2020 has been a relatively quiet year for Apple TV+ so far, despite the streamer having already launched several new series over the past few months. That could change with this week's premiere of Defending Jacob, a promising eight-episode series which boasts an impressive ensemble of actors.
Based on William Landay’s 2012 novel of the same name, Defending Jacob follows an assistant district attorney whose life is turned upside down when his son is accused of murder. Here’s a quick guide to the show’s primary players:
Chris Evans stars as Andy Barber, an assistant DA who is forced to choose between his sworn duty to uphold justice and the unconditional love he feels for his son. One of the most recognizable actors in the world, Evans is best known for his portrayal of Captain America in the Marvel Avengers franchise. Some of his other film credits include Snowpiercer, What’s Your Number?, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Not Another Teen Movie, and Sunshine. He most recently appeared as Ransom Drysdale in last year’s Oscar-nominated murder-mystery flick, Knives Out. Defending Jacob is also, notably, the first time Evans has taken a recurring role on TV since his stint as Cary Baston on FOX’s short-lived teen drama, Opposite Sex, back in 2000.
The UK-born Dockery has been a recognizable face to TV viewers ever since her breakout turn as Lady Mary Crawley on Downton Abbey. She was nominated for three Emmys and one Golden Globe for her performance in the role, which she played across all six seasons and in the 2019 feature film. Following the show’s conclusion in 2015, Dockery nabbed the lead in the TNT original series, Good Behavior, which lasted two seasons. She also appeared as Alice Fletcher in the Netflix limited series Godless, for which she received another Emmy nomination, and was most recently seen in this year’s Guy Ritchie crime film The Gentlemen. In Defending Jacob, Dockery plays Laurie Barber, the wife of Evans’ Andy, who is also forced to grapple with a series of impossible questions and doubts in the wake of her son’s arrest.
Playing the role of Jacob Barber, the boy accused of murdering one of his classmates, is Jaeden Martell. Only 17 years old, Martell has amassed an impressive filmography for himself in the six years since he made his film debut in St. Vincent. He recently appeared alongside his Defending Jacob co-star, Chris Evans, in 2019’s Knives Out, but is probably best-known for his performance as Bill Denborough in 2017’s It, which he reprised in the 2019 sequel, It Chapter Two. Defending Jacob marks the second TV series he’s had a recurring role in, following his run as Johnny Masters on Showtime’s Masters of Sex.
Memorable for her turn as Georgina in Jordan Peele’s hit 2017 horror film, Get Out, Betty Gabriel is a rising TV and film star. She’s had recurring roles in shows like Good Girls Revolt, Westworld, and Counterpart, and has starred in several films, including Experimenter, The Purge: Election Year, Get Out, and Upgrade. In Defending Jacob, Gabriel plays Paula Duffy, a police detective working alongside Evans’ Andy Barber.
Sakina Jaffrey has popped up in a number of noteworthy shows over the past few years, starting with her turn as White House Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez in Netflix’s House of Cards. She's also had recurring roles in shows like Timeless, Mr. Robot, Sleepy Hollow, The Mindy Project, and American Gods, and recently appeared as Captain Kamal in the second season of Netflix’s Lost in Space. She plays Lynn Canavan, the county District Attorney, in Defending Jacob.
A two-time Emmy winner, Cherry Jones is no stranger to high-profile TV productions, having played roles in some of the most critically acclaimed shows of the 21st century. Her first notable recurring TV role came as President Allison Taylor in the seventh season of 24, which she followed up with both recurring and guest roles in shows like 11.22.63, American Crime, The Handmaid's Tale, Succession, and Transparent. She won her first Emmy in 2009 for her performance in 24, and won her second ten years later for her guest turn in The Handmaid’s Tale. In Defending Jacob, Jones plays Joanna Klein, a top defense lawyer who becomes involved in Jacob’s case.
Pablo Schreiber has come a long way since he made his screen debut as Todd in the 2001 film Bubble Boy. He’s had notable roles in shows like The Wire, Weeds, Law & Order: SVU, and The Brink, but is best-known to TV viewers for his performances as George “Pornstache” Mendez in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and as Mad Sweeney in Starz’s American Gods. The actor also made headlines last year when he was cast in the role of Master Chief in Showtime’s planned live-action HALO series. Ahead of his turn as that iconic video game character, Schreiber will first be playing Neal Logiudice, a fellow assistant district attorney and colleague of Evans’ Andy in Defending Jacob.
One of the busiest and most recognizable character actors of the 21st century, J.K. Simmons has been turning in memorable performances ever since his breakout work as the villainous Vern Schillinger in HBO’s Oz. His career hasn’t slowed at all in the years since that show's conclusion. He played J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s original live-action Spider-Man trilogy, headlined the short-lived Starz series Counterpart, and won an Oscar in 2015 for his scene-stealing performance in Whiplash. Now he's set to reunite with director Morten Tyldum on Defending Jacob, following Tyldum’s work on the pilot episode of Counterpart. In Defending Jacob, he plays Andy’s father, Billy Barber, a convicted murderer and rapist serving a life sentence in prison, who Andy visits only at the behest of his son’s lawyer.
Defending Jacob premieres Friday, April 24th on Apple TV+.
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Alex Welch has written about television and film for TV by the Numbers, IGN, The Berrics, Paste Magazine, Screen Rant and GeekNation. Follow him on Twitter @alexrwelch.