Spot the Downton lookalike! Writer Julian Fellowes takes a leaf out of his own book for new US drama The Gilded Age
It’s a familiar theme – a drama that charts the lives of the super-rich and their servants at the end of the 19th Century.
The Gilded Age is a new TV show set in New York and is already being described as the American Downton Abbey.
But its creator Julian Fellowes – who wrote both – insists it is ‘darker and edgier’ than his huge British hit about the Crawley family.
Heroine: Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson), right, may remind Downton fans of Lady Rose (Lily James), left
However, Fellowes hopes that his nine-part US series, which begins on Sky Atlantic and Now on January 25, will replicate its success.
While it is set in a US city in the 1880s rather than the Yorkshire of Downton decades later, The Gilded Age features characters of a type that made the British production a ratings and financial juggernaut.
Named after the period of rapid US economic growth between 1870 and 1900, it showcases the vast wealth of New York’s elite – in particular between the rival van Rhijn and Russell families.
Fellowes said the tycoons at the head of these families were the Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk of their age, with limitless wealth.
Acid-tongued: Downton’s Dowager Countess of Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith), left, may have met her match in waspish widow Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski), right
Butlers: Carson (Jim Carter), left, serves the Crawleys, while Bannister (Simon Jones), right, is the van Rhijns’ man
The 72-year-old said he was astounded at the scale of the production, revealing: ‘The designers built three huge sets, one of which was the whole interior of the Russell house.
‘It was an incredible illusion. They also built a huge outdoor set creating a great chunk of Fifth Avenue and 61st Street.
‘I have never seen anything like it – and I have been in showbusiness for 50 years.’
Fellowes deliberately cast many of the African-American characters as well-off and educated.
‘There was a substantial black, prosperous middle class. I found it interesting that you could have a black narrative that was truthful, but not about victimhood.’