The Gilded Age’ Finale: Writers Talk Mrs. Russell’s “Ultimate Triumph” & Their Progress on S2

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Julian Fellowes and Sonja Warfield also discussed the real-life event that inspired one of the episode’s juiciest moments and the robber barons with “a pretty primitive moral code” who informed George Russell.

[This story contains major spoilers from the finale of HBO’s The Gilded Age season one.]

Carrie Coon’s Bertha Russell emerged triumphant on Monday night’s finale of The Gilded Age, having enticed New York’s snobbish elites into attending her daughter’s debutante ball by ruthlessly leveraging her child’s friendship with a member of the old-money set.

It was a plot twist ripped from New York lore, inspired by the legend that 19th and 20th century New York social climber Alva Vanderbilt encouraged her daughter’s friendship with Carrie Astor to persuade her mother, Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, to attend one of her events, explains show writer, creator and executive producer Julian Fellowes.

“I love the almost cynicism of that, that she [Alva] was prepared to use this young woman, who is completely innocent, as her tool to get her mother into the house and it just made me laugh when I read it,” he says. “So I thought I would use it in this show.”


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