EXCLUSIVE: Julian Fellowes‘ breakout HBO perioddrama The Gilded Age is expanding its cast in a big way for Season 2, going from 12 to 24 series regulars, and deepening the Upstairs, Downstairs feel of the show. That includes the promotion of 13 actors who recurred in Season 1 to series regulars: Kelli O’Hara as socialite Aurora Fane, donna murphy as NY society leader Mrs. Astor, Debra Monk as Van Rhijn’s lady’s maid Armstrong, Kristine Nielsen as Van Rhijn’s cook Mrs. Bauer, Taylor Richardson as Van Rhijn’s housemaid Bridget, Ben Ahlers as Van Rhijn’s footman Jack Trotter, Kelley Curran as Bertha Russell’s former lady’s maid Turner, Douglas Sills as Russells’ chef Baudin aka Borden, Celia Keenan Bolger as Russells’ housekeeper Mrs. Bruce, Michael Cerveris as George Russell’s valet Watson, erin wilhelmi as housemaid Adelheid Weber, patrick page as George Russell’s secretary Richard Claym and Sullivan-Jones as publisher T. Thomas Fortune.
They join returning 11 returning series regulars: 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 Russels’ butler Church.
As foreshadowed in the season finale (read our post-mortem and Q&A here), not returning is Season 1 series regular Thomas Cocquerel who played Tom Raikes, the opportunistic young lawyer and Marian’s love interest last season.
Returning in their recurring roles for Season 2 are Audra McDonald as Peggy’s mom Dorothy Scott, Nathan Lane as social powerhouse Ward McAllister, John Douglas Thompson as Peggy’s dad Arthur Scott, Ashlie Atkinson as socialite Mamie Fish, Claybourne Elder as Oscar’s secret lover John Adams, and Ward Horton as Aurora’s husband Charles Fane.
With the promotions, The Gilded Age more closely resembles Fellowes’ mega-hit Downton Abbey, having a more even distribution between rich characters and servants in the main cast. Only two out of 12 series regulars in Season 1 played servants; in Season 2, the ratio is 11 out of 24. This was a natural evolution as the downstairs stories — and characters — grew and developed as Season 1 progressed.
The promotions also hint at some potential Season 2 storylines. As fans of the show have suspected, Curran’s Turner is not done scheming after her dismissal of her by the Russells and could become a formidable foe as she seeks to exact revenge.
There have been sparks between publisher T. Thomas Fortune and Peggy that could develop into a relationship. Also a possibility is a friendship between former adversaries 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 who are not listed as recurring for Season 2 include some familiar 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 Season 2 official description: The Gilded Age was a period of immense economic change, of huge fortunes made and lost, and of fierce rivalry between old money and new. Nowhere is that rivalry more apparent than on East 61st Street, where Marian Brook and her thoroughly old money aunts, Agnes van Rhijn and Ada Brook, live opposite the stupendously rich George and Bertha Russell. The Russells are both fiercely ambitious, he financially, she socially, and they are determined to reach the highest echelons of New York. Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Marian’s friend and confidant Peggy Scott forges her own path 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 entirely?
The Gilded Age is created, written and exec produced by Fellowes with Gareth Neame and David Crockett also exec producing. Michael Engler directs and executive produces with Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Bob Greenblatt. Sonja Warfield is a writer and co-executive producer and Erica Dunbar serves as historical consultant and co-executive producer.