Downton Abbey fans, we have good news. No, it's not a sneak peek of the long-awaited sequel film. It's a new series from Downton creator Julian Fellowes called The Gilded Age, set to premiere on January 24. The first teaser of the show (above) promises stunning costumes, and what's sure to be a dramatic conflict between old and new New York. Here's what we know so far:
The cast is stacked.
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 ensemble cast are Carrie Coon, Morgan Spector, Denée Benton, Louisa Jacobson, Taissa Farmiga, Blake Ritson, Simon Jones, Harry Richardson, Thomas Cocquerel, and Jack Gilpin.
It's been in production for some time.
"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 how extensively the ongoing coronavirus pandemic impacted production, but in November of 2021, HBO confirmed it will premiere January 24, 2022 at 9 p.m.. The show will also be available to stream on HBO Max.
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:
The American Gilded Age was a period of immense economic change, of great conflict between the old ways and brand new systems, and of huge fortunes made and lost. Against the backdrop of this transformation, HBO’s The Gilded Age begins in 1882 with young Marian Brook (Jacobson) moving from rural Pennsylvania to New York City after the death of her father to live with her thoroughly old money aunts Agnes van Rhijn (Baranski) and Ada Brook (Nixon). Accompanied by Peggy Scott (Benton), an aspiring writer seeking a fresh start, Marian inadvertently 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). Exposed to a world on the brink of the modern age, will Marian follow the established rules of society, or forge her own path?
"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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