According to Julian Fellowes, who was featured on HBO’s Official Podcast for The Gilded Age, the wealthy railroad tycoon George Russell (Morgan Spector) is based on the genuine story of a real-life person. For his new historical drama, set in New York City in the year 1882, Fellowes researched and took inspiration from a wide range of real-life individuals. Read below to know who is George Russell based on.
George’s family may have a hard time breaking into the upper crust, as suggested by the life story of the real-life robber baron who served as the basis for his fictional counterpart. As it turns out, billionaire industrialist George Russell might be able to learn a thing or two from the real-life events that served as inspiration for The Gilded Age.
George has shown a ferocious will to stand out from the crowd. Even by the second episode of The Gilded Age, George is creating waves among New York City’s upper elite, and it appears that the show is merely setting him up for future spectacular displays of power. As a result, he has made enemies with the snooty old money families, most notably Donna Murphy’s Mrs. Astor. The destiny of the Russells is foreshadowed in Season 2 of The Gilded Age by the exposure of the historical figure who served as George Russell’s inspiration.
Who Is George Russell Based On?
Morgan Spector, who plays George, likens himself to the real-life Jay Gould in a trailer for The Gilded Age. Jay Gould, like George, was a robber baron in the real Gilded Age of the United States. Jay was also a dedicated family man. Just like George does in the programme, George prioritises his family, and it’s great to see Morgan bring this character to life. His wife and kids have his undying support, and he’s a warm, caring person at home, yet he’s ice cold and emotionless in the workplace.
Apparently, Jay wished for the same thing—for his family to be accepted into New York’s elite circles—but Mrs. Astor would never have it. The creator of The Gilded Age, Julian Fellowes, has also acknowledged that George is based on Jay Gould.
As Morgan elucidates, “The press at the time was extremely vicious about Gould. For many, he came to symbolise the era’s systemic injustices. Sometimes he utilises his incredible amount of power to destroy extremely defenceless people like ants. Sometimes George lets his anger run wild, and it’s almost unnatural to see.”
We know that George is capable of such a thing because we’ve seen it firsthand, and we have no doubt that his fictional self might accomplish even more than the real one.
The Vanderbilts May Have Been An Inspiration For The Russells in The Gilded Age
The fact that the Vanderbilts are referenced in The Gilded Age is the most obvious clue that the Russells are not based on them. Bertha makes reference to the Vanderbilts when discussing her own aspirations to join the elite ranks of high society. She believes she can succeed if Mrs. Vanderbilt has. True, the fictional Russell family shares many traits with the real-life Vanderbilts.
The Vanderbilts are among the first and most well-known families to become wealthy thanks to the advent of new forms of capital represented by the robber barons. Although George Russell came up some decades later, Cornelius Vanderbilt followed a path quite similar to George Russell’s. In fact, the New York Times of 1859 is credited with coining the term “robber baron” to describe Cornelius. However, in The Gilded Age, Bertha is talking about Alva Vanderbilt when she talks about the Vanderbilts.
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Season 2 of Gilded Age: What to Expect
It’s possible that George Russell and his family will have a better time in season 2 of The Gilded Age than the Goulds had, despite the fact that George’s character is modelled on Jay Gould. However, filming for Season 2 has already begun, and cast images show George and Bertha looking happy, probably as a result of the satisfying conclusion to Season 1. It’s hard to predict who will return to The Gilded Age because so many of the actors are also big names on Broadway.
There’s little doubt, though, that series regulars Morgan Spector, Carrie Coon, Louisa Jacobson, Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, and Denee Benton will all be back. The Gilded Age season 2 will reveal tale details including whether or not Mr. Raikes (Thomas Cocquerel) and Marian will elope and what happens when George and Bertha join high society. Furthermore, it’s likely that Fellowes will incorporate more events and characters from the late 19th century that were inspired by true stories.
The historical events of The Gilded Age are a big part of what makes the programme such a captivating period drama, but it’s possible that Fellowes will take creative licence with some of Jay Gould’s life in order to shape the destiny of George Russell and his family. Production on season 2 of The Gilded Age is scheduled to go until at least October of 2022. There has been no confirmation of a premiere date for Season 2, but we may expect it to arrive sometime in the spring or summer of 2023.