Switching from Veep's White House to space tourism, Armando Iannucci’s new HBO comedy series Avenue 5 isn’t as overtly political as his other television endeavors have been, but itstill leaves plenty of room for chaos and incompetence.
What's meant to be the height of luxury takes a sharp turn for the disastrous when the intergalactic cruise ship Avenue 5 is knocked off its path. The two-month voyage around Saturn descends into a bureaucratic nightmare for the passengers and crew, as well as those in mission control back home. The celestial crisis is ripe for the kind of inescapable and awkward scenarios that Iannucci has perfected over the years. In space, no one can hear you scream at the customer service agent (that is, except everyone else onboard).
Hugh Laurie leads the cast as charismatic captain Ryan Clark, who is tasked with calming the ship full of irate passengers and staff. Emmy-nominated for his role as Senator Tom James on Veep, Laurie isn't the only Avenue 5 cast member who's worked with Iannucci before. In a cast stacked with familiar faces, here's a lok at who's who and where you've seen these very funny actors before:
The eight-time Emmy nominee has made his mark on both sides of the Atlantic over the last 30 years. He appeared alongside Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson in the Cambridge Footlights theatrical club, which is quite the comedy origin story. From there he went on to the legendary British comedy series Blackadder, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, and Jeeves and Wooster. For eight years, House M.D. provided a turn for the dramatic, where he played the curmudgeonly titular character that cemented his global TV star status. He followed this up with an award-winning turn as the villain in the Tom Hiddleston-starring miniseries The Night Manager. Satirical comedy that leans into the farcical is in his bones, which is why the creative team-up with Iannucci makes so much sense (he's also starring in Iannucci’s forthcoming David Copperfield film adaptation).
Long before The Thick of It and Veep, Iannucci ruled the British political comedy radio waves with news parody On the Hour. Adapted into The Day Today, the BBC TV series famously launched Steve Coogan’s long-running character, Alan Partridge. Rebecca Front appeared on both the radio and TV versions of this show, as well as recurring on Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge. She continued this collaboration with Iannucci, winning a BAFTA for her role as Nicola Murray MP in The Thick of It. Audiences will also recognize Front from recent dramatic endeavors including Poldark, Humans, and the Lily James-starring adaptation of War and Peace. As Karen in Avenue 5, she takes it upon herself to become the voice of the passengers, delivering pure “Can I speak to your manager?” energy.
Avenue 5 is filling the time slot recently left empty by Silicon Valley, which Zach Woods also starred in. He has become a go-to for adorably awkward, occasionally deadpan, and always in over their heads characters. Woods provided comedic relief on The Good Wife as one of the NSA nerds who had taken a vested interest in Alicia Florrick’s (Julianna Margulies) life, as well as recurring roles in The Office, Playing House, and Big Mouth. This isn't his first time working with Iannucci either, as he played Amy’s (Anna Chlumsky) boyfriend in Veep and a sarcastic State Department junior staffer in In the Loop. He'll be taking on the disgruntled passengers in Avenue 5 as the head of customer relations, Matt Spencer.
Gad didn’t score big with his 2012 NBC comedy series 1600 Penn, but he's had a pretty solid run since then and will be familiar to most as the voice of Olaf in Disney’s mega-hit, Frozen and its sequel. He also starred in Murder on the Orient Express, but this is first big TV role since the 2015 FX series, The Comedians. Wearing a blonde wig, Gad plays billionaire owner of Avenue 5, Herman Judd. He is one of the few actors on this list who hasn’t previously worked with Iannucci.
Playing Sam Seaborn’s (Rob Lowe) assistant on The West Wing was one of Suzy Nakamura’s earliest recurring roles, which puts her in good stead for dealing with various crises Avenue 5, playing the very competent Iris Kimura. She appeared in several episodes of Veep (including the series finale) as an old friend of Selina’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and in many other familiar shows, including Curb Your Enthusiasm, Modern Family, Black-ish, The Goldbergs, and Dead to Me. She played Ken Jeong’s wife in Dr. Ken and was also a series regular on Go On.
After appearing alongside Andrew Garfield in the 2005 British teen drama Sugar Rush (not to be confused with the Netflix baking competition), Crichlow went on to star as the ghost roommate in the supernatural drama Being Human. She has ticked the Black Mirror box, starring in the unsettling Season 2 episode “White Bear,” as well as earning her short-lived sitcom stripes thanks to NBC’s A to Z. Playing second engineer Billy McEvoy in Avenue 5, she'll be bearing a lot of the responsibility for getting the vessel and its passengers home safely.
Having just starred in the high-concept Beatles-erasing comedy Yesterday, playing Avenue 5’s resident stand-up comic Jordan Hatwal shouldn’t be too much for Patel to wrap his head around. Beginning his career on the long-running British soap opera Eastenders, Patel spent nearly nine years playing Tamwar Massod. Yesterday was his biggest role to date, but he's also appeared in the hot air balloon adventure The Aeronauts and was recently cast in the HBO Max post-apocalyptic drama Station Eleven.
Another British actress, Amuka-Bird will be familiar from her role on Luther as DCI Erin Gray, as well as the recent Julia Ormond-starring BBC miniseries Gold Digger. She was nominated for a BAFTA in 2017 for NW, an adaptation of Zadie Smith’s novel of the same name. Her path first crossed with Iannucci’s in the forthcoming The Personal History of David Copperfield. Coordinating from back home on Earth, Amuka-Bird is playing Rav Mulcair, head of mission control.
A contender for “Hey! It’s That Guy!”, Ethan Phillips began his career in the 1980s sitcom Benson before playing Neelix in Star Trek: Voyager (giving him space acting veteran status). He's appeared on most procedurals, as well as in guest roles on Girls, Better Call Saul, and Veep. He will be using his intergalactic expertise in Avenue 5 as a former astronaut turned womanizing alcoholic.
2020 is a big space comedy year for St. Clair as she is also starring in Netflix's forthcoming Space Force. One half of a miserable married couple, St. Clair will endure the ultimate vacation nightmare aboard Avenue 5. She's guest-starred in The Office, Parks and Recreation, Arrested Development and Veep, in which she played intense girlfriend Dana to Tony Hale's Gary. She also co-created and starred in the cancelled-too-soon USA comedy Playing House, and is a frequent guest on podcasts How Did This Get Made? and Comedy Bang! Bang!.
Another comedy “Hey! It’s That Guy!”, Bornheimer plays St.Clair’s husband in Avenue 5, and is well versed in playing the TV comedy boyfriend on shows including Brooklyn Nine Nine, Playing House (as St. Clair’s love interest), and Casual. He's usually the boyfriend who comes before the “will-they-won’t-they” pairing seals the deal, but he has also appeared in Agent Carter and Westworld, as well as the short-lived sitcoms Perfect Couples and Worst Week.
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Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina.