Paul Giamatti Goes To Downton Abbey

From The Rhino to the manor born

Paul Giamatti, John Adams

High on the list of news stories we did not expect to see today is the word that Paul Giamatti has signed on to appear in TV mega-hit Downton Abbey, turfing up in the finale of the currently-shooting season four as the playboy brother to the Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern). He'll apparently be causing trouble for the family, "upset the Grantham's apple cart" and prove a "maverick" and "free-spirited" figure.

Giamatti is, of course, no stranger to costume drama - mini-series John Adams helped take his career to even higher heights just a couple of years back - but since he's currently playing the Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we feel this qualifies as mixing it up.

For the three people who still haven't watched it, Downton Abbey was created by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and follows the aristocratic Crawley family, led by the Count of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his aforementioned American wife, their daughters Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith). The lives of their servants and hangers-on are also the subject of much of the show's running time, and the three series to date have taken in the sinking of the Titanic, World War I, Spanish flu and the Marconi scandal.

Signing up should be a good career move given that it's a show that half of Hollywood seems to be obsessed with; J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau are just two of the directors who have gone on record as mega-fans. We're surprised there aren't more Hollywood stars lining up to visit Grantham, really.

Giamatti joins Shirley MacLaine, who'll play his onscreen mother (another inducement to any right-thinking thesp), and follows other guest stars like Dame Kiri Te Kanawa to Downton this season.

Series four of Downton Abbey hits screens this autumn, so please bear that schedule in mind and make sure you're over the trauma of that Christmas episode by then.

Giamatti will also be voicing a character in Turbo later this summer, playing the Friar in Romeo and Juliet, and appearing in Saving Mr Banks and 12 Years A Slave come Oscar season. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes out next year.