'The Gilded Age' on HBO: What to Know About the Next Must-Watch Period Drama

Downton Abbey fans searching for a new show to get hooked on have to look no further than The Gilded Age. The new HBO series was created by Downton Abbey mastermind Julian Fellowes and will finally debut on HBO and HBO Max on Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. ET. The series features a star-studded ensemble cast who bring 1880s New York City to life in 2021.

Fellowes talked about making The Gilded Age for years before cameras finally started rolling. At one point, it was even considered a Downton Abbey prequel series, but it became its own thing by January 2016. The Gilded Age was also originally at NBC, which was hoping to air it in 2019. However, in May 2019, the project went to HBO, which quickly put in a series order. The first season will run nine episodes, airing between Jan. 24 and March 21.

The best-known members of the show's main cast include Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Carrie Coon, and Morgan Spector. Baranski plays Agnes van Rhijn, a Dutch-American socialite who is trying to keep the old New York aristocratic values alive. Nixon plays her sister, Ada Brook, who relies on Agnes. Coon was cast as Bertha Russell, who is hoping to use her money to join the polite society, whether it wants her or not. Spector plays robber baron George Russell.

The series also has a crop of younger stars playing characters coming of age during a time of great change for New York City. Denee Benton plays the young writer, Peggy Scott, while Louisa Jacobson plays Marian Brook, a penniless girl who moves in with her estranged aunts. Taissa Farmiga plays Gladys Russell, while Blake Ritson plays Agnes' son Oscar. 

Other members of the main cast include Simon Jones, Harry Richardson, Thomas Cocquerel, and Jack Gilpin. The recurring cast includes Nathan Lane, Amy Forsyth, Douglas Sills, Patrick Page, and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Audra McDonald and Kelli O'Hara have guest roles.

One of the central relationships in the new show is between Marian and Peggy. Peggy helps Marian but ends up working for Agnes thanks to her penmanship. "While it was a period of expansive wealth and great opulence for a small segment of Americans, it was also a time when social inequities were glaring," Dr. Erica Armstong Dunbar, a co-executive producer, and the historical consultant told Entertainment Weekly. "Viewers will see these different worlds and be able to connect the past to the present."

Fellowes is also prepared to hear everyone compare the show to Downton Abbey, but he doesn't want people to see it as a follow-up to his beloved series. "When we recreate that period, we're as interested in the people working below the stairs as we are in the people above it," he told EW of The Gilded Age. "It was an integral part of that life, and I don't really see how you can tell those stories anymore and not define the servant characters because they were all there. They were all thinking and feeling and having opinions about their employers and plans for their own lives."