“We couldn’t decently cordon off an entire Upper East Side neighborhood to shoot…” Julian Fellowes tells us everything behind the scenes of the series.
What strikes, arriving in The Gilded Age, it is obviously the majesty of the decorum. The places, the costumes, the accessories… The historical reconstruction is breathtaking. And she was essential, we confide Julian Fellowes :
“It was very important that it be very realistic, just the historical plan. I have an obsession with historical details. I have the feeling that if it rings true, the public sees a form of authenticity in it, even without knowing anything about this period. He said to himself that it must have happened like that for sure. That’s what I’m looking for“, explains to Première the creator and showrunner.
What era does The Gilded Age correspond to? “It’s a bit like the American Renaissance”
In the process, its executive producer, Gareth Neame, goes further into the technical details. Because recreating the New York of 1880 was not a piece of cake:
“That was clearly the major challenge of this series“, he smiles. “For Downton Abbey, there were plenty of historical places, castles that we could use to film. All of that still exists in practice. But there, for The Gilded Age, we absolutely had to create an entire city! Entire buildings… You can still find some of them along 5th Avenue today in New York. Except that you can’t decently cordon off an entire Upper East Side neighborhood to shoot. Even more so for a historical drama. Because that would mean removing all modern urban equipment, signs, passing carts and horses… It’s downright impossible. So we had to create everything from scratch.”
Gareth Neame continues and reveals the solution used by the producers to make Ex nihilo the New York of The Gilded Age : “We were lucky enough to be able to build an entire neighborhood, like on the Upper East Side. We have a terrific production designer, Bob Shaw, who has done some amazing creative work. He actually built the two big houses, that of Agnes van Rhijn and that of George Russell! And it all meshed perfectly with existing sets that we were able to use, mostly in upstate New York, where there’s this mesh of wonderful historic properties that are still there…“
It therefore took daunting means to produce the new HBO prestige series. And a lot of special effects too, as Julian Fellowes willingly confesses: “The digital effects helped us a lot. This is certainly the reason why this era has not really been discussed before in movies or on TV. If you think back to Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993), for example, there are almost no exterior shots. Because you just couldn’t do it then. The evolution of CGI has allowed us to really reconstruct, as closely as possible, the time of The Gilded Age.”
The series is launched today in France on OCS. A new episode will be on view every Tuesday.