Page 3 Profile: Julian Fellowes, Writer


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The Independent Online

Is the end of Downton nigh?

Fans of ITV drama Downton Abbey may still be reeling from the news that Dan Stevens will leave the show during its fourth series. But its creator Julian Fellowes remains contractually obliged to produce the show for some time to come. Fellowes is, however, adding another string to his bow. After Downton's unexpected popularity in the US, he will act as the executive producer on an "American Downton" for NBC.

That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

Period drama doesn't tend to go down too well in the US, where crime procedurals such as NCIS dominate the prime-time slots.In fact, NBC executives originally rejected Downton. The broadcaster is under new management, and bosses want to replicate the record ratings and Emmy success the British show brought to rival network PBS.

What's the show about?

It's working title is The Gilded Age, and will be set in the New York City of the 1880s, focusing on the "princes of the American renaissance". Fellowes said: "This was a vivid time, with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king." NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke said she was "thrilled" to have the "immensely talented" Fellowes on board, claiming he "represents a major creative coup" for her company. It is hoped the "sweeping epic" will air next autumn.

But what is the Gilded Age?

The phrase, coined by writers Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, represents the boom period in America after the Civil War. It was an era of huge economic growth, but also of inequality. The series could well reference the Vanderbilts, whose wealth from railroads and shipping made them "New York royalty". Don't be surprised to see New York's answer to the Grantham family on your screens soon.