The Watchmen graphic novel changed what the masses thought a superhero comic book could say about society. The new HBO series is looking to do the same thing for masked heroes in live action, and a cast of gifted actors has been assembled to make it happen.
The show's creator Damon Lindelof has been clear from the start that he's not looking to remake, recreate, or create a 'canon' sequel to Watchmen, but apply the same socially aware and critical eye through which Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created the original series. That's the reason for the show being set three decades after the original story, in a new city, with new heroes, new villains, new threats, and new characters--along with at least a few original Watchmen heroes returning to show how their characters have changed. And no, we're not just talking about Ozymandias.
There are plenty of famous faces and veteran character actors assembled to bring the next chapter of the Watchmen universe to HBO, so let's break down the stars and what fans need to know about their roles.
Regina King as Angela Abar AKA Sister Night
While the Watchmen series is absolutely an ensemble cast, the protagonist of the series is most likely to be seen as Regina King's Sister Night, who put her career as a police officer on hold when cops and their families were targeted in an organized attack by terrorists. Now she keeps her civilian life as Angela Abar uneventful... before suiting up as a masked hero still working closely with the Tulsa police.
With almost thirty years of film appearances behind her, every viewer is sure to know King from one particular role more than others. That being said, it was her recent role in the James Baldwin adaptation If Beale Street Could Talk that won her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. It was also her work with Damon Lindelof in The Leftovers that convinced him no other actress could play Angela.
Don Johnson as Judd Crawford
The force of the law in Tulsa is embodied by Judd Crawford, played by Don Johnson. As the head of the city's police force, Judd is yet another survivor of 'the white night' that saw his officers and their loved ones targeted by criminals. Now in an age where the police wear masks to protect themselves, the fact that Judd does NOT makes a statement on its own.
Johnson became a household name in his first starring role in Miami Vice, then maintained his role as a primetime TV mainstay in Nash Bridges. In recent years audiences will know him best from Eastbound & Down, Django Unchained, and Rian Johnson's Knives Out.
Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veidt AKA Ozymandias (Probably)
Alright, look. From the moment Jeremy Irons was cast in Watchmen, with a story set three decades after the original story, everybody assumed he would be playing the older Ozymandias a.k.a. Adrian Veidt. For whatever reason HBO continues to play coy, teasing Irons as a wealthy man, or even the character you probably assume he is. For whatever reason, the show isn't admitting his connection to the original story (yet).
It was his Oscar win playing 'Claus von Bulow' in Reversal of Fortune (1990) that put Irons on the worldwide map, but his reputation as one of the best actors of his generation now precedes him. But whether audiences know him best from Lolita or as Batman v Superman's Alfred Pennyworth may be a generational matter.
Tim Blake Nelson as Looking Glass
There was bound to be a spiritual successor to Rorschach in the new incarnation of Watchmen, and from the early looks, that seems to be the role filled by Tim Blake Nelson's 'Looking Glass.' Another masked hero working alongside Angela/Sister Night, LG's civilian identity, or history with police, is unknown to start. He instead lets his mirrored mask speak for itself.
A veteran character actor of the highest rank, Nelson is famous for playing eccentric, or oddball characters in larger ensemble casts. His past credits include O Brother Where Art Thou, Minority Report, The Incredible Hulk, and claiming the spotlight with past collaborators the Coen Brothers in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
Jean Smart as Laurie Blake (Formerly Silk Spectre)
The most surprising addition from the original story, Jean Smart joins the cast as Laurie Blake, formerly known Laurie Juspeczyk, formerly-formerly known as the Silk Spectre in the original Watchmen graphic novel. While she originally followed her mother's example as a costumed hero, the comic book ended with Laurie and Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl) happy together. Evidently, things changed enough to land her on the side of the law come the new series.
Jean Smart distinguished herself for her comedic chops in TV series like Designing Women and Frasier (just two of a long list of roles). In more recent years she's appeared in the Fargo TV series, 24, the X-Men adjacent Legion, and Dirty John.
Louis Gossett Jr. as Will Reeves
The role played by Louis Gossett Jr. in Watchmen is mysterious from the very beginning, and as likely to stay that way for much of the first season. All that's clear is that he's got some kind of connection to Angela Abar, whether or not she even realizes it. Assumed to be a new character, expect the secret of 'Will Reeves' to be one of the show's most significant.
With a film career spanning almost sixty years, Gossett's Emmy Award for the role of 'Fiddler' in the 1977 TV miniseries Roots put him on the map, but many will know him from the oft-quoted role of Richard Gere's harsh drill instructor in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. More recently Gossett's appeared in Hap and Leonard, and Extant.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Cal Abar
The role of Angela Abar's husband requires a special kind of man, who must be prepared for threats around every corner, knowing his wife is one of the most feared and effective vigilantes in Oklahoma. That role of Cal Abar is played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who keeps the Abar home on the tracks while Angela chases down leads even if it means risking her neck to do it.
Considering how quickly Abdul-Mateen's star is rising, audiences can take their pick. His appearance as Black Manta in Aquaman gave him a future in the DCEU, his role in the latest season of Black Mirror changed the definition of playing with friends online, and soon he will begin a new sci-fi era cast as the lead in the next Matrix movie.
Additional Supporting Roles
Tom Mison as Mr. Phillips: The former star of FOX's Sleepy Hollow may be unrecognizable with short hair and a clean-shaven face as Mr. Phillips, servant to Adrian Veidt (or whoever it is Jeremy Irons is supposed to be playing).
Sara Vickers as Ms. Crookshanks: If the other company for Adrian Veidt looks familiar, audiences may recently have seen Sara Vickers ('Ms. Crookshanks' in Watchmen)in Shetland, Endeavour on Masterpiece PBS, or The Alienist.
Andrew Howard as Red Scare: This English-born stage actor portrays the Russian transplant, who favors brutal violence over diplomacy or anything approaching 'good cop' investigating. While his face is obscured beneath a red ski mask, Howard will be best known for his roles in Limitless and Hatfields & McCoys.
Frances Fisher as Jane Crawford: Another veteran stage actress, Frances Fisher plays the role of Jane Crawford, Judd's wife. Her previous roles in TV and film span into dozens, so many will more recently have seen her in the TV series Resurrection. But, no matter how many years pass, Fisher will likely always be known as Rose's mother from James Cameron's Titanic.
James Wolk as Senator Keane: This ambitious politician will play a significant role in the first season of Watchmen, with actor James Wolk known for a number of recent TV roles in Mad Men, Zoo, and Goliath.