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Where You've Seen The Cast Of East New York Before

The protests against police violence in 2020 shed light not only on how police departments across the country conduct themselves in real life, but also on how they're portrayed in the media. Long-running cop shows like "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and the eternal "Law & Order" franchise were labeled, rightly or wrongly, as "copaganda," creating an environment where showing police on screen can be viewed as a political statement. Against this backdrop, the new CBS drama "East New York" attempts a kaleidoscopic view of policing today, from bureaucratic battles over funding and optics to street-level struggles to keep a community's trust.

Created by "Queen Sugar" producer Mike Flynn and cop show veteran William M. Finkelstein, the series tells the story of Regina Haywood (Amanda Warren), the newly appointed captain of the fictional 74th Precinct in Brooklyn's East New York neighborhood. East New York is one of the city's most crime-ridden areas, and Amanda wants to do something about it by overhauling the precinct's relationship with the community, from focusing less on broken windows policing to insisting that her officers actually live amongst the people they serve. Though she has the support of her chief and mentor (Jimmy Smits), not everyone is comfortable with her reforms; to make a difference, she must overcome resistance from both inside and outside the precinct. The series features an impressive cast of cop show all-stars, newcomers, and a few surprises. Here is where you've seen the cast of "East New York" before.

John Earl Jelks

Episode 2, titled "Misdemeanor Homicide," features actor John Earl Jelks as James Hilliard, the grieving father of a young man recently gunned down near a housing project. Amanda gives him her word that his son's murder won't fall through the cracks, but when the precinct's already-overextended detectives are called in to investigate the killing of a wealthy stockbroker, James' hope for justice curdles into anger. Faced with the prospect that his son's killer will never be arrested, he attempts to take the law into his own hands.

Jelks is primarily a stage actor, best known for his work on Broadway in Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Sweat" and for appearing in the final two plays of legendary playwright August Wilson, "Gem of the Ocean" and "Radio Golf." In 2007, he was nominated for a Tony award for his role in "Radio Golf." On screen, he has made guest appearances on "Law & Order: SVU," "Blue Bloods," and "The Good Fight," among many others, and he had a recurring role on the first season of the Showtime comedy "On Becoming a God in Central Florida." In 2022, he also appeared in a three-episode arc on the NBC medical drama "New Amsterdam." 

Darien Sills-Evans

From the earliest scenes of the series, "East New York" is concerned with the ways in which crime in the city reverberates from the street level all the way up to the highest seats of power. When Regina is involved with an attempted carjacking turned fatal shooting in the first episode, the crime scene draws not just other officers and onlookers, but also Deputy Mayor Raymond Sharpe (Darien Sills-Evans), who was touring the neighborhood with some big-shot real estate executive. Sharpe's visit casts an unwanted spotlight on Regina on her very first day; now, her job is to make East New York safe not just for its current citizens, but also for future gentrifiers who are eyeing the neighborhood.

Brooklyn-born Sills-Evans got his first big television role in his early 20s, appearing in Seasons 3 and 4 of Bill Cosby's CBS sitcom "Cosby." Since then, he has had recurring roles on the NBC first responder drama "Third Watch," David Simon's New Orleans-set "Treme," and the CBS sitcom based on Tracy Letts' play "Superior Donuts," among many other small and guest appearances. On film, he recently appeared in the Johnny Depp-starring "City of Lies," about the investigation into Biggie Smalls' murder, and the Charles Manson biopic "Charlie Says." Sills-Evans is also a prolific voice-over artist for video games and a stand-up comic; in the 2010s, he founded a New York-based weekly open mic night called Tipsy Hustle.

C.S. Lee

Sergeant Jimmy Kee (C.S. Lee) mans the front desk at the 74th Precinct. He is serious, respectful, and an apparent ally in Regina's battle to transform the precinct. At this early stage in the season, Jimmy has been little more than a familiar face behind a desk, but with an actor of Lee's caliber and background, it's likely there's more to Kee than meets the eye.

Lee earned his cop show bona fides over the course of eight seasons of the hit Showtime series "Dexter," where he played forensics expert Vince Masuka, partner to secret serial-killer-of-serial-killers Dexter Morgan. Born in South Korea but mostly raised in the Pacific Northwest, Lee got his start as a stage actor and graduate of the Yale School of Drama. After a few years playing bit parts on "Law & Order" and films like the 2004 remake of "The Stepford Wives," he landed his first regular role on "Dexter" in 2006. That same year, he appeared in two episodes of the final season of "The Sopranos." He also had a recurring role on the first season of the NBC spy comedy "Chuck" in 2007. Since the end of "Dexter" in 2013, he's kept busy with guest roles on "Chicago Med," "Awkwafina is Nora from Queens," and the Apple TV+ space race fantasy "For All Mankind," among many others. He will also be appearing in the upcoming Netflix adaptation of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" alongside Ken Leung and Daniel Dae Kim.

Olivia Luccardi

Young officer Brandy Quinlan, played by Olivia Luccardi, is new to the job and to the 74th Precinct. Inspired by Regina's pledges for reform, she takes to heart the suggestion that police should live in the neighborhoods they patrol and moves into a local housing project. Despite her good intentions, she finds that her new neighbors aren't terribly welcoming to a cop — and a white cop, at that — living so close, spray painting "PIG" across her apartment door one night. Like Regina, Brandy is discovering that the uphill path to change in Easy New York is far steeper than she could have imagined.

After a few short film appearances, Luccardi made her feature film debut in David Robert Mitchell's indie horror hit "It Follows" in 2014. That same year, she landed a recurring role as racist inmate Jennifer Digori on "Orange Is the New Black," appearing in that series' second, fourth, and fifth seasons. In 2018, she appeared in the SyFy anthology horror series "Channel Zero," and played sex-worker-turned-porn-actress Melissa over three seasons of David Simon's 1970s series "The Deuce." Earlier in 2022, she co-starred in the Peacock true crime series "The Thing About Pam" alongside Renée Zellweger.

Lavel Schley

Patrolman Andrew Bentley (Lavel Schley), like Brandy Quinlan, is brand new to the force. He has a mentor in partner Marvin Sandeford, who shows him the ropes and what it means to work the streets every day. Marvin is older and experienced, which is both a good thing and a bad thing, as Andrew takes issue with some of Marvin's old-fashioned tactics, like stopping young Black men on the street for loitering or wearing puffer jackets. Through Andrew, the show depicts how easy it can be for a cop to learn the wrong way of doing things, especially at the start of their career.

Schley is a young actor; this is his first series regular role. A graduate of the New York Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts, his resume includes the low-budget 2019 horror flick "Wretch" and two episodes of the Freeform "Black-ish" spinoff "Grown-ish," plus a few appearances in short films. But Schley has bigger things on the horizon; later in 2022, he'll appear in Marc Forster's "A Man Called Otto," which stars Tom Hanks. We'll be seeing more of him in years to come.

Elizabeth Rodriguez

The detective unit at the 74th is stretched thin, to the point that the only detectives we really see are Tommy Killian and his partner Crystal Morales, played by Elizabeth Rodriguez. While Tommy bristles at Regina's way of doing things, Crystal is more open-minded and ready to try new tactics beyond the old bad ways of getting confessions out of suspects. When dispatched to help investigate the murder of a stockbroker in Episode 2, Crystal's ability to make human connections and powers of observation crack the case.

Rodriguez has been on stage and screen for nearly 30 years; some of her first credits are for the HBO anthology series "Lifestories: Families in Crisis" in 1994 and the Hughes brothers' 1970s-set crime film "Dead Presidents." Rodriguez landed her first cop show in 1997, with a recurring role on the first season of Fox's "New York Undercover," and went on to appear on "Oz," "NYPD Blue," and "Law & Order." Her longest television role came in 2013, when she played the volatile mother of pregnant inmate Daya on "Orange Is the New Black." Her film credits include "Logan," "Skate Kitchen," and the 2010 Philip Seymour Hoffman film "Jack Goes Boating." A member of New York's LAByrinth Theatre Company, she made her Broadway debut in 2011 in Stephen Adly Guirgis' "The Motherf***er with the Hat" and earned a Tony nomination for her performance.

Kevin Rankin

Detective Tommy Killian, played by Kevin Rankin, is old school — "bar-owning Irish cop" old school, "officer who will deny a suspect his right to an attorney, then lie about it on the stand" old school. He's the kind of wise-cracking loose cannon who's been the center of countless police procedurals and films over the decades. Here, though, he's not the main character, and he's definitely not the hero. To Regina, he's a liability, a relic of the old way of doing things, and his insubordination and anger at being called out for his behavior mean there may be a reckoning between the two sooner rather than later.

The Louisiana-born Rankin got his start in the late 1990s, first appearing in a wordless performance as a dying young man in Robert Duvall's "The Apostle." He's been steadily working ever since, building a solid resume of crooked cops, neo-Nazis, and assorted bad guys and henchmen. Even when not playing an explicit criminal, as in Judd Apatow's under-seen 2002 college sitcom "Undeclared," he's often playing jerks and various pains in the neck. In the 2010s, he hit his stride as a go-to prestige TV dirtbag, playing Kentucky henchman Devil on FX's "Justified" and neo-Nazi Kenny on the final season of "Breaking Bad." Rankin also flexed his bad guy muscles on the first season of "Lucifer" in 2016 and on TNT's nail salon crime drama "Claws."

Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Like Tommy Killian, Marvin Sandeford (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) is old school. A beat cop on patrol, Marvin is quick with a joke or a reference to a classic cop show, which his new partner Andrew is inevitably too young to catch. As good as he is at his job, he still holds onto some retrograde ideas that put him at odds with both Regina and Andrew. He's also too eager to wield his authority to pick up suspects, particularly young Black men, for little or no reason.

Santiago-Hudson has been acting on screen since the late 1980s; you can spot him in "Coming to America" as the street hustler who tries to sell Prince Akeem his own stolen toothbrushes. His early career included stints on the soap opera "Another World" and the Judd Hirsch sitcom "Dear John," but for the most part he was a bit player and guest star on shows like "The Cosby Mysteries" and "NYPD Blue." In recent years, he's had regular roles on "Billions," "Castle," and the short-lived TNT series "Public Morals" starring Edward Burns. Beyond his acting roles, however, Santiago-Hudson is arguably better known as a playwright and theatre director. His autobiographical play "Lackawanna Blues" was adapted into an Emmy-winning HBO original movie in 2005, and he's long been dedicated to performing and directing the works of legendary playwright August Wilson. In 2020, he adapted Wilson's play "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" into a Netflix film starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in his final role.

Richard Kind

"I irritate people; I know this about myself," says Richard Kind's Capt. Stan Yenko by way of introduction to Regina on her first day. Stan is indeed a particular and peculiar cop; he quotes old "Twilight Zone" episodes and is learning Italian in his spare time. But he's also ambitious and eager to make a fresh start with his new commanding officer, volunteering himself as her executive officer. Again, as with Tommy Killian, the show uses the audience's knowledge of decades of cop shows to its advantage; whereas plenty of other shows and films have had a middle-aged male cop running a precinct and a younger female colleague as his assistant, here the roles are reversed, and happily so. Stan doesn't appear to be gunning for Regina's job; he only wants to be of service as best he can.

Just as Stan is a peculiar cop, Kind is a peculiar actor for this type of show. A consummate comic actor and Tony nominee, Kind has racked up nearly 300 credits over 30 years on screen, from the 1990s incarnation of "The Carol Burnett Show" to the Michael J. Fox political comedy "Spin City," Larry David's obnoxious cousin Andy on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and John Mulaney's apoplectic father on the raunchy Netflix cartoon "Big Mouth." Other than a few episodes of "Law & Order" through the years, there's not much else like "East New York" on his extensive resume. It will be fascinating to see what the show does with him.

Jimmy Smits

Regina's takeover of the 74th Precinct is overseen by her mentor, Chief John Suarez, played by Jimmy Smits. John is interested in the same reforms as she is, but he's also been around the block a few times, bureaucratically speaking, and knows that changes — even necessary changes — can take a very long time to come around. As much as he's her mentor and friend, he's also her boss, and isn't afraid to take her to task for her missteps, such as when she airs the precinct's dirty laundry to a newspaper reporter or avoids her mandatory psych evaluation after shooting a suspect in the first episode.

Smits' cop show credentials are of course impeccable, having starred as Detective Bobby Simone on the groundbreaking ABC drama "NYPD Blue" from 1994 to 1998. But as much as that role hangs over his entire career, he hasn't actually played that many police officers over his four decades on screen; he's had much steadier work as a TV lawyer, on "L.A. Law," "Dexter," and the short-lived "Bluff City Law." Beyond roles on both sides of the "law" and "order" divide, Smits is a prolific character actor, even starring as his co-star Ruben Santiago-Hudson's own father in the HBO adaptation of "Lackawanna Blues." In the 2000s, he played politician Matthew Santos on "The West Wing," as well as Senator Bail Organa in "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," a role has revisited in the film "Rogue One" and in the 2022 Disney+ miniseries "Obi-Wan Kenobi."

Amanda Warren

Regina Haywood (Amanda Warren) is committed to reforming the 74th Precinct. She wants more accountability, honesty, transparency, and trust between her, her fellow officers, and the community. If that means rooting out bad actors from within the department and ruffling feathers in Manhattan, then so be it. Yet Regina is still a cop at heart, and she may not be quite so willing to accept the conditions that she puts on the officers under her command. There's a miniature Blue Lives Matter flag prominently displayed on her desk, and when she shoots and kills a fleeing suspect in the first episode, she at first refuses to speak to the department's psychologist. If she is going to lead the 74th into a new era, Regina will need to grow along with it.

New York-born Warren studied acting and music at the Professional Performing Arts School. Like many of her co-stars, she put in her time as a day player and guest star on the various "Law & Order" series that film in Manhattan. She was a featured player on the first seasons of HBO's "The Leftovers" and USA's spinoff of "The Purge," and has appeared in writer-director Martin McDonagh's films "Seven Psychopaths" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." Since 2017, she has been a member of the CBS family, appearing as Mayor Zahra Taylor on "NCIS: New Orleans," as well as on "Madam Secretary" and "FBI." Streaming audiences might know her best from the Apple TV+ historical dramedy "Dickinson" or the Season 4 "Black Mirror" episode "Black Museum."