Big news for Downton: Who's coming and who's going?

Mar 4, 2013 at 12:01 p.m. ET

PBS announces some interesting casting news for Season 4 of Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey's casting news for season 4

My, oh my! Season 3 of Downton Abbey just barely ended (for Americans) and we're already getting news for what's ahead on Season 4!

We hope you're ready to say another "goodbye" because it looks like another actress has asked to see herself out. Downton producers announced over the weekend that Siobhan Finneran, who played the conniving and villainous O'Brien will be leaving the show. Phew! Was there anyone out there who wasn't sick of her brand of evil and snobbery? What do you think or hope her goodbyes will look like?

Recap: Season 3's finale >>

Aside from the mourning Matthew (Dan Stevens, who we knew wouldn't be around much longer) and missing Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), there will be plenty of rejoicing as new characters and returning guest stars will abound on Season 4!

Kiri Te Kanawa

Two of the biggest names to appear on next year's roster are New Zealand opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and (the return of) Shirley MacLaine! MacLaine will be on hand to reprise her role as Lord Crawley's mother-in-law. That means tons more verbal sparring between her and Maggie Smith. Jolly good!

Not much information has been given about Kanawa's character, but we're told she'll be a houseguest and that, yes, we'll get the chance to hear her exercise those lungs.

Another interesting find among the list of guest stars? Someone named Lord Gillingham, played by the dark and dashing Welsh actor Tom Cullen, will pay a visit to Downton. All we know is he's an "old friend." Fox is saying he might be the one to help Lady Mary recover after Matthew's accident. We think that's related more to his yumminess than any sound source, but we hope they're right!

Maggie Smith (the Dowager Countess) hasn't seen a single Downton episode >>

Also be sure to also look out for Nigel Harman (as Green, a new valet), Dame Harriet Walter (as Lady Shackleton, friend of the Dowager), Joanne David (as Duchess of Yeovil) and Julian Ovenden (as aristocrat Charles Blake) on the new season of Downton.

As soon as we know more, we'll pass it on to you!

Images courtesy of PBS and