HBO’s sumptuous drama The Gilded Age tells the story of a young woman who, after discovering her late father has spent her inheritance, goes to live with her quirky, snobby aunts in the bustling New York City of the late 19th century. Her name is Marian Brook, and she is played by Louisa Jacobson, an up-and-coming actress you may think you’ve seen before. But you haven’t! Unless you happen to go to a lot of Yale drama-school performances in New Haven, in which case I hope you’re enjoying the high-quality pizza nearby. Because this is her first major acting role, you may be wondering why Jacobson looks so familiar to you. Well, let me be the first to pull the wool from your eyes: Louisa Jacobson is a Gummer. The secret third Gummer sister! Glad I could clear this up for you.
The Gummer sisters are, of course, the daughters of acting legend Meryl Streep and her husband, sculptor Don Gummer. You may be familiar with Mamie Gummer, the eldest, through her work as Meryl’s daughter in Ricki and the Flash or perhaps from her turns as ditzy but capable lawyer Nancy Crozier on The Good Wife and The Good Fight. Or perhaps you know Grace Gummer, a few years younger; she has appeared in Mr. Robot, Peacock’s Dr. Death, and, lest we ever forget, the second season of Smash. (She is also married to Mark Ronson.) Those two have managed to appear in nearly every television series that has filmed in New York City over the past two decades — and lots of theater along the way. (There is also a son, Henry Wolfe Gummer, who does not act. Good for him.)
So if you’re watching a new TV series like The Gilded Age, which is set in — and filmed with a bunch of theater stars from — New York City, you might reasonably expect that a Gummer would show up. The innovation here, however, is that unlike the elder acting Gummers, Jacobson does not use her surname professionally. Apparently, Jacobson is her middle name, which is funny because it implies that having the last name Gummer would make it too obvious that she is related to Streep, even though she looks a lot like her sisters and her mother, with their distinctive features and arch mannerisms.
Jacobson hasn’t done a lot of press for The Gilded Age, so there is not much else to learn about her so far. But once you know she’s a Gummer, it really brings the whole project into focus. Marian Brook is both the scion of an old-money family and the scion of an acting family. Now when you talk to your friends about the series, you can say, “Hey, did you know she’s a Gummer?” And then they’ll go, “Oh, that makes sense! She totally is a Gummer.” And then you’ll all nod and smile and go about your lives with a greater understanding of the universe.