 'Fantastic Experience'

Shirley MacLaine will soon be ruffling highbrow English feathers on “Downton Abbey” as Martha Levinson (Lady Grantham’s American-born mother), and the iconic actress said filming the PBS Masterpiece series was an adventure she’ll always remember.

“[It was] a fantastic experience,” Shirley, 78, told Access Hollywood at the AFI Awards in Los Angeles on Thursday, where she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. “We shot in Highclere Castle, about an hour-and-a-half outside of London, where they had the tomb of King Tut in the basement.”

With the location filled with historical relics and antiquities, Shirley – a firm believer in the spirit world – said the “Downton” cast witnessed a bit of supernatural activity.

“[Highclere] was haunted and the pictures came off the wall,” she told Access. “If there was any kind of conflict — which there wasn’t — we sat around a huge dining room table, obeying the man who was chief of protocol technical advisor. That was interesting! No, we had a very good time.”

While Shirley’s outspoken character will butt heads with “Downton’s” formidable Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) on screen, the actress said reuniting with Maggie was pure joy.

“Maggie Smith is a very old friend of mine, so that was wonderful being with her again!” she told Access.

“Downton Abbey” returns to PBS in January 2013.

--Erin O’Sullivan

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