‘The Gilded Age’ – Old money vs. the new

Class warfare in HBO period drama

Carrie Coon and Morgan Spector star in “The Gilded Age,” premiering Monday on HBO.

Old money clashes with new amid the changing economic order of late-1800s New York in a period drama from “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes that is upcoming on HBO.

In “The Gilded Age,” premiering Monday, Jan. 24, it’s 1882 and there is a growing conflict between the old ways and the new. One side is represented by New York socialites Agnes van Rhijn and Ada Brook (Christine Baranski, “The Good Fight,” Cynthia Nixon, “And Just Like That …”), old money sisters who take young niece Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson, “Gone Hollywood”) into their Fifth Ave. brownstone following the death of her father.

To their dismay, their new neighbors are George and Bertha Russell (Morgan Spector, “The Plot Against America,” Carrie Coon, “The Nest”), whom they regard as new money riffraff despite that he has made a fortune in railroads and she is a social climber and a capable woman in her own right.

Caught between these worlds is Marian, who must decide whether her future lies with the established order or in going her own way.

The nine-episode first season was filmed in late 2020 and early 2021 around New York City as well as in Newport, R.I., and Troy, N.Y. The turn-of-the-century architecture at these locations was a source of fascination for Spector, who embraced the chance to play someone from that era, albeit with some trepidation.

Carrie Coon stars in “The Gilded Age,” premiering Monday on HBO.

“You know, I’m married to a British actor,” Spector, the husband of Rebecca Hall (“Passing”), notes, “and when they start they do a lot of this type of drama, this sort of this era, the sort of high-style, high-language stuff. I’d done it in school but never really professionally so I was a little nervous about approaching it.

“But I think it’s sort of a testament to Julian’s abilities as a writer,” he continues, “that you sort of slip into it quite easily, actually. But yeah, I really loved George. I love his combination of ruthlessness and deep love for his family and sweetness with his children. It gives you a lot to sort of oscillate between.”

Coon, meanwhile, loved that Bertha was her own woman with her own mind and thinks that had she existed in a later time, could conceivably be a senator or an entrepreneur.

“What I related to particularly with Bertha was an egalitarian marriage where her husband was not intimidated by her ambitions,” she says. “That’s certainly something I share with my husband (actor/playwright Tracy Letts, “Divorce”) and so he’s my biggest champion. And I loved that Bertha and George have this passionate, equal, sexual relationship at the center of this story.

“I found that very relatable and very compelling – and very fresh and contemporary-feeling,” she continues. “You know, not some stodgy period piece. These are people with the flesh-and-blood compulsions and I really appreciated that about them.”

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

Pin It on Pinterest