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The Gilded Age: Who's Who in HBO's Sprawling Costume Drama

From the creator of Downton Abbey comes a society drama packed with stars of stage and screen.
  • The Gilded Age premieres Monday January 24th on HBO.
    The Gilded Age premieres Monday January 24th on HBO.

    Six years after Downton Abbey ended its TV run, creator Julian Fellowes is returning to the world of high society in HBO’s The Gilded Age. Set in 1880s New York City, Fellowes’ new drama follows two upper-crust families as they attempt to reconcile the conflict between their old, aristocratic ways and the modern ideas sweeping the United States. But while The Gilded Age’s premise is sure to appeal to Downton Abbey fans, it’s the unbelievably stacked cast that’s earned the drama early buzz. From Christine Baranski to Jeanne Tripplehorn, here’s a guide to the many famous faces in The Gilded Age cast:

    Christine Baranski as Agnes van Rhijn

    An old-money aristocrat, Agnes van Rhijn refuses to accept that the world has changed, and goes to great lengths to protect the ancient values of New York City’s elite. In the wake of her husband’s death, Agnes pours her hopes into her son Oscar (Blake Ritson), one of the few people willing to stand up to her. Agnes is played by 15-time Emmy nominee Christine Baranski, best known for her roles as Maryann Thorpe in Cybill and her more recent turn as Diane Lockhart in The Good Wife and spinoff series The Good Fight. Baranski has also had key roles in films including The Birdcage, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Mamma Mia!, and won two Tony Awards for her 1980s-era performances in The Real Thing and Rumors.

    Carrie Coon as Bertha Russell

    If Agnes van Rhijn is determined to resist the advances of New Money into New York society, Bertha Russell is exactly who she's talking about. Bertha comes from middle class origins, but the railroad industry elevated her husband to tycoon status, and now she's determined to use her money and position to break into the New York society that resists her. She's played by Carrie Coon, an actress who's dazzled in every medium, from the stage (a veteran of Chicago's vaunted theater scene, she was Tony-nominated for her role in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf opposite her real-life husband Tracy Letts) to feature films (Gone Girl and The Nest) and television, inccluding her astounding performance as Nora Durst in The Leftovers.

    Cynthia Nixon as Ada Brook

    Cynthia Nixon’s Ada Brook couldn’t be any more different from her sister Agnes. Unlike Agnes, the non-confrontational Ada never found a husband, and she’s been forced to rely upon her sister’s charity as a result. Nixon’s role in The Gilded Age is the culmination of a long partnership with HBO: she started her career with a role in Robert Altman’s political satire Tanner ‘88, and then landed the role of a lifetime as Sex and the City’s Miranda Hobbes, for which she won the 2004 Emmy for Oustanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy. Nixon, who ran for Governor of New York on a progressive platform in 2018, reprised her Miranda Hobbes role in two follow-up films and HBO Max’s continuation series And Just Like That. Beyond the SATC-verse, Nixon has played Eleanor Roosevelt in HBO’s Warm Springs, starred in countless stage shows, including Tony-winning play The Little Foxes, and appeared in Ryan Murphy’s Ratched opposite Sarah Paulson.

    Morgan Spector as George Russell

    While at home he's a good and attentive husband to Bertha, but in business George is a ruthless robber baron and unscrupulous businessman. He's played by Morgan Spector, an actor best known for his roles as Dante Allen in the 7th season of Homeland and as Herman Levin in HBO's Philip Roth adaptation The Plot Against America. He's also starred multiple times on stage and screen opposite his wife, actress Rebecca Hall.

    Louisa Jacobson as Marian Brook

    The Gilded Age’s principal heroine, Marian Brook moves from Doylestown, Pennsylvania to New York City to live with her estranged aunts, Agnes and Ada, after her father’s death. While Marian knows her best chance at success involves marrying well, she wants more from her life, and seeks fulfillment in ways that the older generation could never dream of. Much like her character, Louisa Jacobson comes from a family with a rich history: her parents are Meryl Streep and Don Gummer, and her sisters Mamie and Grace Gummer are well-established in the industry. The Gilded Age serves as Jacobson’s television debut, havibg previously appeared on stage in the Yale Repertory Theater’s production of Native Son (she graduated with a MFA in Acting from the Yale School of Drama) and The Old Globe’s 2019 take on Romeo and Juliet.

    Denée Benton as Peggy Scott

    Peggy Scott is a young Black woman who has recently returned to New York City at a crossroads in her life and career. En route home, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with Marian and ends up with a job as a secretary in the van Rhijn home. Her ambitions to become a writer and her desire to make a fresh start could be upended by the secret from her past she's harboring. Peggy is played by Denée Benton, best known for her performance on the second season of the Lifetime drama UnREAL as well as her Tony-nominated performance as Natasha Rostova in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.

    Taissa Farmiga as Gladys Russell

    Gladys Russell may be a child of the rich, but she’s desperate to shed her innocence and meet suitable young men out in society. Gladys is played by Taissa Farmiga, a 27-year-old actress who has built an impressive resume over the past decade. Farmiga is best known for her various roles in FX’s American Horror Story anthology — notably, as Violet Harmon in Murder House and young witch Zoe Benson in Coven — but she’s also received critical acclaim for her breakout performance in her sister Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut Higher Ground and subsequent roles in The Bling Ring, Mindscape, and a 2019 episode of CBS All Access’ The Twilight Zone.

    Blake Ritson as Oscar van Rhijn

    After decades under his mother’s wing, Agnes's charismatic son Oscar has decided it’s time to settle down, and he sets out to find a serious heiress who will allow him to live an opulent lifestyle. The charming and mischievous Oscar is played by Blake Ritson, a British actor who spent his school-aged years acting on both the stage and screen in projects ranging from The League of Gentlemen to Red Cap. As an adult, he played Mr. Elton in the BBC adaptation of Emma, King Edward III in the miniseries World Without End, and the main villain, Count Girolamo Riario, in David Goyer’s BBC/Starz series Da Vinci’s Demons. Ritson is also known for writing and directing short films with his brother, Dylan; their third film, Love Hate, earning the Jury Award at the Palm Springs International Shortsfest.

    Simon Jones as Bannister

    Bannister, the van Rhijn’s butler, keeps a watchful eye over the rest of the staff. He joined the household one year before Mr van Rhijn’s death, and thus serves as a link to Agnes’ past. Jones comes to The Gilded Age with decades of experience under his belt: he famously portrayed Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 1981 (and has reprised the role over the years), he appeared in Brideshead Revisited as Lord Brideshead, and played Donald Shellhammer in Miracle on 34th Street (1994). Jones was also one of the new additions to the 2019 Downton Abbey film, in which he played King George V.

    Harry Richardson as Larry Russell

    The good-natured Larry Russell is a recent Harvard University graduate eager to make his way in the world. As the eldest Russell, Larry is his mother’s Achilles’ heel, and he’s equally protective over his little sister, Gladys. The man behind Larry, Australian actor Harry Richardson, is best known for playing Drake Carne in Poldark and Frank Gresham in Doctor Thorne (another Julian Fellowes series), but Australian viewers will also recognize him from the 2019 series Total Control.

    Thomas Cocquerel as Tom Raikes

    Sensible lawyer Tom Raikes has always been practical, but when he meets Marian, his late client’s orphaned daughter, he becomes smitten and follows her to New York City. Though the Doylestown, PA native finds himself at odds with Marian’s aunts, he’s willing to put up a fight to get what he wants. One of many Aussies in the cast, Thomas Cocquerel began his career in TV dramas Love Child and The 100 before landing the title role in Errol Flynn’s 2018 biography, In Like Flynn. He can also be seen in Table 19, The Tribes of Palos Verdes, and Billionaire Boys Club.

    Jack Gilpin as Church

    As you might have gleaned from his mononym, Church is a butler, specifically the Russell family's butler. He's fiercely loyal to the family, and to Bertha in particular. His no-nonsense approach to his job will probably remind a lot of people of certain someone from Downton Abbey. He's played by character actor Jack Gilpin, whose face is one you'll know, even if his name isn't. He's been in Oscar-nominated films like Reversal of Fortune and Quiz Show, he played Jesse Eisenberg's dad in Adventureland, Tom Wambsgans's dad in the first season of Succession, and Betty Gilpin's dad in real life. He's currently part of the cast on Showtime's Billions.

    Audra McDonald as Dorothy Scott

    Dorothy is Peggy's mother, although she and Peggy's father are estranged from their daughter. Her desire to mend fences with Peggy could be jeopardized by a shocking discovery, though. Dorothy is played by Broadway legend Audra McDonald, whose six Tony Awards are the most performance wins of anyone in history. Her screen acting credits include films like Respect and Ricki and the Flash and the TV series Private Practice. She's currently starring opposite her Gilded Age co-star Christine Baranski on The Good Fight.

    Donna Murphy as Caroline "Lina" Astor

    The queen of New York City society, and indeed perhaps the queen of high society in all of America, Lina Astor has an iron grip on the gates of prestige and acceptance into New York's gilded circle. As such, she is exactly the person Bertha Russell must appeal to in order to be let in. She's played by Broadway star Donna Murphy, a two-time Tony Award winner (for Stephen Sondheim's Passion and the 1996 revival of The King and I), who most recently starred on Power and the rebooted Gossip Girl.

    Nathan Lane as Ward McAllister

    Ward McAllister sits at Lina Astor's right hand, helping her guard the gates to high society. He's pliable, though, and Bertha could find an in with him if she can appeal to his love for the wealthy and ostentatious. He's played by Nathan Lane, star of films like The Birdcage, voice of Timon in The Lion King, Tony Award-winner for The Producers, and so much more.

    Amy Forsyth as Carrie Astor

    As the daughter of the most powerful woman in New York society, Carrie enjoys a life of privilege, but she'd probably enjoy her life as a young, popular girl in the city if she wasn't often disrupted by her status. She's played by Amy Forsyth, known for her roles on Hulu's The Path and NBC's Rise, and most recently for her role in the Oscar-contending Apple TV+ film CODA.

    Jeanne Tripplehorn as Sylvia Chamberlain

    The enigmatic Sylvia Chamberlain is an art collector and expert in the creative arts. She's been excluded from the upper echelons of society because of a suspect past, although some kindness from Marian could change that. She's played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, whose best known roles include matriarch Barb Hendrickson on Big Love, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in Grey Gardens, and most recently as Phyllis Schlafly's sister-in-law on Mrs. America, in addition to film roles in Basic Instinct, The Firm, and Gloria Bell.

    Beyond this already sprawling cast of regulars, included among the guest stars on The Gilded Age are a mind-boggling collection of Broadway stars, including:

    • Kelli O'Hara (Tony Award winner for The King and I) as Aurora, Agnes's niece who takes Marian under her wing.
    • Michael Cerveris (2-time Tony Award winner for Assassins and Fun Home) as Watson, George Russell's valet.
    • Debra Monk (Tony Award winner for Redwood Curtain) as Armstrong, Agnes van Rhijn's maid.
    • Katie Finneran (2-time Tony Award winner for Noises Off and Promises, Promises) as Anne Morris, a haughty and unforgiving society lady.
    • Celia Keenan-Bolger (Tony Award winner for To Kill a Mockingbird) as Mrs. Bruce, the Russells' new housekeeper.
    • Kristine Nielsen (2-time Tony nominee for Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike and Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus) as Mrs. Bauer, Agnes van Rhijn's cook.
    • Bill Irwin (Tony Award winner for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) as Cornelius Eckhard, Ada's former beau who returns to her life.
    • John Douglas Thompson (Tony nominee for Jitney) as Arthur Scott, Peggy's father.
    • Patrick Page (Tony nominee for Hadestown) as Richard Clay, George Russell's secretary.
    • Douglas Sills (Tony nominee for The Scarlet Pimpernel) as Monsieur Baudin, the Russells' chef.
    • Linda Emond (3-time Tony nominee) as Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross.

    The Gilded Age premieres on HBO and HBO Max Monday January 24th at 9:00 PM ET.

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    TOPICS: The Gilded Age, HBO, Audra McDonald, Blake Ritson, Carrie Coon, Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Denée Benton, Donna Murphy, Harry Richardson, Jack Gilpin, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Louisa Jacobson, Morgan Spector, Nathan Lane, Simon Jones, Taissa Farmiga, Thomas Cocquerel