Features

Netflix Has Fast Developed a Repertory of All-Star Players

A look at the actors and actresses who've shown up the most — and the best — in the streamer's short history.
  • Merritt Wever in Unbelievable,  Mahershala Ali in Luke Cage and Katherine Langford in 13 Reasons Why. (Netflix)
    Merritt Wever in Unbelievable, Mahershala Ali in Luke Cage and Katherine Langford in 13 Reasons Why. (Netflix)

    One of the few aspects of Old Hollywood culture that's rather welcome when it recurs in the present day (and under different circumstances) is the idea of studio-centric repertory companies of actors. Up until recently, the closest modern analogue was HBO, which has historically shown a tendency to hold on to talent across projects, and to elevate acclaimed supporting players to lead roles in later productions. Over the last few years, as Netflix has become ever more expansive, the streaming platform has begun incubating an ersatz repertory company of its own. Case in point: with today's premiere of the fantasy series Cursed, Netflix welcomes back Katherine Langford, former star of the controversy-magnet13 Reasons Why, a series that just dropped its final season with a closing nod to Langford's character, Hannah Baker, who was so central to the show's initial premise.

    When it comes to Netflix welcoming back familiar faces, Langford is just the latest in a growing list. Some have stared in multiple series, others have been key utility players, while others still have been the glue of entire TV universes. For the purposes of this list, we're focusing primarily on Netflix's TV series, although appearances in Netflix feature films will factor in as a bonus.

    Katherine Langford

    Netflix Series: 13 Reasons Why, Cursed

    Cursed is only the second Netflix series that Australian actress Katherine Langford has appeared in, but due to her pivotal role in 13 Reasons Why (and the groundbreaking role that series played in Netflix's brand evolution), she feels more closely associated with the platform than most. Her return in Cursed reminds us what a big presence she's been.

    Natasha Lyonne

    Netflix Series: Orange Is the New Black, Russian Doll, Big Mouth

    Natasha Lyonne is the epitome of a working actress, so it's no surprise that she's been a presence in a whole bunch of Netflix properties. She's been a guest voice on Big Mouth, and appeared in the Netflix feature films A Futile and Stupid Gesture and Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie. But she earns her spot in the hall of fame for two peerless performances: as the good-hearted addict Nicky Nichols on Orange Is the New Black and as time-looping Nadia Vulvokov on Russian Doll.

    Michaela Coel

    Netflix Series: Chewing Gum, Black Mirror

    British actress Michaela Coel is currently tearing things up on HBO with her new series I May Destroy You (a series Netflix tried to acquire, but Coel turned them down after they refused to give her an ownership stake in the series). Before that, however, Coel's British comedy series Chewing Gum crossed over to America via Netflix, and she also starred in one of the more memorable episodes of Black Mirror. Bolstering her hall of fame case is her hidden gem of a performance in the Netflix original film Been So Long.

    Will Arnett

    Netflix Series: Arrested Development, BoJack Horseman, Flaked, A Series of Unfortunate Events

    Will Arnett first burst into the national consciousness as easily frustrated aspiring magician Gob Bluth on Arrested Development, and when Netflix resurrected that show for a fourth season, they brought Arnett's many talents with it. From there, Arnett starred in the short-lived series Flaked and appeared in the underrated adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, but truly, his hall of fame case rests with his work as the voice of the title character in BoJack Horseman, a defining performance in one of the quintessential shows of the Netflix era.

    Rosario Dawson

    Netflix Series: Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, The Defenders

    Rosario Dawson has only played one character within the Netflix TC ecosystem, but her turn as the compassionate, unflappable nurse Claire Temple was the thread that tied together Netflix's now-defunct Marvel television universe. Starting with Daredevil, Claire made her way briefly through Jessica Jones, helped to set up the Defenders series via Iron Fist, and settled in as a love interest on Luke Cage. You'd have to stretch to call the Defenders series a Rosario Dawson project, but her recent star turn in USA's underated series Briarpatch is a reminder that Netflix should probably get back into the Rosario Dawson business.

    Mahershala Ali

    Netflix Series: House of Cards, Luke Cage

    Another alumnus of the Marvel universe, Mahershala Ali had a brilliant run as the earliest villain on Luke Cage, a performance that came on the heels of his four-season performance as Remy Danton, a political operative on the very first Netflix streaming sensation, House of Cards. Bonus points to his hall-of-fame case for appearing in the feature film Roxanne, Roxanne.

    Julia Garner

    Netflix Series: Ozark, Maniac, The Get Down

    Julia Garner's surprise Emmy win last year for her acclaimed performance in Ozark underlined what a stealth all-star she's been for Netflix over the last few years. In addition to Ozark, she's provided memorable turns in Maniac and in Baz Luhrmann's The Get Down. Her case will only be bolstered in the coming years as she takes on the title role in the upcoming Shonda Rhimes series Inventing Anna.

    Merritt Wever

    Netflix Series: Godless, Unbelievable

    It seems to be an inescapable truth that everybody loves Merritt Wever. On Netflix, she gave an Emmy-winning performance in the western series Godless, then returned this last year with an eye-opening turn as a police detective tracking down a serial rapist in Unbelievable. Her case is bolstered by performances in Netflix feature films like Irreplaceable You and especially her scene-stealing work in last year's Oscar-nominated Marriage Story.

    Janet McTeer

    Netflix Series: Jessica Jones, Ozark

    She hasn't been the star of any Netflix series to date (although, honestly, that should change), but the two-time Oscar nominee has been the secret ingredient in a number of shows, including Jessica Jones and the most recent season of Ozark.

    Molly Parker

    Netflix Series: House of Cards, Wormwood, Lost in Space

    Canadian actress Molly Parker made her name in independent films and on HBO's Deadwood. She took those talents to Netflix, playing a Democratic politician on House of Cards, the wife of the main character in the documentary/drama hybrid Wormwood, and as the matriarch of a space-exploring family in Lost in Space.

    Alison Brie

    Netflix Series: GLOW, BoJack Horseman

    The mega-talented Alison Brie has been a revelation as the quintessential actress investing her all in a pro wrestling character in GLOW, a performance that has been somehow unrewarded by the Emmys. Brie was also the voice of love-interest Diane on BoJack Horseman, and this past year starred in the dark Sundance comedy Horse Girl.

    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.

    TOPICS: Netflix, Alison Brie, Janet McTeer, Julia Garner, Katherine Langford, Mahershala Ali, Merritt Wever, Michaela Coel, Molly Parker, Natasha Lyonne, Rosario Dawson, Will Arnett