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Richard E Grant joining Downton

Withnail and I star Richard E Grant is joining the cast of Downton Abbey.

The actor is one of several new cast members joining the hit period drama for the fifth series.

He will play Simon Bricker who visits Downton Abbey as a guest of the Grantham family.

Anna Chancellor, probably best known for her role as Henrietta in Four Weddings and a Funeral, also joins the cast as Lad y Anstruther.

Rade Sherbedgia, who played a former Soviet general in the sixth series of 24, will play a refugee, Kuragin, who has fled the Russian revolution after the First World War.

The show's executive pr oducer Gareth Neame said: "We are delighted to welcome these talented actors to the world of Downton. The characters they play are set to bring yet more excitement and intrigue to the show."

Its creator Julian Fellowes has previously hinted that the next series of the hit show could be its last.

The ITV1 drama, telling the story of the aristocratic Crawley family, is set to return to television screens later this year, having made its debut in 2010.

But Lord Fellowes has said in an interview that the saga will not "go on forever".

The writer, who is also an actor, reassured fans that there would be a fifth series of Downton said: "I don't know yet if there is a season six, but it's not going to go on forever."

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