Shirley MacLaine says playing Downton Abbey‘s Martha Levinson required a great deal of restraint, a keen eye for detail, and plenty of backup.
And that was just to get dressed.
“Those authentic costumes took some work,” the Oscar winner admits in the new issue of The Saturday Evening Post. “The corsets were really demanding and the buttons on everything were so small.”
While the nouveau-riche Martha’s American-style clothes are less restrictive than those of the Dowager Countess, MacLaine says she still needed help getting into her period costumes.
“I understood the class system after getting ready every morning to go on set,” she says of requiring assistance from members of the Downton wardrobe department to make sure she was properly buttoned up. “I realized women of that time couldn’t get it together without a couple of servants.”
MacLaine goes on to credit her real-life hairstylist for turning her on to the PBS series.
“Actually, I hadn’t even watched it until my hairdresser told me how much she loved it. So I tuned in,” she remembers. “Shortly afterward, they signed me to play Martha Levinson so I sat down and viewed them all… and I just became addicted.”