The Gilded Age is on its way – but it’s not a Downton prequel says Julian Fellowes

Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes' US period drama The Gilded Age has been in the works for many years

Julian Fellowes - Downton creator

Julian Fellowes has a new period drama in the works – but contrary to popular reports, it’s not a Downton Abbey prequel after all.

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The Downton creator said his new show The Gilded Age was now officially in pre-production and would begin filming in 2020. Just don’t expect to see any familiar faces…

Back in 2012, Fellowes first declared that he was thinking about a spin-off prequel focusing on the courtship between Lord Robert Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his rich American wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern).

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Three years later, we heard that a project – now titled The Gilded Age – had been picked up by US network NBC. It was speculated that this was the story of Robert and Cora, and the Mail on Sunday quoted Fellowes saying that a young Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith’s character) “could make an appearance.”

Fellowes has been rather quiet about The Gilded Age for the last few years, focusing his attention on the Downton Abbey movie, The English Game, and Belgravia.

But in May, it was announced that the show had moved from NBC to HBO.

“It’s not completely HBO picking it up, so much as our producer Bob Greenblatt moved to HBO,” Fellowes tells RadioTimes.com. “So it’s a slightly different thing. But it is now in pre-production and we will make it next year.”

As for the rumours that it’s a Downton prequel?

“No. That came out of a newspaper, not my mouth,” Fellowes says. “And in fact it’s about a period much earlier than Downton, 1880s New York, and its various different types, and things that were going on there.”

According to HBO’s synopsis, “It’s 1885, and the Gilded Age is in full swing when Marian Brook, a young orphaned daughter of a Southern general, moves in with her rigidly conventional aunts in New York City.

“With the help of Peggy Scott, an African-American woman masquerading as her maid, Marian gets caught up in the dazzling lives of her rich neighbours as she struggles to decide between adhering to the rules or forging her own path in this exciting new world.”

So far, there’s no UK broadcaster attached. But asked if the drama would air on a UK channel, Fellowes says: “Oh I hope so!” – while Michael Engler, who is set to direct, adds: “I would expect so.”

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The Downton Abbey movie will be released on Friday 13th September 2019