Shirley MacLaine

There was a sweet surprise for fans of PBS's Downton Abbey during the filming of Shirley MacLaine's AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony Thursday night in Los Angeles. After Downton's Elizabeth McGovern, who plays matriarch Cora, offered some kind words about MacLaine, she inspired joyous gasps when she announced the screening of a Season 3 clip revealing MacLaine in the role of Cora's mother, Martha.

In the scene, Martha greets Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess upon her arrival to Downton. After a joyous embrace, Martha gives the Countess a once over and says, "Oh dear. I'm afraid the war has made old women of us both." Retorts the Countess: "Oh I wouldn't say that. But then I always keep out of the sun."

When the Countess then inquires into Martha's business upon her return, Martha responds, "much the same really. Probably too much the same, but then I don't want to cast a pall over all the happiness."

"How could you ever do that?" asks the Countess, obviously with deep sarcasm. Meow! Let the one-upmanship begin! And tune in to the AFI event on Sunday, June 24 at 9/8c, on TV Land to see this gem of a sneak peek.

"There's a lot of sparing between Maggie and Shirley's characters because they come from such different cultural traditions," McGovern told me on the red carpet. "[Martha] has such a different way of being."

But the two screen legends displayed quite a different relationship when the cameras weren't rolling. "Shirley definitely shook things up a bit," shares McGovern. "She takes the room and makes it her own. There was a great moment when we were in the great hall of the Abbey when Shirley was ushered in. Shirley rushed over and picked Maggie up in her arms in this bear hug. I don't think Maggie's feet were on the ground for a minute. That says it all about the two of them."

"She's light; lighter than me," cracked MacLaine about her on-set stunt. "I've known Maggie for 40 years and she loved it!"

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