The Gilded Age: Carrie Coon on ‘Delicious’ Turner Rivalry and George & Bertha’s Future

Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon) has a prickly thorn in her side in her opera war in The Gilded Age Season 2. Read more in the article below!

Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon) has a prickly thorn in her side in her opera war in The Gilded Age Season 2. Turner (Kelley Curran), the lady’s maid Bertha fired in the first season, has returned as the wealthy newlywed Mrs. Winterton in the new season, airing Sundays at 9/8c on HBO. And Turner returned to the Russell house with a vengeance in The Gilded Age Season 2 Episode 3.

Now that the actors’ strike is over, TV Insider was able to catch up with Coon about The Gilded Age Season 2. She says Turner is testing the limits of Bertha’s belief that all new-money people should be welcomed into Manhattan society.

“If you’re gonna put a little fly in that ointment, Turner is certainly the right fly,” Coon tells TV Insider. “But, you know, ultimately Bertha’s an opportunist. Her greater ambition will always trump whatever minor issue gets in the way.”

The Gilded Age: Carrie Coon on ‘Delicious’ Turner Rivalry and George & Bertha’s Future
Coon loves that Turner is a new adversary.

“Isn’t a great twist?” she says. But she says it’s a “sticky” one for Bertha. “It’s bad enough that the woman who washed her underwear is gonna come have tea at her house. When she finds out what happened between Turner and George, it becomes much more difficult to swallow. And yet Bertha has to eat it because that’s the only way to get what she wants in the broader sense, which is the Metropolitan Opera up and running with these boxes available to the new money people, she ultimately decides.”

As a newly added member of the Metropolitan board, “that’s the side of the fight that she has to continue to fight on,” Coon explains, “and she’s gotta take on Turner if she wants that to happen.” But “it’s just so humiliating” that the powerful Bertha has to capitulate to the desires and moods of her former employee, to say nothing of the fact that that woman once made a pass at her husband. With this new George revelation, Bertha “really has to humble herself, but really it’s humiliating herself in order to make that happen. So it’s really uncomfortable.”

Bertha’s reaction to the betrayal is more modern than you’d expect from a woman in 1883.

“Bertha’s not mad at George for this woman being naked in his bed. She’s mad at him for not telling her about it,” Coon says. “So it’s reinforced once again that the Russells really respect each other, and she was lied to.”

Bertha can’t deny she’s impressed by Turner’s rise, and Coon says Bertha doesn’t even really blame the woman’s attempt to climb the social ladder by seducing her husband. She understands that “some ambitious servant’s gonna do anything they can to get what they want. And Bertha respects that in a way.”

“She really needs Turner to come along,” Coon goes on. “And in some ways, people don’t agree with Bertha’s methods all the time, but it’s also to Bertha’s credit that she’s able to put that aside and say, I really have to swallow this, because there’s a much bigger game that I’m playing.”

The other side of this is the public shaming and possible social punishment Bertha will receive if the Manhattan elite learn that she’s hosting her former lady’s maid in her home. Her past being revealed is Turner’s biggest threat of the season, but it also would “reflect poorly” on the Russells.

“As we see in the plot line with Michael Cerveris [Watson, the valet who was revealed to be a wealthy man who’s fallen from grace in Episode 3], that [Watson’s daughter, Flora McNeil], could be cast out of society simply because her father had a change of fortune and is now valet — that’s how spiky these rules were. And they were designed to exclude.”

It won’t serve Bertha or Turner well to reveal their shared secret.

If Bertha is to win the opera war through the success of the Metropolitan Opera, and through an invitation to join the Academy of Music (though she likely wouldn’t accept it now that she’s made the offensive move of having the Met open the same day as the Academy), she and Turner have to be civil. She needs the old-money Mr. Winterton (Dakin Matthews) to come to the Met on opening night, after all.

“The equivalence is the Kardashians going to the Met Ball,” Coon says. “Eventually, [the Met Ball] had to accept the influence they had and they had to allow them to come. That changed the whole ethos of the Met Ball. And that’s exactly what’s going on. That’s the kind of parallel what’s happening in this society.”

Bertha and Turner’s scenes feel like a tennis match. Viewers can expect them to have a sour face-off every time they share the screen moving forward in Season 2. Off-camera, Carrie Coon and Curran love working together.

“She’s a magnificent actress, and she’s a wonderful person,” Coon shares. “We were all devastated when Turner got got pushed out. And so when the rumors started percolating that the Season 2 twist was going to include Kelley, we were all just thrilled to get to keep her.”

The Gilded Age: Carrie Coon on ‘Delicious’ Turner Rivalry and George & Bertha’s Future

“They’re delicious scenes,” Coon says of their rivalry. They also have more in common than their egos will let them admit. “There’s so many parallels between Turner and Bertha. Turner’s very ambitious. [Bertha] has a grudging respect for Turner, for Turner’s ability to take those circumstances and turn them around. I mean, it’s a shocking turn that she’s able to marry the way that she marries. You have to be in awe of it. The audacity, you? She’s audacious! And Bertha is also audacious, and so she has to sort of go, ‘Look at you! I don’t know if I could’ve done it in your circumstances.’ There’s a bit of respect to be had. It’s really fun to do that with Kelley.”

We’ll get to see Mr. and Mrs. Winterton in private moments outside of the social scene moving forward. And Carrie Coon says “Turner gets to be such a brat” in those scenes.

“She’s very contained and poised in public, and I love what they’ve given her to do in private with Dakin Matthews when she’s alone with her husband. Bertha and Turner really unload on their husbands in private moments. Kelley leans into that stuff in such a marvelous way. It’s so fun to watch.”

The scene where Bertha learns the full truth of George’s betrayal was one of Bertha’s most vulnerable of the series so far. It’s not often that Bertha shows her hurt, and Coon made a meal of the rare scene. “You welcome complication” with a stalwart character like this, Coon says, because antagonists can often be “one dimensional.” “Anytime they complicate Bertha’s journey, I relish it,” she shares.

Carrie Coon says she’s seen viewer feedback about how “evil from stem to stern” Bertha is, but she doesn’t see the character that way.

“It’s much more complicated than that,” she says. “She’s really constrained by the time she’s living in. She can’t be a senator. She can’t be a robber baron herself. Her sphere of influence is social. And what George has done really takes the wind out of her sails.”

“George thought he was doing right by Bertha by not disrupting her life, and yet Bertha feels really humiliated by George’s decision. I love that it was about that, and not about the sort of easier thing, which is, oh, this woman was in your bed. So there’s another layer to their marriage there. He’s gonna have to earn her trust back, and she gives him some opportunity to do that. He knows that the way to get back into Bertha’s heart and her bedroom is by supporting her ambitions.”

Bertha is heavily based on Alva Vanderbilt, the American multi-millionaire socialite and eventual women’s suffrage activist who was known for challenging convention. Coon notes that in real life, Alva and her first husband, William Kissam Vanderbilt, got divorced. She implies that could be possibility for Bertha and George in future seasons. But for now, George is committed to getting back into his wife’s good graces. The love and respect are still there, it’s just wounded right now. Tune in to The Gilded Age Season 2 to find out if the trust will be repaired.

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Source: TV Insider

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