Everything We Know About HBO's 'The Gilded Age'

·4 min read
Photo credit: Alison Cohen Rosa - HBO
Photo credit: Alison Cohen Rosa - HBO

Hold on to your hats and parasols — Sky Atlantic is starting the year with a new period drama from the creator of Downton Abbey. Julian Fellowes' long-anticipated series The Gilded Age will premiere in January after an extended development phase and ahead of the second Downton Abbey movie, which has been pushed to March 2022.

The nine-part series, which was written by Fellowes and Sonja Warfield, and directed by Michael Engler and Salli Richardson-Whitfield, follows the titans of 1880s New York, played by a star-studded cast including The Good Fight's Christine Baranski alongside And Just Like That's Cynthia Nixon. It also includes Louisa Jacobson, Meryl Streep's youngest daughter, making her series debut.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Here's what you need to know about the upcoming show.

The Gilded Age premiered January 25 2022 on Sky Atlantic in the UK

HBO has released a trailer for the series, seen above, which sets up an old money vs. new money battle for control of New York City, complete with all the glamour and splendour of 1880s high society. Narrated by old-money aristocrat Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski), the clip shows heroine Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson) receiving a lecture from her aunt on the way the world works.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

"Power belongs to old New York, my dear. Not the new. Never the new," Agnes says. But as the teaser points out, a new age is about to begin.

Here's the show's official synopsis, per IndieWire.

The American Gilded Age was a period of immense economic change, of great conflict between the old ways and brand new systems, and of huge fortunes made and lost. Against the backdrop of this transformation, the series begins in 1882 with young Marian Brook (Jacobson) moving from rural Pennsylvania to New York City after the death of her father to live with her thoroughly old money aunts Agnes van Rhijn (Baranski) and Ada Brook (Nixon). Accompanied by Peggy Scott (Benton), an aspiring writer seeking a fresh start, Marian inadvertently becomes enmeshed in a social war between one of her aunts, a scion of the old money set, and her stupendously rich neighbours, a ruthless railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife, George (Spector) and Bertha Russell (Coon).

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

The cast includes Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Carrie Coon, and Audra McDonald.

The class warfare drama sets some of Hollywood's most talented actresses against each other. Christine Baranski (The Good Fight, Mamma Mia!) and Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) are firmly on the old-money side, as they face off against Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Leftovers) as Bertha Russell, wife of a railroad tycoon. The NYC-set series will also feature several Broadway stars, including Denée Benton, Kelli O'Hara, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Audra McDonald.

Here's the main cast list:

  • Louisa Jacobson as Marian Brook

  • Christine Baranski as Agnes van Rhijn

  • Cynthia Nixon as Ada Brook

  • Carrie Coon as Bertha Russell

  • Morgan Spector as George Russell

  • Denée Benton as Peggy Scott

  • Taissa Farmiga as Gladys Russell

  • Blake Ritson as Oscar van Rhijn

  • Thomas Cocquerel as Tom Raikes

  • Simon Jones as Bannister

  • Jack Gilpin as Church

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

The Gilded Age will show the wealth and social inequalities between the rich and the working class.

Fellowes told Entertainment Weekly that the costume drama is based on the historical clash between the upper-class families of New York and a new class of recently wealthy railroad and oil tycoons who arrived after the Civil War.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

"These fantastically rich individuals descended on New York where they found a perfectly settled indigenous upper class based on the families of Scotland and England who had come over 200 or 300 years before. But they were more modest… They lived respectable lives and that was New York society at the time," he said.

"But for the new arrivals, that wasn't enough for them. They wanted to do something bigger and better. They started to build these palaces on Fifth Avenue and gradually pushed further north. So you had these great rivalries between the new families and the old," he continued.

Photo credit: Alison Cohen Rosa
Photo credit: Alison Cohen Rosa

The series will also follow the people who work for these tycoons, specifically in the Russell and van Rhijn households, with Fellowes acknowledging to EW the Downton Abbey parallels.

"When we recreate that period, we're as interested in the people working below the stairs as we are in the people above it. It was an integral part of that life, and I don't really see how you can tell those stories anymore and not define the servant characters because they were all there. They were all thinking and feeling and having opinions about their employers and plans for their own lives," he said.

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