'The Gilded Age' Cast and Creator Julian Fellowes on the Growing Roster of Tony Winners (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
After being renewed for a second season in February, The Gilded Age is already filming new episodes on location in New York and Rhode Island as it continues to explore the growing social and economic war between old money and new in the American period drama created by Julian Fellowes.
While speaking to ET, Fellowes as well as stars Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski opened up about what they love about the series and the sprawling ensemble’s incredible roster of Tony winners and nominees.
“We’re in production now,” Nixon confirmed, explaining that the series set in the late 1800s is “such a fascinating part of history, and New York history in particular. It’s a period that has so much in common with our own and I think it’s a period that people don’t know that much about.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Baranski, who added that with The Gilded Age “we learn a lot about history.”
“We’re so lucky as we say to be part of this world that [Julian] creates,” she continued, noting that everyone “not only enjoyed the stories,” but they all “loved the costumes and the sets and entertaining that fairy-tale world where manners were very strict and formal.”
Baranski also gushed about being part of what she calls “the Julian Fellowes repertoire company,” which includes the sprawling cast of the Downton Abbey franchise, which is back with the film A New Era, and the ever-growing cast of “great American theater actors.”
In addition to Baranski and Nixon as Agnes van Rhijn and Ada Brook, The Gilded Age stars Louisa Jacobson as Marian Brook, Blake Ritson as Oscar Van Rhijn, Carrie Coon as Bertha Russell, Morgan Spector as George Russell, Taissa Farmiga as Gladys Russell, Harry Richardson as Larry Russell, Denée Benton as Peggy Scott, Simon Jones as Bannister, and Jack Gilpin as Church.
After appearing in season 1, Kelli O’Hara, Donna Murphy, Debra Monk, Kristine Nielsen, Taylor Richardson, Ben Ahlers, Kelley Curran, Douglas Sills, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Michael Cerveris, Erin Wilhelmi, Patrick Page and Sullivan Jones were upped to series regulars in season 2.
Joining the cast as guest stars in season 2 are Laura Benanti and Robert Sean Leonard as well as Christopher Denham, David Furr, Ben Lamb, Matilda Lawler, Dakin Mathews, Michael Braugher, and Nicole Brydon Bloom. Rebeca Haden, who briefly appeared in season 1, will be back as the mysterious Flora McNeil.
Acknowledging the list of Tony caliber performers, Baranski said, “There are some nominees and winners who have been added.”
“There’s just a treasure trove of talent in New York,” she added.
Fellows, meanwhile, gave all credit to director Michael Engler for assembling an Avengers-like cast of Broadway stars. “He knows that community very well,” he said, explaining that after the pandemic forced the New York theater scene to close its doors, there was “a community that needed our support as much as possible.”
As a result, they were able to cast a bunch of talented actors in various roles. “We benefited enormously and they were able to create such layered characters out of this supporting cast,” Fellowes said.
For the creator, what really distinguishes The Gilded Age from Downton Abbey is the tone. And the HBO series, he said, is much closer to the film Gosford Park than it is to the celebrated upstairs/downstairs drama. “They’re living in quite a harsh world where people are striving to get on, striving to make money and spending that money to make as vivid of an impression as they possibly can,” he explained.
He added, “I really enjoy the difference.”
Of course, The Gilded Age and Downton Abbey are from different periods, which would make it impossible for any of the current Downton characters to cross over with their American counterparts. The only way to do it would be some sort of “flashback,” as suggested by Allen Leech, who plays Tom Branson on the TV and film franchise.
Really, it would have to be a younger version of an existing character, like Elizabeth McGovern’s Cora Crawley, who originated from New York. “That’s interesting,” McGovern said.
While Nixon doesn’t think a crossover could ever happen, the one thing she said about Fellowes' work is that “he writes like a declension novel. There were so many characters and there were so many plot twists and part of the beauty is seeing how they all intersect.”