I’m off for the summer and with a little more spare time I try to catch up on some shows I’ve had in my watchlist for a while. I’m a history buff so anything I can soak up about U.S. history especially, I’m in. The Gilded Age on HBO is my newest obsession. The costumes, the sets, the soap-opera like plot…it’s all amazing. The show stars so many great actors and is all about the Gilded Age in New York. It was just renewed for a second season. Trust me, if you like history, gorgeous costumes, and juicy stories…try it. I’d love to know what you think. Here’s some trivia about the show:
–Creator Julian Fellowes has said that he hopes to have a younger version of the Countess of Grantham, originally played by Elizabeth McGovern in Downton Abbey (2010), appear in the show at some point.
–In January 2022, the New York Times’s Dave Itzkoff reported that filming took place largely on sets constructed on soundstages on Long Island, though some scenes were shot on location in Troy, New York, Newport, Rhode Island, and the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage, New York.
–Creator Julian Fellowes revealed on HBO’s official podcast for the show that George Russell is based on real-life robber-baron and railroad financier Jay Gould. Like the Russels, the Goulds struggled to gain acceptance among New York’s old money elite, especially by de facto leader Mrs. Astor.
–In a January 2022 New York Times article, Dave Itzkoff reports that by the end of the shoot Carrie Coon (who plays Bertha Russell) was eight months pregnant. Coon said, “There was a point where I couldn’t wear a corset anymore. You’ll see some cleverly-timed horses and some hand acting to hide my stomach.”
–As a historical period, the Gilded Age spanned, roughly, from 1865 (the end of the Civil War) or 1870 to about 1900. The term comes from the title of an 1873 novel by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today,” but it was not used to describe the era until historians and progressive reformers adopted it in the 1920s as a way to disparage what they saw as the period’s contradictions and hypocrisies: its simultaneous hyperbolic excesses and extreme poverty.
–To be set in the same universe as Downton Abbey (2010).
–The shoot was delayed by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant that the role of Bertha Russell, who was originally going to be played by Amanda Peet, had to be recast with Carrie Coon when Peet had scheduling conflicts with the new filming timetable.
–T. Thomas Fortune (played by Sullivan Jones), the New York Globe newspaper editor Peggy meets in the first season, was a real historical figure. Between the 1880s and about 1907, he ran one of the premiere Black newspapers in America, publishing condemnations of racial violence, discrimination, and segregation. He helped to found an organization called the Afro-American League (later the National Afro-American League), which worked for voting rights, desegregation, equal opportunities in education, and a stop to lynchings. His Encyclopedia Britannica listing calls him “the leading black American journalist of the late 19th century.”
–One of the much-discussed subplots during season 1 is the so-called “opera war”: because the “old-money” elites refused to sell boxes at the venerable Academy of Music opera house, the “new-money” crowd attempts to start their own opera house, the Metropolitan Opera. This conflict was based on the real history of the era; not only was the Metropolitan the more successful and longer-lived opera company, it is still operational (as of February 2022). Though Kelli O’Hara (who plays Aurora Fane) is best-known as a Broadway leading lady (she has been Tony-nominated for The Light in the Piazza, The Pajama Game, South Pacific, Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Bridges of Madison County, The King and I, and Kiss Me, Kate, winning for The King and I), she has also performed as a leading soprano in several Metropolitan Opera productions, including The Merry Widow, Così fan tutte, and The Hours.
–Christine Baranski previously worked with Louisa Jacobson’s sister Mamie Gummer on The Good Wife and its spin-off, The Good Fight. Baranski also previously worked with Louisa Jacobson’s mother, Meryl Streep, in the movie musicals Mamma Mia!, Into the Woods, and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
If you love the Gilded Age and want to know more, check out one of my favorite books: The Gilded Age in New York.
All trivia courtesy of IMDB.