Ryan Murphy's first project in his multi-million dollar Netflix deal sees the uber-producer reteamed with his Glee producing partner Ian Brennan to tell the story of a group of people working in various corners of the film industry in the post-World War II era. There are actors, actresses, writers, directors, producers, studio heads, and any number of influence peddlers. The seven-part limited delves into the juicy backstories and sordid details behind the studio system, where old prejudices had many people struggling in silence. It also pulls back the veil on all sorts of real-life Hollywood stories that have been whispered about for years.
This being a Ryan Murphy production, it's also impeccably cast, with theater legends, character actors, and hot young up-and-comers in the lead roles. It's a cast full of Murphy vets and newbies alike. Here's who's playing whom, and where you may have seen them before:
David Corenswet plays protagonist Jack Castello in Hollywood, a handsome, young husband and father-to-be with a dream to make it as a movie actor. Corenswet has previously worked with Murphy on last year's The Politician, playing River, the ill-fated boyfriend of the main character played by Ben Platt. Corenswet has also appeared on House of Cards and Elementary, as well as in the film Affairs of State, opposite Mimi Rogers and Thora Birch.
Jeremy Pope made a big splash in 2019 when he was nominated for two Tony Awards, one as a lead actor in the play Choir Boy, and one as a featured actor in the musical Ain't Too Proud. He was only the sixth person ever nominated in two different acting categories at the Tonys. Hollywood marks Pope's television debut. He plays Archie, an aspiring writer who's willing to hustle to keep his dreams afloat.
Broadway legend Patti LuPone plays Avis Amberg, the wife of a powerful studio head whose own ambitions were thwarted. LuPone is a seven-time Tony Award nominee who has won twice, for her roles in Evita and Gypsy. On TV, she played the lead role in the family drama Life Goes On, was nominated for an Emmy as guest actress on Frasier, and was a regular on Penny Dreadful. She's also familiar with Ryan Murphy, having appeared in American Horror Story: Coven, Pose, and as herself on Glee.
Hollywood reunites Darren Criss with Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, who launched his television career when they cast him as Blaine Anderson in Glee, the rival warbler who fell in love with Kurt and launched a thousand Tumblr memes. After Glee, Criss appeared in American Horror Story: Hotel, as well as on Supergirl and The Flash as the Music Meister, before landing the role of Andrew Cunanan in Murphy's American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Criss' acclaimed performance won him both a Golden Globe and an Emmy. Most recently, Criss co-starred in the feature film Midway for director Roland Emmerich. In Hollywood, he plays an ambitious young director trying to get his breakthrough film off the ground.
Jake Picking is playing the man who would eventually become one of Hollywood's biggest stars, Rock Hudson. Hollywood depicts Hudson — birth name Roy Scherer — at the outset of his acting career, dealing with being closeted in the often predatory movie business. Picking's film credits include Dirty Grandpa opposite Zac Efron and Robert De Niro, the Mark Wahlberg drama Patriots Day, and the Alison Brie Netflix drama Horse Girl. He's also set to appear in the much-anticipated sequel Top Gun: Maverick.
Veteran film and TV actor Dylan McDermott plays the role of Ernie, who runs a brothel/escort service of eligible men out of a Hollywood gas station. McDermott has previously worked with Murphy on four seasons of American Horror Story as well as last year's The Politician. Previous to that, he starred in ABC's Emmy-winning legal drama The Practice. His film credits include Steel Magnolias, Home for the Holidays, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Australian actress Samara Weaving is making her debut in a Ryan Murphy series in the role of aspiring actress Claire Wood. Weaving made a splash with her dynamic lead performance in the horror film Ready or Not, opposite Adam Brody and Andie MacDowell. Her other film performances include the Oscar-nominated Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and the lead role in director McG's The Babysitter.
Laura Harrier is likely best known to audiences for one of two roles: playing opposite Tom Holland's young Peter Parker as his love interest in Spider-Man: Homecoming, or as black activist Patrice in Spike Lee's Best Picture-nominated BlacKkKlansman. In Hollywood, she plays Camille Washington, a young and talented black actress hoping for the chance to transcend the racism of her era and star in a major motion picture.
Veteran actress Holland Taylor has been a familiar screen presence going as far backs as the early 1980s, when she played Tom Hanks' boss on Bosom Buddies. She won an Emmy for her role in The Practice, and was Tony-nominated for the one-woman show Ann, which she wrote about former Texas governor Ann Richards. In film she's played Reese Witherspoon's law professor in Legally Blonde, Tina Fey's mother in Baby Mama, and Michelle Pfeiffer's mother in One Fine Day.
Grammy- and Emmy-winner Queen Latifah plays the very first black actress to win an Oscar, Hattie McDaniel, who won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. Queen Latifah herself was nominated for the same award 63 years later for playing Matron Mama Morton in Chicago. Her best known film roles include Bringing Down the House, Last Holiday, Beauty Shop, and Girls Trip.
Acclaimed theater actor and director Joe Mantello plays studio executive Dick Samuels, a good man struggling to do good work in Hollywood despite institutional pushback and personal demons. Mantello's many theater credits are highlighted by Tony nominations for originating the role of Louis in Angels in America and playing Larry Kramer in the 2011 Broadway production of The Normal Heart. When Ryan Murphy directed the HBO adaptation of The Normal Heart, he cast Mantello (though not as the lead). He's also directed such productions as Love! Valour! Compassion! and Wicked, winning back-to-back Tony Awards for directing Take Me Out in 2003 and Assassins in 2004.
Jim Parsons plays the role of vicious, predatory agent Henry Wilson, who in real life was known for helping to develop the careers of hunky 1950s actors like Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Troy Donohue, Rory Calhoun and more. He was also notorious for allegedly exchanging professional advancement for sexual favors from his clients. Parsons played the role of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory for 12 seasons, earning four Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Emmys. On film, he appeared in Garden State and Hidden Figures. On stage, Parsons starred in The Normal Heart, playing the same role in the Ryan Murphy-directed HBO movie; last year he starred in the Murphy-produced revival of The Boys in the Band, directed by his Hollywood co-star Joe Mantello.
Taiwanese-American actress Michelle Krusiec stars as Anna May Wong, commonly considered to be the first Chinese-American movie star, who was blocked by MGM from playing the lead role in the 1937 film version of Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth, a role for which white actress Louise Rainer ultimately won the Academy Award. Kruseic previously collaborated with Ryan Murphy on Popular, and starred in the Netflix horror film The Invitation for director Karyn Kusama.
All seven episodes of Hollywood drop Friday, May 1st on Netflix
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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: Hollywood, Netflix, Darren Criss, David Corenswet, Dylan McDermott, Holland Taylor, Jake Picking, Jeremy Pope, Jim Parsons, Joe Mantello, Laura Harrier, Michelle Krusiec, Patti LuPone, Queen Latifah, Ryan Murphy, Samara Weaving