EXCLUSIVE: Julian Fellowes’ breakout HBO period drama The gilded age expands its cast in style to season 2, goes from 12 to 24 regulars in the series, and elaborates on the show Upstairs, Downstairs. It includes the promotion of 13 actors who repeated themselves in season 1 to the series’ regulars: Kelli O’Hara as socialite Aurora Fane, Donna Murphy as NY Community Leader Mrs. Astor, Debra Monk as Van Rhijn’s lady’s maid Armstrong, Kristine Nielsen as Van Rhijn’s cook Mrs. farmer, Taylor Richardson as Van Rhijn’s stoic Bridget, Ben Ahlers as Van Rhijn’s footman Jack Trotter, Kelley Curran as Bertha Russell’s former maid Turner, Douglas Sills as Russells’ boss Baudin aka Borden, Celia Keenan-Bolger as Russells’ housekeeper Mrs. Bruce, Michael Cerveris as George Russell’s butler Watson, Erin Wilhelmi as a maid Adelheid Weber, Patrick Page as George Russell’s Secretary Richard Claym and Sullivan Jones as publisher T. Thomas Fortune.
They join the recurring 11 recurring series: Christine Baranski as Agnes Van Rhijn, Cynthia Nixon as Ada Van Rhijn, Louisa Jacobson as Marian Brook, Blake Ritson as Oscar Van Rhijn, Carrie Coon as Bertha Russell, Morgan Spector as George Russell, Taissa Farmiga as Gladys Russell, Harry Richardson as Larry Russell, Denée Benton as Peggy Scott, Simon Jones as Van Rhijns’ butler Bannister and Jack Gilpin as Russell’s butler Church.
As announced in the season finale (read our post-mortem and Q&A here), the season 1 series regular Thomas Cocquerel will not return, who played Tom Raikes, the opportunistic young lawyer and Marian’s love interest last season.
Back in their recurring roles for season 2 are Audra McDonald as Peggy’s mother Dorothy Scott, Nathan Lane as social power Ward McAllister, John Douglas Thompson as Peggy’s father Arthur Scott, Ashlie Atkinson as socialist Mamie Fish, Claybourne Elder as Oscar’s secret lover John Adams, and Ward Horton as Aurora’s husband Charles Fane.
With the campaigns, The gilded age more reminiscent of Fellowes’ megahit Downton Abbey, have a more even distribution between rich characters and servants in the lead role. Only two out of the 12 series regulars in season 1 played servants; in season 2, the ratio is 11 out of 24. This was a natural development as the stories below – and characters – grew and evolved as season 1 progressed.
The promotions also suggest some potential season 2 story lines. As fans of the show have suspected, Currans Turner is not done planning after her dismissal of Russells and could become a formidable enemy as she seeks revenge.
There have been sparks between publisher T. Thomas Fortune and Peggy that could develop into a relationship. One possibility is also a friendship between former opponents Bertha and Mrs Astor as predicted by Bertha at the end of the season finale. And Watson’s secret may finally be revealed.
Season 1 recurring actors not listed as recurring for season 2 include some well-known characters: Jeanne Tripplehorn as Sylvia Chamberlain, Katie Finneran as Anne Morris, Amy Forsyth as Carrie Astor, John Sanders as architect Stanford White and Linda Emond as Clara Barton .
The gilded agea co-production between HBO and Universal Television, is an epic drama that follows the millionaire titans of New York City in the 1880s.
Here is the official description of season 2: The gilded age was a period of enormous economic change, with huge fortunes earned and lost and fierce rivalry between old money and new. Nowhere is that rivalry more evident than on East 61st Street, where Marian Brook and her thoroughly old aunts, Agnes van Rhijn and Ada Brook, live opposite the fantastically rich George and Bertha Russell. Russells are both fiercely ambitious, he financially, she socially, and they are determined to reach the highest levels in New York. Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Marian’s friend and confidante Peggy Scott goes her own way in the world of the black elite. In this glittering world on the brink of the modern age, will the established rules of society prevail, or will the game change completely?
The gilded age is created, written and performed by Fellowes, where Gareth Neame and David Crockett also produce. Michael Engler directs and produces with Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Bob Greenblatt. Sonja Warfield is a writer and co-executive producer, and Erica Dunbar works as a historical consultant and co-executive producer.