Premiering Sunday, HBO's Lovecraft Country has all the makings to be the network's next big series. Based on the novel by Matt Ruff, and executive produced by Academy Award-winning writer/director Jordan Peele (Get Out; Us) for his Monkeypaw Productions in partnership with J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot and Warner Bros. TV, the series promises to blend historical fiction with the supernatural. Explicitly referencing the influential sci-fi/horror works of author H.P. Lovecraft, the series will reckon with Lovecraft's explicit and outrageous anti-black racism as it tells the story of a black man traveling through 1950s Jim Crow-era America in order to find his missing father.
With Peele producing and Underground's Misha Green as writer/showrunner, the series boasts quite the cast, blending names and faces you likely know with up-and-comers you may not. Here's our guide to the cast and who they're playing in Lovecraft Country:
In Lovecraft Country, Atticus Black is a black science-fiction aficionado living in Jim Crow-era Chicago. After his father goes missing, he and his childhood friend go on a treacherous and terrifying journey across the country to find him. You may not know his name yet, but if the roles Jonathan Majors has turned in over an incredibly short period of time are any indication, you will soon. After making his feature film debut in director Scott Cooper's Hostiles in 2017, he was part of the impressive ensemble in Dustin Lance Black's miniseries When We Rise, playing LGBTQ activist Ken Jones. in 2018, Majors played the lead antagonist opposite Matthew McConaughey in the '80s drug-kingpin drama White Boy Rick and last year he received wide acclaim for his performance in the Sundance hit The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Earlier this summer, he played a crucial supporting role in Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods, where he played the son of Delroy Lindo's troubled Vietnam vet.
Leti has been Atticus Black's friend since they were kids, and she's his companion on this drive through the treacherous roads of racist America. You may well be familiar with the actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell, considering she's been acting in major films and TV series since she was a little girl. At age 6 she began a recurring role as Denise, opposite the Olsen twins' Michelle on Full House, a role that was popular enough that she crossed over to fellow TGIF series Hangin' with Mr. Cooper. At age 11, she starred in the acclaimed indie film Eve's Bayou opposite Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, and Debbi Morgan, for which she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and won the Broadcast Film Critics prize for Best Child Performance. Since then, she's had major roles on TV series Friday Night Lights and True Blood and the films Roll Bounce and The Great Debaters (for director Denzel Washington). Earlier this year, she played the role of Black Canary in the tremendously entertaining Birds of Prey film, opposite Margot Robbie. Most recently, Smollett-Bell played the lead role on the WGN drama Underground, whose co-creator Misha Green is the showrunner on Lovecraft Country.
George Black is Atticus's uncle, also a science fiction fan, who helps Atticus on his journey. Vance is an accomplished actor who's been in counless films, television shows, and stage plays. He's played opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds, Whitney and Denzel in The Preacher's Wife, Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton in Joyful Noise, and Julia Roberts in Ben Is Back. In 2013, he won a Tony Award for his performance opposite Tom Hanks,in the Nora Ephron play Lucky Guy. In 2016, he won an Emmy for his role as Johnnie Cochran in FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Oh, and he's married to Angela Bassett.
Aunjanue Ellis has been a professional actress for 25 years, appearing in over three dozen films and many TV series. Her most prominent roles include films like Men of Honor, opposite Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert DeNiro (for which she received an NAACP Image Award nomination); Ray, opposite Oscar-winning Jamie Foxx; Undercover Brother, for which she received a Black Reel award for Best Actress; and The Help. On TV, she was a series regular on NBC's E-Ring, as well as ABC's MDs and Quantico. Most recently, Ellis received acclaim for her performance in Barry Jenkins' film If Beale Street Could Talk. She was also Emmy nominated for her performance in Ava DuVernay's Netflix miniseries When They See Us. On Lovecraft Country, Ellis plays Hippolyta Black, Atticus's aunt who's as a star-gazer with an itch for adventure.
Australian model and actress Abbey Lee enjoyed an auspicious acting debut as one of the liberated brides in Mad Max: Fury Road. After that, she appeared in the films Gods of Egypt and Office Christmas Party before delivering a knockout performance as an antagonistic model opposite Elle Fanning in director Nicolas Winding Refn's nightmarish The Neon Demon. In Lovecraft Country, she plays Christina Braithwaite — gender-swapped from the male "Christopher Braithwaite" in the novel — the daughter of the leader of a secret mystical order at the heart of the series.
Michael Kenneth Williams played Omar Little for five seasons on HBO's The Wire, an acclaimed performance of a beloved character. He's since remained loyal to HBO, having appeared as a regular on Boardwalk Empire, as well as in the films Lackawanna Blues and Bessie, before taking the role of Montrose Freeman, Atticus' troubled father. who sends word to Atticus of a mysterious inheritance that is owed to him in Lovecraft Country. HBO describes Montrose as "hard headed and secretive, he’s always believed you can’t live in a fantasy world, which is why he despises his son’s pulp novels. Most of the books on his shelf are nonfiction, history, and political theory. The guys at the local bar call him a communist, but today we’d just call him conscious."
Nigerian-born British actress Wunmi Mosaku has a deep resume of British TV series under her belt. She won the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress for the TV movie Damilola, Our Loved Boy, where she played the mother of a murdered 10-year-old. She appeared in the American blockbuster films Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and is reported to be cast in the Disney+/Marvel TV series Loki. Most recently, she appeared in the first season of The End of the F*cking World and the fifth season of Luther. In Lovecraft Country, Mosaku will play Rudy, Leti's sister.
Actor and director Tony Goldwyn was a reliable and visible character actor for many years, appearing most prominently as the main antagonist in the 1990 film Ghost, as well as films like The Pelican Brief and The Last Samurai. But his biggest and most recognizable role has been his six-season turn as President Fitzgerald Grant on the Shonda Rhimes series Scandal. He's also directed the films A Walk on the Moon with Viggo Mortensen and Diane Lane, Someone Like You with Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman, and Conviction starring Hillary Swank. In Lovecraft Country, Goldwyn plays Samuel Braithwhite, the patriarch of a northeastern family steeped in secrecy.
Jamie Chung got her start on television as a cast member on the 14th season of MTV's The Real World. She used that exposure to springboard into film roles in Sorority Row, Dragonball Evolution, and Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch. In her biggest role, she portrayed Disney princess Mulan in the ABC fairy-tales-in-real-life series Once Upon a Time. In Lovecraft Country, she plays Ji-Ah, described as a seemingly naive nursing student who is more than what she seems.
Erica Tazel co-starred for six seasons on FX's Justified as deputy U.S. marshall Rachel Brooks. She then starred on the first season of The Good Fight as law partner Barbara Kolstad. Since then, she's had a recurring guest role in Ava DuVernay's TV drama Queen Sugar. In Lovecraft Country, she plays Dora Freeman, married to Michael K. Williams's character Montrose, and described as "a spitfire personality and life of every party, who enjoys nights on the town with her beloved, boozy husband."
Lovecraft Country premieres on HBO Sunday August 16th at 9:00 PM ET
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Joe Reid is the senior writer 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.
TOPICS: Lovecraft Country, HBO, Abbey Lee, Aunjanue Ellis, Courtney B. Vance, Erica Tazel , Jamie Chung, J.J. Abrams, Jonathan Majors, Jordan Peele, Jurnee Smollett, Michael K. Williams, Tony Goldwyn, Wunmi Mosaku