Shirley MacLaine Celebrates Turning 80 With Guest Spot On ‘Glee’

Shirley MacLaine is well into her life’s third act. But the entertainment powerhouse shows little sign of slowing down. The author, actress and dancer stars in a multiple-episode arc on Glee starting Tuesday, days after turning 80.

Entertainment Weekly reports MacLaine is set to star as a New York socialite with an interest in the career of character Blaine, played by Darren Criss.

MacLaine tweeted a photo of her and Criss mere weeks before becoming an octogenarian, with a characteristic quip about her upcoming milestone:

It was reported in Variety last fall that Glee creator Ryan Murphy plans the show’s next season to be its last. The current season was itself reduced to only 20 episodes, down from 22.

MacLaine made waves for her most recent television guest spot, as Lady Cora’s mother on Downton Abbey. Of working alongside her long time friend of four decades, Maggie Smith, MacLaine told the Guardian in 2012 it was a pleasure to spend hours with her on set, talking and gossiping.

Shirley MacLaine got her start in the industry as a high school senior from Virginia who came to New York to make it on Broadway as a dancer. It was at the age of 21 that MacLaine received her first Golden Globe, as New Star of the Year for her turn in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 flick The Trouble With Harry. Her Academy Award did not come until 1983, as Best Actress for Terms of Endearment.

Her role on Glee is just another opportunity for MacLaine to practice her craft, since she has little need to keep her name in the news. As she told Parade in 2011, “I’m not interested in fame at all.”

Shirley MacLaine’s iconic status comes from her talent as a performer, but MacLaine’s parallel career as an author has put her at the forefront of New Age spiritual thought. She has met with both praise and ridicule for her open discussion of once-taboo topics such as reincarnation. Her official website includes sections on topics such as dreams, prophecy, UFOs, sacred sites, astrology and numerology. One of MacLaine’s most popular books, The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit, documents her nearly 800-kilometre walk across Northern Spain, following an ancient pilgrimage route.

The purpose of aging, MacLaine told Oprah Winfrey, is “To learn why you came in in the first place… I am pleased with the lessons I’ve given myself.” Which is, many would agree, an enviable perspective to take into MacLaine’s next phase of life.

[Photo Courtesy of Getty Images]