Home / World wide / Julian Fellowes The Gilded Age creator on the very strong women and famously ruthless characters who inspired the HBO series [Exclusive Video Interview]

Julian Fellowes The Gilded Age creator on the very strong women and famously ruthless characters who inspired the HBO series [Exclusive Video Interview]

I got interested in the Gilded Age a long time before I was thinking of it in terms of a TV show shares The Gilded Age creator writer and executive producer Julian Fellowes. The HBO drama series is set in 1882 and explores the contest between old money New York represented by Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixons characters and the nouveau riche portrayed by Carrie Coon and Morgan Spector. The writer explains that what fascinates him most about this period of American history is the development of this country turning into a world power or at least recognizing that it was already a world power. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

The Gilded Age had a very long development period beginning many years ago at NBC before moving to its home on HBO. During that time Fellowes noticed in the history he read that these postCivil War years were very much dominated by women. He describes historical figures like Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor played by Donna Murphy in the series as very very strong characters and tough dames. Just when the series began production in 2020 the coronavirus pandemic halted shooting. Of course I thought that would probably be curtains for the whole thing the writer admits but after a long delay production resumed with an allstar cast of theatre veterans who he describes as fantastic.

Fellowes has submitted the third episode of the season Face the Music for Emmy consideration for Best Drama Writing. The episode dramatizes a real event in history when the New York City aldermen tried to ruin Commodore Vanderbilt by shorting the stock on his company after approving and then repealing laws around a railway line extension. The writer says he wanted to emphasize in the episode that these games have big stakes as indeed by the conclusion of the episode one of the Gilded Age alderman has been financially ruined and kills himself as a result.

The series standin for Vanderbilt in this instance is Spectors George Russell. What the Emmywinning writer finds so fascinating about Russell  who he modeled after the reallife Jay Gould  is his strange combination of a man who was famously ruthless and a very affectionate father and husband. The episode also explores the burgeoning writing career of Peggy Scott Denée Benton a young Black woman and writer who tries to get a few of her short stories published in the newspaper.

Through Scott Fellowes and coexecutive producer Sonja Warfield explore the little known history of the Black bourgeoisie in Brooklyn during these years. The series creator says that he felt it important to balance the history of the injustices that Black people faced after the Civil War with the history of the Black elite and their success stories too. In depicting the operations of a Black newspaper  Peggy eventually writes for the New York Globe  the series also shows how not all the news was coming from white sources and only showing the white point of view and the white angle.

The Gilded Age will return for a second season and just recently started production. Although Fellowes remains silent on any specific details about the upcoming episodes he hints Weve set a style for ourselves now of bringing in real life events and winding our characters into them which he says will continue. The Downton Abbey creator and writer does reveal that Season 2 will introduce Booker T. Washington as a character who will be played by Michael Braugher. In addition to his HBO series Fellowes wrote and produced Downton Abbey A New Era which is now in theaters worldwide.

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