The new HBO series “The Gilded Age” hails from “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes, and much like that hit period series, this one features a lot of characters. Several cadres of characters keep the plot pivoting back and forth between households and prominent locations around 1890s New York, as the show tells a story of New York City on the cusp of change, where the battle between old money and new money — as well as old and new ways of doing things — is being fought.
A mix of veteran actors and actresses balance out some newer talent in Julian Fellowes’ latest fictional show — from “Sex and the City’s” Cynthia Nixon to Meryl Streep’s youngest daughter Louisa Jacobson, who plays a main heroine at the heart of aristocratic New York City.
“American Horror Story’s” Taissa Farmiga plays a supporting role with room for growth: Gladys Russell, who has yet to make her social debut. Clara Barton (Linda Edmond), founder of the American Red Cross, even makes an appearance.
Below we round up the complete main cast of characters, to help you keep straight who’s who as the HBO drama series gets underway.
Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson)
The series opens on Marian, whose father recently died, leaving her very little money. Marian leaves her home in Doylestown, PA to live with her father’s two sisters Ada and Agnes. Marian slowly comes out of her shell as she gets more comfortable living with her aunts. She toes the line between old social norms and rebelling to form new ones in a clash of old New York and new money families as they vy for relevance in high society.
Louisa Jacobson is the daughter of Meryl Streep. She has also appeared in the TV movie “Gone Hollywood” (2019).
Peggy Scott (Denée Benton)
Peggy, an ambitious young writer, meets Marian at the train station where they are both heading to New York. The two strike up a companionship when Peggy pays for Marian to ride in the colored car after her bag with her money and train ticket were stolen. Haunted by her past and well-meaning but harsh parents, she ends up staying with Marian and her aunts, working as Aunt Agnes’ secretary in Manhattan instead of returning to her parents’ home in nearby Brooklyn. Peggy’s growth as a journalist shines an interesting light on media practices during The Gilded Age.
Benton played Charlotte in “Our Friend” (2019), and she also starred as Ruby Carter in the Lifetime series “UnREAL” (2015).
Aunt Agnes Van Rhijn (Christine Baranski)
Agnes, the sterner of the two sisters Marian goes to live with, rules her roost, left behind by her late husband. She firmly believes in the old ways of doing things because she comes from old money. She has a son, Oscar (Blake Ritson), and has kindly extended her home to her unwed sister Ada, and now their niece Marian. Agnes employs Peggy because “she likes people who help themselves.”
Baranski is known for playing Tanya in “Mama Mia!” (2008) and “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (2018). She also played Mary Sunshine in Chicago (2002) and the Stepmother in “Into the Woods” (2014).
Aunt Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon)
Ada balances out Agnes’s strict demeanor with her open, sweet and calmer personality. Ada never married, so she depends on Agnes’ charity, but she has wisdom of her own, and is generally able to get more information out of Marian because she is gentler and more understanding.
Cynthia Nixon is most well-known for playing Miranda Hobbes in HBO’s “Sex and the City” series as well as the two films “Sex and the City” (2008) and “Sex and the City 2” (2010). She also played Gail White in “James White” (2015). Nixon has won two Emmys, one for playing Janis Donovan in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and one for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in “Sex and the City.”
T. Thomas Fortune (Sullivan Jones)
T. Thomas Fortune is editor-in-chief at the New York Globe, the Black newspaper for which Peggy writes. He encourages her to pursue sharp stories.
Sullivan Jones played Everette Tillman in “Atlanta,” Jameson Royce in “Harlem” and Ed Austin in “Halston.”
Aurora Fane (Kelli O’Hara)
Aurora Fane is a cousin and close friend of the van Rhijns. She often makes arrangements to help Agnes, Ada or Oscar, and of course, Marian.
O’Hara is known for playing Sheryl in “All the Bright Places” (2020) and Katie in “The Accidental Wolf.” She also played Jackin in “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix.
George Russell (Morgan Spector)
Railroad tycoon George Russell will do anything for his wife Bertha. He has the authority, power and most of all new money to back any initiative he undertakes, and when those that have “made it into society” shun his wife multiple times, he leaps into action and plays the stock market to get everyone’s attention. His love for his wife trumps any and everything.
Spector played Dante Allen in “Homeland,” Herman Levin in “The Plot Against America” and Frank Capone in “Boardwalk Empire.”
Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon)
Immediately upon her arrival to New York, Bertha does everything she can to make some new friends and “climb the ladder into society” as they say. On top of this, she frequently limits her daughter Gladys from any dating prospects, though everyone else questions why. Bertha and George Russell make quite the power couple in more ways than one.
Carrie Coon is known for playing Margo Dunne in “Gone Girl” (2014), Proxima Midnight in “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018), Meg Greenfield in “The Post” (2017) and Callie in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (2021). She also recently played another journalistic character Jean Cole in “The Boston Strangler” (2023).
Gladys Russell (Taissa Farmiga)
Gladys is the youngest child of George and Bertha, and she eagerly awaits her turn to “go out into society,” much like Daphne’s ‘Bachelorette’-like debut to the ton in “Bridgerton.”
Taissa Farmiga is known for playing Sam in “The Bling Ring” (2013), Anna in “Anna Greene” (2013), Melanie Clark in “6 Years” (2015) and Max Cartwright in “The Final Girls” (2015).
Larry Russell (Harry Richardson)
Larry is the only son of George and Bertha. He fights for the rights of his younger sister, and he connects certain people looking to secure social standing and/or money just by introducing them to each other. Opposite Gladys, he seems to play pawn for his mother when she sends him into social situations willingly.
Richardson played a Private in “Dunkirk” (2017), Frank Gresham in Doctor Thorne and Drake Carne in “Poldark.”
Arthur Scott (John Douglas Thompson)
Arthur Scott is Peggy’s stubborn father. He runs a pharmacy, which he wanted his daughter to eventually take over. He doesn’t understand Peggy’s ambitions to be a journalist and writer. He also butts heads with Peggy over her past.
Thompson is known for playing Lt. Gen. Paulsen in “The Bourne Legacy” (2012), a Jail Guard in “Michael Clayton” (2007), Reverend in “21 Bridges” (2019) and Larry Marks in “The 355” (2022). He also played Chief Carter in “Mare of Easttown.”
Dorothy Scott (Audra McDonald)
Peggy’s mother wants her to return home and live amongst her parents, but Peggy’s father Arthur proves a tough force to reckon with. He and his wife worked hard in order for Peggy to have her freedom and an education, but Peggy fears that sharing a roof with them once more will limit that freedom. Her father would rather her take over his pharmacy than “make very little money” writing for the local Black newspaper, The New York Globe.
Audra McDonald played Ruth Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun” (2008), Liz Reddick in “The Good Fight,” Dr. Naomi Bennett on “Private Practice.” She also voiced Madame Garderobe in “Beauty and the Beast” (2017).
Oscar Van Rhijn (Blake Ritson)
Oscar is the son of Agnes and often stops by his mother’s house to visit her, humoring her disdain for many different aspects of society. He takes a liking to Gladys Russell early on in the show, but her parents question his intentions. Oscar harbors a secret.
Ritson is known for playing Drowned Sloane in “RocknRolla” (2008), “Love Hate” (2009), “For Elsie” (2011) and Gunther in “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (2021).
Ward McAllister (Nathan Lane)
Ward McAllister is Mrs. Astor’s gatekeeper of sorts. He also acts like her loyal guard dog or puppy. He is a bit of a gossip, but he drops helpful hints to Bertha Russell about which moves she should and shouldn’t make to climb the social ladder.
Nathan Lane is known for voicing Timon in “The Lion King” (1994) and roles like Albert in “The Birdcage” (1996), Ernie Smuntz in “Mousehunt” (1997) and Max Bialystock in “The Producers” (2005). He also plays Teddy Dimas in “Only Murders in the Building.”
Mrs. Astor (Donna Murphy)
Mrs. Astor is close to the top of the social pyramid, and everyone knows it. She appears at certain social events, especially for charity, and she even employs a henchman of sorts Ward McAllister (Nathan Lane) to root through potential socialites so she doesn’t waste her time dealing with all of them. Her graces grant immediate social standing to anyone she bestows them upon, so everyone constantly clamors for her attention.
Donna Murphy played Anji in “Star Trek: Insurrection” and Judy Braddock in “The Nanny Diaries” (2007). She also voiced Mother Gothel in “Tangled” (2010).
Caroline “Carrie” Astor (Amy Forsyth)
Carrie Astor lives in her mother’s social shadow, but she has become great friends with Gladys Russell.
Amy Forsyth most recently played Linda on “Dear Edward,” which got cancelled after one season. She is also known for playing Diane on “Beautiful Boy” (2018), Jamie in “The Novice” (2021), Natalie in “Hell Fest” (2018) and Caprice Bauer in “A Christmas Horror Story” (2015).
Church (Jack Gilpin)
Church is Mrs. Russell’s trusty butler. He keeps everything shipshape for the giant parties she hosts in the Russell mansion.
Jack Gilpin is known for playing Dr. Gusick in “Hiding Out” (1987), Bob Phillips in “21” (2008), Mr. Brennan in “Adventureland” (2009) and Mr. Schwartz in “Trouble with the Curve” (2012).
Chef Baudin, really Borden (Douglas Sills)
Chef Borden faked a French accent to pass as an elite chef so that he would get hired by Bertha Russell. It came out in Season 1 that he is really from Kansas, and not at all French.
Douglas Sills is known for playing Dennis Dutton in “The Closer,” Chadsworth Buckingham, III in “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” (2005) and Ryan in “Coach.”
Mrs. Bruce (Celia Keenan-Bolger)
Mrs. Bruce is Mrs. Russell’s housekeeper. She coordinates between the chef and Church.
Celia Keenan-Bolger is known for playing Stacey in “The Visit” (2015). She has also appeared as Elaine Fowler in “Law & Order,” Mavis Summers in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and Ellen Turner in “Blue Bloods” (2017).
Sylvia Chamberlain (Jeanne Tripplehorn)
Mrs. Chamberlain has quite the reputation behind her. She, like Agnes, is a recent widow, and though she comes from a lot of money, her money is deemed tainted by a duo of women who were granted favor by Mrs. Astor — Aurora Fane (Kelli O’Hara) and Anne Morris (Katie Finneran), who are the same pair that snub Bertha Russell at first.
Van Rhijn/Brooks Servants
Pictured here, are most of those who work for Agnes Van Rhijn, Ada Brook and Marian Brook. Peggy Scott boards among them, which creates an interesting comparison in race and class.
From left to right in this photo sit the kitchen maid/housemaid/lady’s maid Bridget (Taylor Richardson), Agnes’ maid Armstrong (Debra Monk), the butler Bannister (Simon Jones), the cook Mrs. Bauer (Kristine Nielsen) and the footman Jack Treacher (Ben Ahlers). Together these five complete a lot of the household tasks for Agnes and Ada, and, in their free time, they gather for meals and gossip about what happens upstairs.
Mrs. Blaine is a widow in Newport who hires Larry to fix up her house in his budding architecture career. The two end up getting tangled up in a dalliance, which Mrs. Russell catches scent of quickly.
Benanti is known for playing Karen Donato in “Worth” (2020). Katherine “Kiki” Hope in HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl” reboot and Jane in “Life & Beth.”
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