Alex Kingston heads to Upstairs Downstairs

Star takes role of younger sister to the departing Dame Eileen Atkins

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Alex Kingston heads to Upstairs Downstairs
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Doctor Who and ER star Alex Kingston is joining the cast for the second series of Upstairs Downstairs, due to be screened on BBC1 in 2012.

"I simply couldn't resist the opportunity to get inside the iconic 165 Eaton Place," said Kingston. She'll be playing Blanche Mottershead, younger sister to Dame Eileen Atkins's Lady Holland from the first series. Kingston says that writer Heidi Thomas "really has created a wonderfully intriguing character in Blanche who will over time reveal some secrets of her own."

New character Blanche will never meet her older sister, though: Dame Eileen - who co-created the original 1970s hit with Jean Marsh - announced in August that she would not be returning to the show, reportedly because she was unhappy with the direction scripts were taking for this second series.

The show is in preproduction now and begins filming in October. Alongside returning cast members Jean Marsh and Keeley Hawes, Kenneth Cranham will now also feature. Heidi Thomas says that the new run deals with the build-up to the Second World War: "Outside 165 Eaton Place, London and Europe are poised on the knife-edge of calamity."