The Gilded Age
What’s it about?
In 1882, against the backdrop of the American Gilded Age, a period of immense economic change when huge fortunes were made and lost, Marian Brook, the orphaned daughter of a Union general, moves into the home of her rigidly conventional aunts in New York City.
Accompanied by the mysterious Peggy Scott, an African-American woman masquerading as her maid, Marian gets caught up in the dazzling lives of her stupendously rich neighbors, as she struggles to decide between adhering to the established rules of society, or forging her own path in a new world on the brink of transformation.
Who’s starring in it?
Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), Morgan Spector (Boardwalk Empire), Denée Benton, Louisa Jacobson, Taissa Farmiga, Blake Ritson, Simon Jones, Harry Richardson, Thomas Cocquerel, Jack Gilpin and Jeanne Tripplehorn (Big Love) have all signed on.
Who will they play?
Christine Baranski as Agnes van Rhijn, a proud and stubborn aristocrat who will never accept that the world has changed, and that ancient values are being replaced by new ones. She found herself penniless as her parents’ fortune was foundering, even before the war, but she managed to catch a husband just in time. Agnes has a son named Oscar, whom she worships, but her worship is not returned.
Cynthia Nixon as Ada Brook, who unlike her sister, never found a husband, and was forced to rely on Agnes’ charity. She is not naturally confrontational, but she is capable of standing up for what she believes.
Carrie Coon as Bertha Russell. Bertha comes from the ordinary middle-class. She backed her instincts when she set out to catch her husband George, the son of a merchant family who has proved to be a financial genius. She is determined to use her money and position to break into a society that resists change at every turn.
Morgan Spector as George Russell, a classic robber baron of his own time. Russell is pleasant enough in company, fond of his wife and his children, but utterly ruthless in business. He has already acquired millions, and billions will follow. In every challenge, George must win.
Denée Benton as Peggy Scott. Peggy was a young child when slavery was abolished and her parents were freed in West Virginia. Raised in New York, she is among the first generation of African Americans who never really knew slavery firsthand. She has a past which she is not anxious to share with anyone, but like Marian, she is in need of a friend and a new start when they meet in Doyleston, Pennsylvania.
Louisa Jacobson as Marian Brook. Marian knows that her probable fate will be to marry as well as she can and survive, but she wants more than this. She is of her own time, but there is a modern streak in her, too. She wants to do something with her life. She wants to be fulfilled.
Taissa Farmiga as Gladys Russell, a classic, innocent and lovely child of the rich who wants to be out in society meeting suitable young men. She doesn’t really know how her father made his money, and she doesn’t much care, but she is used to it and wouldn’t know what to do without it. Her mother uses her as a tool for her own ambition and forces her toward socially advantageous situations.
Blake Ritson as Oscar van Rhijn, Agnes van Rhijn’s charismatic son. He's decided it's time to settle down and has become obsessed with money while on the lookout for a serious heiress who will allow him to live, as he would put it, properly. Smart, attractive, poised, charming and mischievous, he enjoys witty banter. He is one of the few who will stand up to his mother.
Simon Jones as Bannister, the van Rhijn’s butler. He likes to give the impression that he is immensely grand but in fact, he was the son of a poor cobbler from the English midlands. He came up the hard way, learning how to speak, how to dress, how to behave, changing jobs each time he felt he was ready for the next step. He joined the van Rhijn household a year before the death of Mr. van Rhijn and so, for the old lady, he is a link with her own past.
Harry Richardson as Larry Russell, a recent Harvard University graduate eager to make his way in the world. Above all, Larry is his mother's child, her Achilles' heel, the one person she loves without limit and he loves her as well. He thinks he doesn't care about money, because he has always had plenty of it.
Thomas Cocquerel as Tom Raikes, a sensible young lawyer from Doylestown, PA. He’s been a solitary and career-driven practical man but is smitten when he meets Marian, his late client’s orphaned daughter. He’ll put up a fight to get what he wants, but he’s an appealing, charming gentleman above all else.
Jack Gilpin as Church, the Russell family’s butler. He has no time for nonsense in the workplace due to his attention and care for his job.
Jeanne Tripplehorn as Sylvia Chamberlain, a tall and beautiful enigmatic figure. A genuine expert in the creative arts and a great art collector, she is entirely excluded from high society because of her suspected past.
Audra McDonald as Dorothy Scott - As the wife of a powerful man, it would be easy to misread Dorothy's quiet nature for weakness - but on the contrary, she is the backbone of her family. After much time apart, her daughter finally pays a visit to their family home in Brooklyn, and Dorothy clings to the hope that the Scott family will heal and begin to form a new and stronger bond. However, she soon makes a discovery that throws her own beliefs into question.
Kelli O’Hara as Aurora Fane – Aurora Fane is Agnes van Rhijn’s niece by marriage and takes Marian under her wing when Marian makes her entrance into New York Society. Aurora is naturally elegant, likeable, honest, loyal - but above all, Aurora is aware of the social game she must play to maintain her place amongst the upper class.
Donna Murphy as Mrs. Astor - Imperious and commanding, Mrs. Astor is the most prominent American socialite of the time. As the chief gatekeeper standing in the way of the Russell family's acceptance into New York society, Mrs. Astor’s approval is something that Bertha Russell is willing to achieve at any cost.
Michael Cerveris as Watson – Though George Russell’s valet is as steadfast as he is stoic, in private moments a mysterious past, and fall from grace, is suggested. However, this does not keep him from expressing an optimistic attitude about the Russell family and their potential for success in New York Society.
Debra Monk as Armstrong – As Mrs. van Rhijn’s maid, Armstrong enjoys an elevated position amongst the staff of the Brook House. Armstrong’s deep social biases, coupled with her need to be on the inside of every secret, promises to get her into trouble. Unfortunately, her private life is already fraught with trouble…
Katie Finneran as Anne Morris - Anne is the haughty and unforgiving wife of city alderman Patrick Morris. She’s established her place in this small circle of wealthy women and is determined to keep that circle closed to new money interlopers.
Celia Keenan-Bolger as Mrs. Bruce – As the Russell’s new housekeeper, Mrs. Bruce comes highly recommended – but not without something to prove. As a senior member of the house, she has been tasked with assisting Bertha with hosting social events worthy of New York high society.
Kristine Nielsen as Mrs. Bauer – A German immigrant, Mrs. Bauer has found her career as a cook for Mrs. Van Rhijn. Blessed with maternal instincts that stretch beyond the kitchen, she acts as a mother figure to the younger members of the Brook House staff, especially young Bridget.
John Douglas Thompson as Arthur Scott – As a freed slave living in Brooklyn less than 20 years after the end of the Civil War, Arthur has used his education and his ambition to open a successful chain of pharmacies and provide for his wife Dorothy and their rebellious only child, Peggy. When he reunites with Peggy, it is clear that her rebellion is based on deeply rooted bad blood.
Who’s behind the camera?
Julian Fellowes — best known for creating, writing and executive-producing the award-winning Downton Abbey — is the creator, writer and executive producer on the series. Gareth Neame will executive produce; Michael Engler and Salli Richardson-Whitfield will both direct and executive produce; David Crockett is also an executive producer. Gilded Age is a co-production between HBO and Universal Television.
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