- Carrie Coon replaced Amanda Peet as Bertha Russell on HBO’s “The Gilded Age” in April 2020.
- The series’ costume designer pivoted after recasting the role.
- Bertha’s look became more metallic, an ode to machinery, and was inspired by Coon’s way of walking.
Julian Fellowes may have created Bertha Russell in the script of “The Gilded Age,” but Fifth Avenue’s fiercest social climber as we know her really materialized when Carrie Coon joined the cast.
After actress Amanda Peet backward of the nine-episode HBO series due to scheduling conflicts in April 2020, Coon reprized her role as Bertha, the surprisingly wealthy (and largely unwelcome) newcomer infiltrating late 19th-century Manhattan society.
“I came to the project quite late, actually. After it was announced and went through pre-production, they lost an actor and they came back to me,” the 41-year-old said. years at Insider.
According to Coon, it was a simple and straightforward “yes.” She adored Fellowes’ previous work and knew the ‘Downton Abbey’ creator was “so well versed in the period”.
Bertha’s wardrobe changed when Coon arrived
By the time Coon signed on to “The Gilded Age”, the team had already begun to build Bertha around Peet. Things changed, however, when costume designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone met her new muse.
“When I arrived, I was struck by how Kasia, the costume designer, pivoted,” the ‘Gone Girl’ actress recalled. “I walked into the room and all of a sudden she had different ideas about which direction she wanted to go.”
Bertha’s dresses took on more metallic hues which Coon said were a nod to American industrialization and the Russells’ monopoly fortune built from the railroads.
“The machinery was his inspiration,” Coon said.
And, of course, there’s nothing subtle about Bertha. The last thing she wants is to blend in, so it’s only fitting that Coon’s hats “get bigger and bigger.”
His ‘sashay’ also had an impact on the designs
Bertha is often on her feet, bursting with energy and ambition. Appropriately, Coon’s natural movements and mannerisms influenced the aesthetics of the characters, which she described as a “casual sexiness.”
Because the design team noticed the way the “Leftovers” actress walked, they incorporated fabrics that moved with her as she “walked.”
“They all loved the way I walked, which of course was explained by putting the clothes on. The clothes are what taught me to walk, but they loved the movement it created,” Coon explained.
Christine Baransky, who plays Bertha’s widowed elderly neighbor Agnes van Rhijn, is the polar opposite. As Bertha de Coon makes sure her presence is clocked by everyone in the room, wherever she goes, Agnès de Baranski quietly “floats” in and out of the spaces.
“She floats across a room, and it’s very compelling,” Coon said, adding, “Bertha, she’s more like a bull in a china shop, at least in personality.”
Walicka-Maimone, also behind the looks of films such as “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) and “The Goldfinch” (2019), said Tatler this part of his process includes meeting with each actor separately.
“They always influence the character they embody and bring so much to the table,” she said, continuing, “When you meet them, the designs morph a bit. What I do is just add a skin to their representation.”
After trying on Walicka-Maimone’s designs, Coon told Insider she was “three quarters of the way there” well on her way to becoming Bertha.
“It’s just up to you to screw it up after that,” she said.
“The Gilded Age” is available to stream on HBO, with new episodes released weekly.