Amazon returns to the world of YA TV this week with Panic, a new teen drama based on Lauren Oliver’s 2014 novel of the same name. Set in the sultry heat of a Texas summer, Panic follows a group of freshly-graduated high school students as they participate in a deadly competition that offers a cash prize and — most importantly — a chance to escape their small town. The drama boasts an impressive cast of up-and-coming young actors and a handful of familiar faces in the roles of their parents, promising viewers of all generations a little something to enjoy.
Olivia Welch plays on Lauren Oliver’s protagonist, Heather Nill, in Amazon’s series adaptation. A self-proclaimed pragmatist, Heather hopes to obtain an accounting certificate so that she can build a stable life for herself in rural Carp, Texas. Panic is Welch’s first lead role, but she's appeared in several high-profile projects, including select episodes of Modern Family and Netflix’s Unbelievable. Later this year she'll be seen in Netflix's film trilogy Fear Street, in which she plays Samantha Fraser.
Heather’s best friend is Natalie, played by Jessica Sula, an aspiring actress who bucks against the expectations of her Deputy Sheriff father. Sula comes to Panic with a wealth of Hollywood experience: she starred opposite Anya Taylor-Joy in Split, headlined Freeform drama Recovery Road, and appeared in four episodes of Netflix’s lauded limited series Godless. The Welsh-born actor also appeared in the UK version of Skins as Grace Violet, and starred in Scream: The TV Series on MTV.
The third member of Heather and Natalie’s trio, Bishop is a solid A-student and all-around good guy. But when a lifetime of pressure from his father, a judge on the county court, begins to take its toll, Bishop’s life may never be the same. Camron Jones is an up-and-comer who broke out in Grown-ish in 2018. In the years since, he's appeared in Elephant Department, USA Network’s The Purge, and Showtime comedy Shameless.
Dodge Mason, played by Mike Faist, may be the new kid in town, but that won’t stop him from fighting tro be this summer’s Panic champion. A dynamic performer, Faist cut his teeth on Broadway, where he played Connor Murphy in Dear Evan Hanson, a role that earned him a Tony Award nomination in 2017. Off stage he's appeared in Wilding and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and can next be seen as Riff, the leader of the Jets, in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.
Ray Nicholson makes villainy look easy as Panic’s Ray Hall, a Grade-A a-hole with a short fuse. Nicholson also appeared in Emerald Fennell’s Oscar-nominated film Promising Young Woman, indie drama Now Is Everything, and FX’s Mayans M.C.
Leslie Ann Leal makes her television debut as Summer, a recent high school grad who helps organize this year’s game. Panic marks Leal’s first major role, but now that she’s splitting her time between her home in Austin, Texas and Los Angeles, expect to see her make a splash elsewhere.
Every Panic has an emcee, and this year that honor falls to Diggins, played by David W. Thompson. The young actor has a host of credits to his name, including Blue Ruin and Green Room (both Jeremy Saulnier films), Tom McCarthy’s Win Win, Gotham, and The Boys. Thompson next appears in Netflix's Fear Street, starring fellow Panic alum Olivia Welch.
A single mother of two, Jessica Mason moves her family to Carp in an attempt to get justice for her daughter, the victim of a hit-and-run that paralyzed her. The Mason matriarch is played by Nancy McKeon, who broke out as Bronx native Jo Polniaczek on ‘80s sitcom The Facts of Life. In the decades that followed, McKeon booked roles in Can’t Hurry Love, Style & Substance, The Division, and various made for TV movies, before returning to the medium that made her famous in Panic.
Heather’s mother, Sherri, is played by Rachel Bay Jones. A single mother who became pregnant at 17, Sherri seeks refuge in booze, drugs, and bad men, causing her to repeatedly clash with her teenage daughter. Jones got her start on stage — she earned a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Evan’s mother in Dear Evan Hansen — but she’s also carved out a career off Broadway with roles in God Friended Me, Grey’s Anatomy, and Ben Is Back.
The local sheriff, Jimmy Cortez has a very personal interest in putting a stop to the game. Under Sheriff Cortez’s bucket hat is Enrique Murciano, an established star who viewers will recognize from appearances in Black Hawk Down, Power, Without a Trace, Briarpatch, and Tell Me Your Secrets. Most notably, Murciano co-starred opposite Kyle Chandler in Netflix drama Bloodline, in which he played Detective Marco Diaz for all three seasons.
Mired in grief after the death of her son, Laura Cortez, played by Moira Kelly, finds herself unable to move forward — but like everyone else in Carp, she’s keeping secrets of her own. Kelly has had a lengthy acting career that began with a star turn as Donna Hayward in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). Two years later, Kelly voiced Nala in Disney’s The Lion King, and from there, roles in The Cutting Edge, To Have & to Hold, The West Wing followed. Fans will also remember Kelly’s iconic role as Karen Scott, Chad Michael Murray’s mother, in teen drama One Tree Hill.
The entire first season of Panic drops on Amazon Prime Video Friday May 28.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.