Shirley MacLaine has spoken about her new role on Downton Abbey.

MacLaine will appear in the period drama's third series as Martha Levinson, the mother of Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern).

Speaking to E! Online the actress revealed that her character will clash with the Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie Smith).

She said: "I love Maggie, I've known her for 40 years [and] we did many scenes together. [We clash] on an intellectual level."

MacLaine also admitted that she struggled with some of the elaborate costumes saying: "I know why there was the class system - you needed one or two people to get you dressed every day."

Downton Abbey will return in late 2012.