Julian Fellowes’ The Gilded Age has just landed on HBO as it dives into the elite prosperity of New York City in 1882. We see new money clash with old money and two figures who are trying to slot right in are Bertha and George Russel.
The show follows Marian who is played by Louisa Jacobson, Meryl Streep’s real-life daughter. Marian’s father recently passed away so she moved to New York to reside with her aunts Ada and Agnes. They are about as old money as it gets, as they introduce Marian to some prominent figures along the way.
Bertha and George are the power couple of the series and fans want to get to know them a little more. So, before you dive into season 1, let’s meet The Russells.
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Get to know Bertha and George Russell
George (Morgan Spector) and Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon) are married and fans have found it rather interesting watching their relationship dynamic on the show.
George Russell is one of the wealthiest men in New York, having built his fortune as a railroad company owner. He, his wife Bertha and their children all move to Fifth Avenue in hopes of being accepted into high society. However, old money neighbours are reluctant to let them in and the neighbourhood quite clearly looks down on them. Let’s just say, Bertha is probably going to clash with Mrs Astor at some point.
The difference between the two upper classes is evident in Bertha’s costumes as they are very different to her old money neighbours. She wears bright colours and big headpieces as opposed to the monochromatic and neutral colours worn by the old money elites.
However, the couple makes it work and seem to hold each other up when things go wrong. Think back to Bertha’s party when no one shows up and she is consoled by her husband. As he becomes her main support system both emotionally and financially.
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George and Bertha are not real figures
Bertha and George are not historical figures and are largely fictional but their story represents many new money families of New York in that time period.
Almost all the main characters on the show are fictional which was likely a conscious choice by the writers as it gives them freedom in their storylines. However, The Cinemaholic has linked George Russell to real-life figure William K. Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt was also linked to the railroad industry and reportedly managed the New York Central Railroad system.
This was supported by the co-executive producer and historical consultant of the show, Dr Erica Armstrong Dunbar, who explained to Entertainment Weekly that it was “important to ground the storytelling in authenticity.” Dunbar continued: “We want viewers to feel and see a landscape that is from the past yet believable and accurate.”