With the announcement of Damon Lindelof’s in-the-works Watchmen adaptation for HBO, the question instantly became who he is going to cast as that story’s much-loved cast of characters. People have been dream-casting a Watchmen adaptation for decades, first as a hypothetical (and then very real) movie, and even as a previous attempt at an HBO miniseries. For the casting of this new adaptation, it will be important to avoid the mistakes of Zach Snyder’s Watchmen film, which went to so much trouble to be visually faithful to the source material that it sometimes lost sight of the spirit of the thing. Damon Lindelof, fresh off the critically acclaimed weirdness that was The Leftovers, seems unlikely to repeat this mistake.
This is a list of working actors that would fit perfectly in the world of Watchmen, from the six leads down to the supporting players. It was helpful to think of actors who have been affiliated with either Damon Lindelof or HBO in the past, or otherwise seemed likely for a project of this scale. Some of them may not look exactly like their counterparts on the page, but bring a level of acting talent or specific style and feel that would suit the character. Here is Who Should Star In HBO’s Watchmen.
13. Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II – Linda Cardellini
For Laurie Jupiter, aka the second Silk Spectre, its important to cast someone who can project both toughness and vulnerability, often at the same time. No one could pull this off like Linda Cardellini. The former Freaks and Geeks star has a been a reliable presence on movie and tv screens for years, without ever really breaking out in any kind of major way. She recently appeared in Netflix’s Bloodline, a show that declined in quality over the course of its three seasons, but never due to Cardellini, whose performance remained consistent the whole way through.
12. Dr. Malcolm Long – Jeffrey Wright
Dr. Malcolm Long is the unfortunate psychologist who is assigned to analyze the dangerous vigilante Rorschach after he is captured, and it proves to be a difficult task. The book portrays Malcolm Long as an overweight middle-aged man, initially optimistic about Rorschach’s treatment, who begins to despair the more he knows about the so-called-hero and his origins. Malcolm is an intelligent man whose ideals butt up against the realities of a world he doesn’t understand. Jeffrey Wright’s recent performance in HBO’s Westworld makes us think he could pull that off without breaking a sweat.
While it would likely only be a one or two episode guest-starring role, Jeffrey Wright can make it count, just as he makes every small gesture and behavioral tic count in each of his other performances.
11. Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre I – Gillian Anderson
The role of Sally Jupiter, the first Silk Spectre, and the mother of her successor, Laurie Jupiter, is a tough one to cast because its basically two roles. Ideally the same actress would portray the younger Sally; a vigilante who grows up to foist her identity and career on her daughter. The older Sally has been through a lot, and requires an actress who can quickly convey the years of pain and regret, in addition to the Sally Jupiter of the past.
Gillian Anderson has been all over TV ever since The X-Files, but has been doing great work all over the place recently, in shows such as American Gods, Hannibal, and The Fall. Her characters in those shows are often cold and removed, but you can always see the feeling underneath. Plus, her heavily make-upped work as Media in American Gods proves that she’s a chameleon who can pull off whatever a scene requires of her.
10. Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II – Hugh Dancy
Hannibal showed us that Hugh Dancy is the expert at playing at playing fragile people who can’t stop putting themselves at risk of breaking. For the role of Dan Dreiberg, aka Nite Owl, in Watchmen, it’s important to find someone who is not only likeable, but at the end of their rope, unable to deny for even one more second who they really are.
While Dancy would have to gain some weight to play the retired and past-his-prime Nite-Owl, he would be perfect at showing audiences the level of desperation Dan feels after leaving his life of heroics behind. Dancy could embrace the inherent silliness of the character and his owl costume, while simultaneously laying bare the character’s fears and anxieties, riding the line between hero and every-man.
9. Bernard – Jeffrey DeMunn
A veteran actor best known these days for playing poor, doomed Dale on The Walking Dead, Jeffrey DeMunn would be a perfect pick for one of Watchmen‘s two Bernards. A cranky old news vendor and the kid who buys comics from him, the Bernards are like the greek chorus of Watchmen, providing both a reaction to the vents of the story’s world, and a framing device for the story within the story, The Black Freighter, which the younger Bernard is reading from.
While it would probably be best to get an unknown kid actor for the young Bernard, Jeffrey DeMunn could play Bernard the elder with a different sort of crankiness than the character has in the books. Slightly thinner and older than the book version, his Bernard would be cantankerous rather than just a jerk.
8. Hollis Mason/Nite Owl I – Ted Danson
The first Nite Owl, before Dan Dreiberg took on the mantle, was a member of The Minutemen. Easily the most well-adjusted person in the group, Hollis eventually retired and wrote a book about his life as a costumed adventurer called Under the Hood. While there are flashbacks to Hollis as a young man, more time is given to older Hollis, who should be played by everyone’s favorite old guy, Ted Danson.
Ted Danson is just the right amount of amiable to portray Hollis, while still giving off the impression that at one point in his life, this guy was capable of kicking some serious ass. Hollis would be a supporting role, with a couple scenes opposite Dan, and a big one where he comes face to face with some gang members, but Danson would surely make it memorable in the time that he had.
7. Walter Kovacs/Rorschach – Zahn McClarnon
Perhaps the hardest part to cast in all of Watchmen, Rorschach is a supposed superhero who is actually just a violent vigilante driven by extreme anger and paranoia. He believes himself to be righteous, and adheres to his sometimes twisted moral code with absolute certainty, but underneath it all Walter Kovacs is terrified to have found himself in a world that has no place for him. Zahn McClarnon, the incredible Native American actor who played Hanzee in season 2 of FX’s acclaimed Fargo, would be a perfect fit for the role.
In that role, Hanzee’s rage bubbled just beneath the surface, only seen in glimpses. As Rorschach, McClarnon would get to show off much more of that, as well as the stilted awkwardness of Rorschach in his day-to-day life. While making Rorschach a Native American does downplay the character’s right-wing brand of fascist justice, McClarnon is the right actor for this part, plain and simple.
6. Moloch the Mystic – Doug Jones
A former villain who is now dying of cancer, Moloch needs to be creepy and sad, menacing and pathetic, all at the same time. Its important to have someone who is just plain odd-looking, with a tall and thin frame, and an unsettling expression and demeanor, worn down through the years into just a sad old man. While he is typically cast in prosthetic-heavy roles, Doug Jones, known for working with Guillermo Del Toro on such projects as Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy, would be perfect for the role of Moloch the Mystic.
Cast as a minor villain on The Flash as well, Doug Jones automatically comes off as unsettling and just a bit menacing, with an unnatural control over his own physicality. He’s also, however, a wonderful actor in his own right, and could make the audience feel sympathy for this relic of the past with only a few short scenes.
5. Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan – Ricky Whittle
Ricky Whittle first got noticed for playing the stoic Lincoln on The 100, before being cast by Bryan Fuller in his adaptation of American Gods. The lead of that show, Shadow Moon, has a similar stoicism, quickly revealed to be covering up a vast pool of anger and confusion. It’s this dichotomy that makes Whittle perfect for both Dr. Jon Osterman, the hapless scientist caught in a major lab accident; and for Doctor Manhattan, the god-like being that emerges from that accident.
Apart from a willingness to be blue and naked, Doctor Manhattan needs to project a level of serenity that has almost (but not entirely) consumed the fallible and emotional man that he once was. Whittle could pull this off, in addition to looking great in blue body-paint.
4. Janey Slater – Carrie Coon
The Leftovers, Damon Lindelof’s recently completed masterpiece, has a vast pool of talented performers for him to pull from, but none better than Carrie Coon. Between The Leftovers and Fargo, she has proved herself as one of the most effortlessly emotive and relatable actresses on television today. With a face that can express a massive range of often-conflicting emotions in a fraction of a second, Coon would bring a huge amount of pathos to the otherwise minor character of Janey Slater, Doctor Manhattan’s former girlfriend from his corporeal days.
Supposedly given cancer by the man she loves, Janey’s affection for Jon Osterman curdles into bitterness, resentment, and most of all pain. Coon would no problem showing us the very real effect that Doctor Manhattan’s vast power has on the people around him.
3. Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias – Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Perhaps the character that was most ill-served by the previous adaptation, Adrian Veidt is a vastly complex character with the trappings of a two-dimensional Bond villain. Between the secret lair and vast conspiracies, it’s easy to forget that all of Adrian’s actions stem from a genuine desire to do goo;, a conflict that the story’s entire moral conundrum centers around. This makes it pivotal to cast somebody who can ride that line between hero and villain, which is what Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has been doing as Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones for six seasons now.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he fits the bill physically as well. Ozymandias is a handsome, physically capable, and utterly dangerous man, with a level of confidence to match. When that confidence cracks, it should feel momentous, as it did when we finally got to see the man behind the bluster in Game of Thrones.
2. The Sea Captain – Dan Stevens
When Zach Snyder adapted Watchmen for the big screen, the film’s running time necessitated cutting things from the 12-part comic series. The most major of these cuts was The Black Freighter, the story within a story read by young Bernard at old Bernard’s news-stand. With multiple episodes, HBO’s miniseries will hopefully have time to dive deep into the pirate-themed story of moral erosion.
Doing great work on another superhero show, Legion, Dan Stevens is not only believable as a pirate, but brings a level of intensity to his performances that would lend some real weight to the horrific situation that the Sea Captain finds himself in. For a role that would likely be largely silent, its important to get an actor with Stevens’s level of physical commitment, as well.
1. Edward Blake/The Comedian – Jon Hamm
Edward Blake, alias The Comedian, has been so inured to the horrors of the world that he’s come to see it all as nothing but a big joke. Murdered in the opening pages of Watchmen, The Comedian is still a massive presence throughout the story, as both the subject of an ongoing investigation, and through flashbacks in which his callousness and brutality becomes apparent.
Jon Hamm is an acclaimed dramatic actor for his role as Don Draper on Mad Men, but he’s also incredibly talented comedically, a gift that could be weaponized in a performance as The Comedian. His role on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – where he plays a hilariously but still ominously unhinged cult leader – in particular proves his suitability for this role.
His inherent likability would play perfectly against the horror of The Comedian’s actions, like watching the platonic ideal of the American man rot and decay in front of our very eyes.
Who would you like to see cast in HBO’s Watchmen? Let us know in the comments!
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