Who is The Gilded Age's George Russell? Is he based on a real figure?

Amber Peake January 25, 2022
Who is The Gilded Age's George Russell? Is he based on a real figure?


As The Gilded Age premiered on HBO this week, fans are curious to know more about railroad businessman George Russell on the series.

The HBO historical drama, as its title suggests, is set in 1880s New York and explores the growing conflicts of old and new money of the time.

The first episode dropped on Monday (24 January) with fans already curious to know more about the cast, including who plays George Russell on the show. We explore who the actor behind George Russell is as well as the inspirations behind the character.

The Gilded Age | Trailer | Sky Atlantic

The Gilded Age | Trailer | Sky Atlantic
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Who plays George Russell in The Gilded Age?

George Russell is introduced to viewers as one of the wealthiest men in New York, having built his fortune as a railroad company owner.

Representing the new money of the era, his wife Bertha and their children move to the city’s Fifth Avenue as they hope to be accepted into high society.

The Gilded Age’s railroad tycoon George Russell is portrayed by actor Morgan Spector, who is known for his roles across TV.

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What else has Morgan Spector been in?

The Gilded Age is not the actor’s only HBO feature, as he also featured in the 2020 series The Plot Against America and 2013 show Broadwalk Empire.

Some of Morgan Spector’s other notable appearances include Suits, Orange Is The New Black and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

While he may be familiar for his on-screen roles, Spector is also known for his theatrical credits and has even appeared on Broadway on both A View From The Bridge in 2010 and Machinal in 2014.

Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images
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Is George Russell inspired by a real-life figure?

The Gilded Age is fictional, although its narratives and characters are said to be rooted in the storytelling of the time.

Co-executive producer and historical consultant of the show, Dr Erica Armstrong Dunbar, explained to Entertainment Weekly in November last year 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.”

While it has been established the characters featured in The Gilded Age are fictional, The Cinemaholic has linked George Russell to real-life figure William K. Vanderbilt. Like Russell, Vanderbilt was also linked to the railroad industry as he reportedly managed the New York Central Railroad system.

Talking of his character, Morgan Spector has also linked George Russell to that of Jay Gould, a notorious railroad developer and financier of the time:

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Amber is an entertainment journalist with a love for anything showbiz, celeb or reality TV. After graduating with a degree in Journalism at Brunel University she became a Showbiz Reporter at Express.co.uk. Having written for both HITC and The Focus, Amber is now a staff writer for The Focus covering the latest celeb and entertainment trends.