Downton Abbey fans, we have good news. No, it's not the plot details of the long-awaited movie sequel. It's a new series from Downton creator Julian Fellowes called The Gilded Age. Here's what we know so far:
The cast is stacked.
According to Deadline, The Good Fight's Christine Baranski will play aristocrat Agnes van Rhijn, and Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon has signed on to portray Ada Brook, Agnes's less well-off sister.
Rounding out the casting announcement are Amanda Peet, who's set to play the ambitious, middle-class-born Bertha Russell, and Morgan Spector, who's been cast as her robber baron husband George Russell.
It was supposed to start filming this spring.
"We won’t start shooting until March, and there are huge sets going up and we are casting in New York at the moment,” producer Graham Neame, who also worked with Fellowes on Downton Abbey, said in late 2019. “Julian is doing a lot of rewrites, and he said: ‘It may delay me thinking further about this “Downton” endeavor.’ I said: ‘I like to think you have two shifts going on, a day shift and night shift, and the TV work can happen during the day and the writing on the “Downton” script at night.'”
It's unclear at this point how extensively the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has impacted production, and the air date has yet to be announced. When asked about when it might premiere, Fellowes said: “Haven’t a clue. I’m like the husband. Last to know.”
Julian Fellowes is both writing and executive producing the show.
NBC initially started working with Fellowes on the show back in 2012, during peak Downton Abbey popularity. But, the timing wasn't quite right, and so the series was "put on the back burner," according to Deadline.
Now, Fellowes is diving into The Gilded Age again. "To write The Gilded Age is the fulfillment of a personal dream,” Fellowes said in a statement in January of 2018.
"I have been fascinated by this period of American history for many years and now NBC has given me the chance to bring it to a modern audience. I could not be more excited and thrilled. The truth is, America is a wonderful country with a rich and varied history, and nothing could give me more pleasure than be the person to bring that compelling history to the screen."
More than a year after the initial announcement was made, the show was moved to HBO.
According to Variety, HBO has committed to 10 episodes.
“Given the opulent scope and scale of this richly textured character drama, HBO is the perfect home for ‘The Gilded Age,’” Casey Bloys, the president of programming at HBO said, per Variety. “We’re all huge fans of Julian and I know I speak for Bob Greenblatt — who was involved in the development of this series while at Universal Television — when I say we’re thrilled to bring his undeniable genius to our viewers.”
Fellowes also weighed in on the shift in networks.
“I feel very privileged to be making ‘The Gilded Age’ with HBO and Universal Television,” he said.
“It has been a dream of mine for some time, as I am fascinated by this brutal and intensely glamorous period of America’s history. It will be about ambition, of course, and envy and hatred and, perhaps most of all, about love. I hope people will enjoy the series. I know I will enjoy making it.”
The Dowager Countess will make an appearance!
Fans haven't seen the last of Maggie Smith's oh-so-quotable character, Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. She'll reportedly appear with her children in the American show.
"It might be quite fun to have a young Violet getting into trouble, and her son, Robert, and daughter, Rosamund, who would be in their early teens in the 1880s," Fellowes told the Telegraph.
The show will be take place New York City in the 1880s.
Set just before we meet the Crawley family in Downton Abbey (that series begins with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912), The Gilded Age will take on issues of wealth and class in turn-of-the-century New York City.
A brief synopses of the plot reads:
In the series, Marian Brook is the wide-eyed young scion of a conservative family who will embark on infiltrating the wealthy neighboring family dominated by ruthless railroad tycoon George Russell, his rakish and available son Larry, and his ambitious wife Bertha, whose “new money” is a barrier to acceptance by the Astor and Vanderbilt set. Marian is about to experience a whole new world springing up right outside her front door.
"It's about a society forming itself out of two disparate groups; the old New York families and the people with new money," Fellowes said. "One family thinks they are much grander than the other, and the other knows they are much richer. Between the two of them they fight it out."
Just as the setting of Downton played a significant role in the plot, so too will New York City. "The character in The Gilded Age which is the balance to Highclere Castle - a kind of character in Downton - will be New York itself. During this period there was enormous expansion of the city," Fellowes said.
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