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Morgan Spector Teases ‘Gilded Age’ Season 3, George and Bertha Drama




Morgan Spector Teases 'Gilded Age' Season 3, George and Bertha Drama

Before Morgan Spector ever donned the three-piece suit of railroad baron George Russell, he worried that audiences would feel alienated by the opulence of HBO’s “The Gilded Age.”

“The vast majority of people just don’t have anything in common with someone like George Russell,” he says. “When I first read these scripts, it was 2020. Bernie Sanders was still a front-runner in the presidential campaign and class politics were in the news. There was a sense that maybe we’ve had enough of billionaires and their power.”

He’s not wrong to wonder how elastic the viewer’s tolerance would be for the cultural warfare between old and new money in the 19th century. But Spector credits creator Julian Fellowes with recognizing the timeless hunger for frothy yet sharp historical fiction that places privileged characters and their often trivial problems in the context of a transformational moment in history. During the show’s second season, audiences praised its extravagance and catty commentary.

But Spector must also be given credit for challenging the stereotype of the self-made industrial titan, which history both dignifies and abhors. The impeccably costumed show is led by indomitable performers such as Christine Baranski, Carrie Coon, Cynthia Nixon, Denée Benton and Donna Murphy. But George Russell is the only character who figuratively and literally walks in the dual world of lavish balls and business dealings.

In season 2, he faces a brewing strike among his railroad workers. But Spector humanizes the character by offsetting his firm hand in business with his gentle touch at home. In the Russell household, blind ambition belongs to his wife Bertha (Coon), who supports George in a war over New York’s dueling opera houses.

“George has real stakes in his business life,” Spector says. “Not only that he could lose his business, but people could die. So sometimes he’s there to put Bertha’s trials into perspective, and sometimes he’s there to say that they will fight for this. For the most part, I think he always doubles down on his support for her.

While audiences likely come to the show for the powerful women and material indulgence, they need Spector’s gravitas. Nothing is as authentic as the memory of someone fighting every day to hold on to it.

The couple’s unwavering support could be their downfall in season 3. Bertha’s social advancement has left George with only one request: that their daughter Gladys (Taissa Farmiga) be allowed to choose a love match instead of an arranged marriage. But to launch the Metropolitan Opera House in the season finale, Bertha appears to have promised Gladys to the Duke of Buckingham as payment for his support. Spector worries how that will shake George’s steady hand.

“I’m nervous about it,” he says. “I don’t know how they put that genie back in the bottle. The relationship between George and Bertha is so good that, from an acting perspective, I take comfort in moving together as this powerful unit with Carrie. With real battles ahead, things are going to be tough in the Russell household.”