Ed Speleers, best known for playing the title role in 2006 fantasy film Eragon, will be joining the cast of PBS-Masterpiece Classic's Downton Abbey for Season Three of the hit TV show.

The 23-year-old star, who appeared in TV show Echo Beach and is featured in the incoming horror comedy Love Bite, will play a footman in the drama, due back later this year for audiences in the UK.

But Speleers isn't the only new face joining the Downton Abbey cast, which features the talents of such veteran actors as Brendan Coyle (John Bates) and Maggie Smith (Dowager Countess Violet Crawley) and relatively new talents Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley).

Matt Milne, the star of War Horse, will also be joining Downton Abbey as footman Alfred, the nephew of the devious yet oddly endearing Miss O'Brien, alongside Lucille Sharp as lady's maid Miss Reed and Cara Theobold as kitchen maid Ivy.

But the biggest name joining Downton Abbey for its third season is undoubtedly Shirley MacLaine.

The Oscar-winning actress, best known for roles in films like The Apartment, Steel Magnolias and Terms of Endearment, will be playing Lady Cora Crawley's mother Martha Levinson.

Widowed and made rich by her late husband Isidore's success as a dry goods merchant, the nouveau riche aristocrat had settled in New York City until her apparent relocation to England for Season Three.

And from what we know of MacLaine's character so far, Levinson is sure to bring some sparks to the Downton Abbey set.

In the first season, when Lady Cora (played by Elizabeth McGovern) is pregnant, she and her mother-in-law Lady Violet put aside their frequent disagreement to band together in horror at the thought of Levinson visiting them.

I've written to your mother, Violet tells Cora. She's very anxious, naturally. She suggested coming over.

Oh, God, Cora replies.

Well, that's what I thought, Violet agrees. So I put her off. Told her to come and admire the baby [later].

For her own part, MacLaine seems thrilled to be a part of the Downton Abbey cast.

She has already sent several tweets from the set of the runaway hit show, telling viewers about working with Maggie Smith and wondering how big her bustle will be for her costume.