McDonald, who is also set to star in MGM’s Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, joins as a special guest star.
A slew of Broadway stars added as major recurring guest stars. They include The King and I’s Kelli O’Hara, Hello, Dolly!’s Donna Murphy, who is also in Starz’ Power, Fun Home’s Michael Cerveris, who also starred in Netflix’s Mindhunter, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’s Debra Monk, Promises Promises’ Katie Finneran, who was also in CBS All Access’ Why Women Kill, To Kill A Mockinbird’s Celia Keenan-Bolger, Gary’s Kristine Nielsen and King Lear’s John Douglas Thompson.
They join series regulars stars Christine Baranski, Carrie Coon, Cynthia Nixon, Morgan Spector, Denée Benton, Louisa Jacobson, Taissa Farmiga, Blake Ritson, Simon Jones, Harry Richardson, Thomas Cocquerel, Jack Gilpin and guest star Jeanne Tripplehorn.
The period drama, which is a co-production between HBO and Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, comes from the Downton Abbey team of Fellowes, producer Gareth Neame and director Michael Engler. It is an epic drama that follows the millionaire titans of New York City in the 1880s.
The story begins in 1882 — introducing young Marian Brook, the orphaned daughter of a Union general, who moves into the New York City home of her thoroughly old-money aunts Agnes van Rhijn and Ada Brook. Accompanied by Peggy Scott, an accomplished African-American woman, Marian inadvertently becomes enmeshed in a social war between one of her aunts, a scion of the old-money set, and her stupendously rich neighbors, a ruthless railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife, George and Bertha Russell. In this exciting new world that is on the brink of the modern age, will Marian follow the established rules of society or forge her own path?
Baranski stars as aristocrat Agnes van Rhijn, Nixon plays her sister Ada Brook, Coon plays middle-class woman Bertha Russell, Spector plays her husband George Russell, Benton plays Peggy Scott, daughter of slaves, Jacobson plays heroine Marian Brook, Farmiga plays Gladys Russell, child of the rich, Ritson plays Oscar Van Rhijn, Agnes van Rhijn’s charismatic son, Jones plays Bannister, the Van Rhijn’s butler, Richardson plays Harvard grad Larry Russell, Cocquerel plays young lawyer Tom Raikes, Gilpin plays Church, the Russell family’s butler and Tripplehorn plays enigmatic figure Sylvia Chamberlain.
McDonald will play Dorothy Scott, the wife of a powerful man and the backbone of her family. After much time apart, her daughter finally pays a visit to their family home in Brooklyn, and Dorothy clings to the hope that the Scott family will heal and begin to form a new and stronger bond. However, she soon makes a discovery that throws her own beliefs into question.
O’Hara plays Aurora Fane, Agnes van Rhijn’s niece, Murphy plays socialite Mrs. Astor, Cerveris plays Watson, George Russell’s valet, Monk plays Armstrong, Mrs. van Rhijn’s maid, Finneran plays Anne Morris the unforgiving wife of city alderman Patrick Morris, Keenan-Bolger plays Mrs. Bruce, the Russell’s new housekeeper, Nielsen plays Mrs. Bauer, Mrs. Van Rhij’s cook and Douglas Thompson plays Arthur Scott, a freed slave living in Brooklyn less than 20 years after the end of the Civil War.
The nine-part series was created, written and exec produced by Fellowes with Gareth Neame and David Crockett also exec producing. Michael Engler and Salli Richardson-Whitfield are directors and exec producers with Sonja Warfield as writer and co-exec producer. Bernie Telsey and Adam Caldwell from Telsey + Company are casting directors.