Based on Aldous Huxley's 1932 masterwork of science fiction, the long-gestating TV series adaptation of Brave New World arrives this week as the flagship original series of NBCUniversal''s new streaming platform, Peacock. From executive producer David Weiner (Homecoming; The Killing), the series will present the novel's utopian paradise in all its shining gleam and troubling conformity. The citizens of New London enjoy a blissful existence in a world that has, according to the show's press materials, "achieved peace and stability through the prohibition of monogamy, privacy, money, family, and history itself."
To portray the cast of Huxley's characters — adapted for television and in a few cases changed from their literary origins — Weiner has cast a rather exciting mix of young talent, plus at least one former A-List actress looking to return to the spotlight. Here's a look at who's who among the cast of Alphas, Betas, and "savages" in Peacock's Brave New World:
Jessica Brown Findlay broke many a heart in her breakthrough role on Downton Abbey as Lady Sybil Crawley, whose exit from that show was … let's say "emotionally fraught." Since then, she's always seemed on the cusp of breaking through into major film and TV actress status. She was the female lead opposite Colin Farrell in Winter's Tale, an ambitious film that nevertheless also featured a flying horse and ended up flopping pretty badly. In 2017, she took the role of Charlotte in the Hulu series Harlots, and in 2018 she starred in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. In Brave New World, she stars as Lenina Crowne, a hatchery (read: baby-birthing) worker in the futuristic city of New London who begins to question her place within her conformist society.
If you've only ever seen Alden Ehrenreich stepping into Harrison Ford's shoes to play Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, then you are doing yourself a grave disservice. His performance in the Coen brothers' Hail Caesar! as a sweet-hearted actor of Westerns in 1950s Hollywood was one of the great comedic performances of the last decade. And before that, he played the romantic lead in the supernatural teen love story Beautiful Creatures, a fantastically underrated movie that flopped at the box office. As did Solo, unfortunately for Ehrenreich. He's back now playing John the Savage in Brave New World. John was raised off the grid in the savage territories, where he was not indoctrinated to the ways of the New World. In the series, John is brought to New London as an outsider, and soon begins threatening to disrupt the blissed-out efficiency of the conformist utopia.
Harry Lloyd plays Alpha Plus citizen Bernard Marx, whose station, as you might guess, is pretty high up in the utopian New World. Bernard works at the Bureau of Stability, where one of his duties is administering the calming/euphoric drug Soma to the citizens of New London. Lloyd is an accomplished British actor best known for playing Viserys Targaryen in the first season of Game of Thrones. Viserys was a vainglorious and scheming sort, contrasted with his more heroic sister Daenerys, and he met his end quite spectacularly/horrifically by the end of that season. Elsewhere, Lloyd has co-starred in the Oscar-nominated film The Theory of Everything, as well as on TV series Manhattan, Wolf Hall, The Fear, and on the Starz series Counterpart opposite J.K. Simmons. Most recently, he played Professor X on the FX series Legion.
The role of Wilhelmina "Helm' Watson has been adapted from what was originally a male role in Huxley's novel. In the novel, "Helmholtz Watson" was Bernard Marx's best friend, an artist who felt stifled by the problem-free conformity of the New World. In the show, Helm is a woman, an artist, and a hedonist. She's also described as "New London’s premier maker of Feelies," which are a futuristic version of movies which transmit physical sensations to their audiences. Hannah John-Kamen is an actress who should be increasingly more familiar to audiences. Perhaps best known for her role as the main antagonist in Marvel's Ant-Man and the Wasp, John-Kamen has also appeared in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One and on the Netflix limited series The Stranger. Before that, she played interplanetary bounty-hunter Dutch on the SyFy series Killjoys.
Demi Moore's career began in the 1980s, starring in such films as St. Elmo's Fire and About Last Night, before breaking through in a major way in Ghost. She spent the '90s headlining A Few Good Men, Indecent Proposal, and G.I. Jane. In the last couple decades, her career has waned, though she's been featured in films like Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Bobby, the latter directed by her ex-fiancé Emilio Estevez. Most recently, she's appeared on the FOX series Empire and in the bachelorettes-gone-wrong comedy Rough Night. In Brave New World, she's playing Linda, a "brash, hard-living" mother to John the Savage, who bore him and raised him outside the new society.
In the novel, Henry Foster is the typical Alpha male living in the new society. He works alongside Bernard Marx at the Bureau of Stability. Actor Sen Mitsuji is best known for his role on the YouTube original series Origin, as well as recurring roles on Amazon Prime's The Man in the High Castle and Netflix's Altered Carbon.
If the name "CJack60" sounds a bit dehumanized, that's probably the intention. He's described as an "Epsilon relegated to physical, tedious jobs," clearly a necessity in a conformist society with a strictly stratified Alpha class. CJack60 is also "deeply impacted after witnessing a horrifying incident" in the series. He's played by Joseph Morgan, best known for his roles on The Vampire Diaries and its subsequent spinoff The Originals.
Another character who's been gender-swapped for the TV adaptation, Mustafa Mond is a World Controller in charge of New London's adherence to the social structure and utopian design. British actress Nina Sosanya is best known for her roles on series like W1A, Last Tango in Halifax, Amazon Prime's Good Omens and Killing Eve. She's also appeared in such films as Love Actually and Red Joan opposite Judi Dench.
Kylie Bunbury is a Canadian actress best known for her performance in the film comedy Game Night, opposite Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman, and as the lead in the short-lived FOX series Pitch, in which she played the first woman to play in Major League Baseball. Since then, she appeared in the Netflix miniseries When They See Us for director Ava DuVernay and an episode of Jordan Peele's The Twilight Zone. In Brave New World, she plays Frannie, Lenina's best friend and a fan of the social conditioning of the new order.
All nine episodes of Brave New World drop Wednesday July 15th on Peacock.
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Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.