‘The Gilded Age’: HBO’s Next Must-Watch Drama From the Creator of ‘Downton Abbey’ Has a Star-Studded Cast

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Gilded Age is a period drama set in 1880s New York City.
  • Julian Fellows new show was originally supposed to be a Downton Abbey prequel.
  • HBO will air a new episode of the sar-studded The Gilded Age every Sunday starting on January 24.
The Gilded Age stars Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski in costume in an image from the show
Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski in ‘The Gilded Age’ | Alison Cohen Rosa/HBO

The Gilded Age is being touted as HBO’s next must-watch drama. It comes from Downton Abbey mastermind Julian Fellowes, with a talented ensemble cast that features Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Carrie Coon, and Morgan Spector. Ahead of the series premiere, here’s everything we know about The Gilded Age.

‘The Gilded Age’ is a period drama set in 1880s New York City

According to the press release, The Gilded Age takes place in New York City in 1882 during a time of rapid economic growth. It brings to life a period in American history when there was great conflict between the old ways of doing things and brand new systems. Huge fortunes were won and lost during this time, and there was a social war between “old money” and “new money.”

The story begins when a young, penniless girl named Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson) moves from rural Pennsylvania to New York City after the death of her father. She goes to live with her old money aunts — Dutch American socialite Agnes van Rhijn (Baranski) and Ada Brook (Nixon).

Marian gets caught up in a social war

When Marian arrives in New York City, she is accompanied by aspiring writer Peggy Scott (Denée Benton) who is looking for a fresh start. Marian quickly “becomes enmeshed in a social war between one of her aunts, a scion of the old money set, and her stupendously rich neighbors, a ruthless railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife, George (Spector) and Bertha Russell (Coon).”

Co-executive producer and historical consultant Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar told Entertainment Weekly that the series examines social and racial inequalities. She says viewers will “be able to connect the past to the present” with the storylines from The Gilded Age.

“While it was a period of expansive wealth and great opulence for a small segment of Americans, it was also a time when social inequities were glaring,” Dunbar explained. “Viewers will see these different worlds and be able to connect the past to the present.”

‘The Gilded Age’ was originally a ‘Downton Abbey’ prequel

Fellowes has had The Gilded Age on his mind for years. According to Pop Culture, it was originally considered as a Downton Abbey prequel series. But by January 2016, it had transformed into its own entity.

The Gilded Age was initially in development at NBC and they had hopes of airing the series beginning in 2019. But instead, the project moved over to HBO where it received an immediate series order.

Season 1 will feature nine episodes and will air on both HBO and HBO Max beginning on January 24. A new episode will drop each week until the finale on March 21.

The new series is not a ‘Downton Abbey’ follow-up

Fellowes expects that everyone will compare his new show to Downton Abbey. However, he made it clear that fans shouldn’t see The Gilded Age as a follow-up to his popular series.

“When we recreate that period, we’re as interested in the people working below the stairs as we are in the people above it,” Fellowes explained.

“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.”

‘The Gilded Age’ trailer promises plenty of drama and extravagant gowns

Fellowes is the creator, writer, and executive producer of The Gilded Age. Based on the series’ official trailer, fans can expect plenty of drama and forbidden relationships, just like in Downton Abbey. There’s also plenty of extravagant gowns, as the time period was “all about the look of things, making the right appearance, creating the right image.”

“New York is a collection of villages,” Agnes tells Marian at the beginning of the trailer. “The old have been in charge since before the revolution… ’til the new people invaded.”

The Gilded Age premieres on Jan. 24 on HBO and HBO Max.

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