Tonight HBO premieres the first part of its six-episode miniseries adaptation of Philip Roth's The Plot Against America. The novel, first published in 2004, presents an alternate history of America, one in which Franklin Roosevelt lost the 1940 election to Charles Lindbergh, whose antisemitism and Nazi sympathies change the course of American history and, in particular, the lives of a Jewish-American family in New Jersey.
The HBO adaptation is being undertaken by David Simon and Ed Burns, who together created The Corner, The Wire and Generation Kill, and they've gathered some top-notch performers to fill out their cast. Here's a rundown of the series' top players:
Two-time Academy Award nominee Winona Ryder made her screen debut in 1986's Lucas and has been a defining actress for an entire generation thanks to her roles in movies like Heathers, Beetlejuice, Mermaids, and Reality Bites. She also executive produced and starred in Girl, Interrupted, which won an Oscar for Angelina Jolie. After a shoplifting scandal (FREE WINONA!), Ryder struggled to get back into the business, subsisting on small roles in films like Star Trek and Black Swan. A supporting role in HBO's Show Me a Hero in 2015 led to her big step back into the spotlight with a lead role on Netflix's Stranger Things. In The Plot Against America, Ryder plays Evelyn Finkel, aunt to young Philip (who was named "Philip Roth" in the novel but whose surname in the miniseries is "Levin"). Evelyn enters into a relationship with a Lindbergh-supporting rabbi, and together they try to make Lindbergh palatable to their fellow Jews.
Playing Philip's mother Bess is Zoe Kazan, an actress who's been steadily rising since her breakthrough role in the 2008 Leonardo Dicaprio/Kate Winslet film Revolutionary Road. The granddaughter of famed director Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront), Zoe Kazan has appeared in such films as Meek's Cutoff with Michelle Williams, What If with Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Driver, HBO's Olive Kitterege (for which she received a Primetime Emmy nomination), and The Deuce. She also starred opposite Kumail Nanjiani in the Oscar-nominated The Big Sick, played Meryl Streep's daughter in It's Complicated, and has written two screenplays — one for the film Ruby Sparks, in which she co-starred with her longtime boyfriend Paul Dano, and one for Dano's directorial debut, Wildlife.
John Turturro plays Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf, a prominent Jewish figure who lends crucial support to Lindbergh's campaign, turning a blind eye to the America-First anti-semitism of his movement. As an actor, Turturro has enjoyed great relationships with some of the top filmmakers of his era, most especially Spike Lee, for whom he's appeared in nine films, and the Coen brothers, for whom he's appeared in four films, including 1991's Barton Fink, for which he won Best Actor honors at the Cannes Film Festival. He's been nominated for two Golden Globe awards for 1994's Quiz Show and 2016's The Night Of, but has somehow never been nominated for an Oscar.
Playing Herman Levin — husband to Bess and father to three young boys — is Morgan Spector, an actor who's appeared on such TV shows as NBC's Allegiance, Spike's adaptation of Stephen King's The Mist, and the seventh season of Homeland. He's currently set to co-star in HBO's upcoming The Gilded Age for Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.
In the pivotal role of Charles Lindbergh, the American aviation hero whose isolationist tendencies make for a fascinating what-if scenario in The Plot Against America, Simon and Burns cast Ben Cole. The largely unknown actor has appeared on TV shows like Sense8 and God Friended Me and in films such as Demolition from Big Little Lies director Jean-Marc Valée.
In the role of Monty Levin is veteran character actor David Krumholtz, whose film credits go as far back as 1993's Addams Family Values. His best-known roles are likely the six seasons he spent on the CBS procedural Numb3rs, HBO's The Deuce and films like 10 Things I Hate About You and The Santa Clause. Or you might still be traumatized by his appearance on ER as a mentally disturbed patient who stabbed Lucy Knight to death.
The Plot Against America premieres tonight at 9:00 PM ET on HBO, with subsequent episodes airing Monday through April.
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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, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.