Paul Giamatti joins Downton Abbey as Cora’s playboy brother

The Sideways and Amazing Spider-Man 2 actor will arrive in ITV's hit drama as Mary and Edith's free-spirited uncle

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Our beloved Downton characters are set to welcome another stranger into their midst.

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American actor Paul Giamatti is joining the cast of Downton Abbey as Cora’s playboy brother Harold in the Christmas special. And if the arrival of Cora’s quick-tongued mother Martha Levinson last series was anything to go by, we are in for a treat.

Mary and Edith’s uncle Harold will be a “maverick playboy” who has been described as “free-spirited”.

The fourth series will also see the return of veteran star Shirley MacLaine, who is reprising her role as Violet Crawley’s series three sparring partner Martha, so it’s fair to assume the Americans will be the source of some considerable drama.

Carnival Films’ managing director Gareth Neame said: “We’re excited that Paul Giamatti will be joining us on Downton to play Cora’s brother Harold, the rather free-spirited uncle to Mary and Edith.  We can’t wait to see him work alongside Shirley Maclaine, who are both sure to upset the Grantham’s apple cart in this year’s Christmas Day episode.”

With a period playboy as well as naughty Lady Rose moving into the Abbey and Mary getting a new love interest (RIP Matthew), series four is shaping up to be an exciting one.

The Sideways star won’t be the only Downton newbie this series. Giamatti joins a whole host of new faces for the fourth season of the hit ITV drama, including Gary Carr, Kiri Te Kanawa, Tom Cullen, Julian Ovenden, Nigel Harman, Joanna David and Harriet Walter.

Last year saw the Abbey bid farewell to series regulars Jessica Brown-Findlay, Dan Stevens and Siobhan Finneran.

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Written by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey first aired on ITV in September 2010.  The hit period drama will return later this year for an eight-part series and a Christmas special. (Yay!)