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‘The Gilded Age’ Denèe Benton talks shattering Black stereotypes

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HBO/Alison Cohen Rosa

The critically acclaimed new HBO series The Gilded Age airs its season finale tonight, and the show that was originally created a few years ago was not the same as what you ended up seeing, at least when it comes to Denèe Benton‘s character in the series.

Benton plays Peggy Scott, an upper-middle-class African-American woman, and a character she had a lot of input in shaping. She tells ABC Audio she pushed really hard to make sure Peggy wasn’t the typical screen representation of Black America in the late 1800s, and that wasn’t easy.

“I was definitely in inboxes and asking for meetings and conversations,” she recalls. “And the thing that I will commend everyone on is that they kept showing up to the conversation. And so, yeah, it was terrifying. I was clenching my butt cheeks with the all-white male creative team being like, this thing needs to change.”

The 30-year-old actress believes we’ve been “bamboozled into thinking Black people and Black women didn’t exist,” when in fact they’ve “existed at every level of society for all time.

She adds, “I am so excited to be a part of continuing to shatter that delusion of white supremacy.”

Benton thinks the whole show has benefited from Peggy being a secretary for the New York Globe and “getting to have these scenes with her mom in a Black café.” She says it “adds nuance [and] specificity, [which] is what storytelling is about.”

“I’m happy that we all showed up to take in that opportunity,” she adds.

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