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Why The Cast Of Wendell & Wild Sounds So Familiar

More than a decade after Laika Studios' dark fantasy "Coraline," director Henry Selick finally makes his directorial comeback with another stop-motion animated feature, "Wendell & Wild." Selick has teamed up with Netflix and co-writer Jordan Peele to bring the long-in-development project to life. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, the "Nightmare Before Christmas" filmmaker confirmed that the film's journey to the screen wasn't an easy one at all, as it was plagued by numerous surreal delays throughout its production. Apart from being delayed by the pandemic, environmental issues also threatened the film's production, with a heat wave, wildfires, and ice storms swirling around the animators as they carried out their intricate work.

Like Selick's previous stop-motion animated films, "Wendell & Wild" is also a horror comedy with distinct gothic visuals. The story follows two scheming demon brothers who are sick and tired of working at their uncaring father's hair farm. To be free of their father's domain, they devise a plan which involves enlisting an angsty teenage girl, Kat, to summon them into the Land of the Living. Kat, who lost both her parents in a car accident, agrees to their plan as long as they fulfill her impossible demand.

Leading the voice cast are the comedic duo of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, whose creative partnership started when they both became cast members of the sketch comedy series "MADtv." In addition to the instant classic sketch show "Key & Peele," they've previously worked together in other animated films like "Storks" and "Toy Story 4." Joining them are an ensemble cast of acting veterans and rising talents. Get to know more about the cast of "Wendell & Wild" and discover where you might have heard their voices before.

Jordan Peele as Wild

Voicing one of the titular leading roles in "Wendell & Wild" is Jordan Peele. Wild, is a short, stocky demon who's working at his father's hair farm with his brother. Peele is a comedic actor who found success behind the camera, starting with his acclaimed feature directorial debut "Get Out." The 2017 psychological thriller earned Peele an Oscar Award for Best Original Screenplay, making him the first Black writer to win in that category (via Vanity Fair).

Before venturing into filmmaking, Peele first started as a cast member on Fox's sketch comedy series "MADtv," in which he played various characters beginning in the show's ninth season. After leaving the series in 2008, he teamed up with "MAD" co-star Keegan-Michael Key to star, write, and executive produce their very own sketch comedy show, "Key & Peele," on Comedy Central. Following its debut, it became an instant hit with critics and audiences alike as snippets of their skits drew massive attention online. During its five-season run, it won a Peabody Award and two Emmys.

Peele's partnership with Key also transcended to the big screen. In 2016, the comedic duo scored their first movie project as leading stars in the buddy action comedy "Keanu." Following the commercial and critical success of "Get Out," Peele became one of Hollywood's rising directors thanks to his thought-provoking and thrilling direction style. He followed this up with another psychological horror film, "Us," and the alien thriller "Nope." Apart from directing, Peele has also served as a writer and producer on a few films and TV shows such as "BlacKkKlansman," "Candyman," "The Twilight Zone," "Hunters," and "Lovecraft Country." While Peele's no longer acting on-screen, he still does some occasional voice work for projects like "Bob's Burgers," "Big Mouth," and of course, "Wendell & Wild." 

Keegan-Michael Key as Wendell

Taking on the leading role of Wild's tall, lanky brother Wendell is Keegan-Michael Key. In 2001, Key made his television acting debut after landing a minor role in an episode of the hit medical drama "ER." His major breakthrough came in 2004, when he received the opportunity to join the cast of the classic sketch comedy "MADtv," where he became best known for his portrayal of his Coach Hines character and his various celebrity impersonations. 

After exiting the show in 2009, Key scored supporting roles in a bunch of comedy films, including "Due Date" with Robert Downey Jr., "Just Go With It" with Adam Sandler, and "Wanderlust" with Paul Rudd. In 2012, he and long-time comedic partner Jordan Peele created their very own sketch comedy series "Key & Peele" for Comedy Central. Following its successful reception, Key scored recurring roles on "Parks and Recreation," "Fargo," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "Rick and Morty," "Modern Family," and "Veep." Apart from making guest appearances, he also nabbed leading roles on shows like "Friends from College," Apple TV+'s "Schimgadoon!," and Hulu's "Reboot." Outside of his partnership with Peele and his prolific TV work, he also started landing roles in all-star films such as "Horrible Bosses 2," "Pitch Perfect 2," "Tomorrowland," "The Predator," "Dolomite is My Name," "The Prom," and "The Bubble."

Key is also no stranger to animation, as he's been voicing various characters since 2014, including "The Lego Movie," the "Hotel Transylvania" films, "The Angry Birds Movie," "The Lion King," "Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers," and Disney's 2022 "Pinocchio" remake. Following "Wendell & Wild," audiences can once again hear his voice on the big screen in "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," in which he plays Toad.

Angela Bassett as Sister Helley

The formidable Angela Bassett stars in "Wendell & Wild" as Sister Helley, a badass demon hunting nun who's also a science teacher by day. Bassett started building her career as an actress during the 1980s, with her early acting roles including appearances on the CBS soap opera "Search for Tomorrow," the family drama "Ryan's Hope," and the long-running soap opera "Guiding Light." 

By the 1990s, Hollywood started to notice her commanding screen presence with supporting roles in John Singleton's coming-of-age drama "Boyz n the Hood" and Spike Lee's biographical drama "Malcolm X." Her leading performance in Brian Gibson's Tina Turner biopic "What's Love Got to Do with It" earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Her other notable film roles during the '90s include Mace Mason in Kathryn Bigelow's cyberpunk thriller "Strange Days," Detective Rita Veder in Wes Craven's supernatural horror "Vampire in Brooklyn," Bernie Harris in Forest Whitaker's "Waiting to Exhale," and Janet Williams in Craven's musical drama "Music of the Heart." 

From the 2000s up to the present, Bassett has continued to shine in both independent and high-profile films. Her most prominent role recently is Queen Ramonda in Marvel Studios' groundbreaking superhero film "Black Panther," a role she reprises in the long-awaited sequel "Wakanda Forever." Before "Wendell & Wild," audiences may have heard her voice in Disney's "Meet the Robinsons" and in Pixar's "Soul." 

As for her television career, Bassett portrayed the series regular role of Dr. Cate Banfield on the medical drama "ER." Her performances on Ryan Murphy's "American Horror Story: Coven" and "American Horror Story: Freak Show" brought her two Emmy nominations. Currently, she's working with Murphy on the ongoing procedural drama "9-1-1," which she executive produces and stars in as Sergeant Athena Grant-Nash.

Lyric Ross as Kat Elliot

In "Wendell & Wild," Lyric Ross plays the role of Kat Elliot, marking her first major leading role. Her character, Kat, is a 13-year-old punk rock-loving girl who gets enlisted by the titular demon brothers to help them get through the Land of the Living.

Ross began her acting career in 2015, when she was cast in minor appearances on two shows: USA Network's comedy series "Sirens" and the NBC drama "Chicago Fire." Her real TV breakthrough came when she landed the recurring role of Deja Pearson in the second season of the acclaimed family drama "This Is Us," playing the rebellious teen daughter of Sterling K. Brown's Randall Pearson. Later on, she was eventually promoted to a series regular role for the show's last four seasons. In 2017, she made her feature acting debut in the independent Chicago-set drama "Rogers Park," in which she played Ruby. The following year, she joined the cast of "Canal Street," a drama thriller film following a Black teenager getting wrongfully accused for murder.

After "This Is Us" ended its six-season run in 2022, Ross secured her most high-profile project to date. She has been tapped to join Dominique Thorne in Marvel Studios' upcoming Disney+ series "Ironheart," which is currently in production at Atlanta. Further details about her character are still being kept under wraps, but she is set to play Riri Williams' best friend (via The Hollywood Reporter).

James Hong as Father Best

James Hong voices the character of Father Best, the headmaster of Kat's new school. Before entering the industry, Hong worked as a road engineer (via TV Guide). Now, he is a veteran actor known for his incredibly prolific career in cult classic genre films and voice work for animation.

Audiences may have heard him in notable animated features like "Mulan" as Chi-Fu, the "Kung Fu Panda" films as Mr. Ping, "Abominable" as Yak Leader, and "Turning Red" as Mr. Gao. He also did voice work on a number of TV series like "Dexter's Laboratory," "Todd McFarlane's Spawn," "Avatar: The Last Airbender," and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." Aside from voice acting, Hong has also been appearing in films and TV shows since the 1950s. His most notable TV roles throughout his nearly seven decades of acting include Barry Chan in "The New Adventures of Charlie Chan," Chu on "MacGyver," "William May" on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D," and many more. 

Just like his television career, Hong also has extensive film credits, with more than 600 film roles under his belt — a CNN profile with the headline "He's Probably Been in More Movies Than Any Actor in Hollywood History" says it all. He's best known for his supporting appearances in "Chinatown," "Blade Runner," "Big Trouble in Little China," "Balls of Fury," and "The Day the Earth Stood Still." In 2022, he appeared in A24's universally acclaimed sci-fi action drama "Everything Everywhere All at Once" as multiple versions of family patriarch Gong Gong. Following "Wendell & Wild," his voice can be heard again in HBO Max's animated series "Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai" as Grandpa Wing.

Ving Rhames as Buffalo Belzer

Ving Rhames voices Buffalo Belzer, the tyrannical father of the titular mischievous brothers in "Wendell & Wild." Before the stop-motion animated film, Disney fans would have heard Rhames' voice in "Lilo & Stitch," in which he voices intimidating social worker Cobra Bubbles.

After studying at Juilliard (per Empire), Rhames scored small appearances on TV shows like "Miami Vice," "Crime Story," "Spenser: For Hire," and "The Equalizer." In 1994, he finally landed his first major TV gig on the medical drama "ER" with the recurring role of Walter Robbins. His TV breakthrough came in 1997, when he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries for his leading performance as the iconic boxing manager in HBO's TV film "Don King: Only in America."

In addition to his television career, Rhames has also become a prominent figure in movies. His early film credits include appearances in "Casualties of War," "The Long Walk Home," "Jacob's Ladder," the horror comedy "The People Under the Stairs," and the political satire "Dave." He nabbed key roles in high-profile films like "Pulp Fiction" as Marsellus Wallace, "Mission: Impossible" as Luther Stickell, "Con Air" as Diamond Dog, and "Bringing Out the Dead" as March.

Due to the blockbuster success of "Mission: Impossible," he went on to reprise his role in several sequels. Besides "Lilo & Stitch," Rhames has also lent his voice in other animated projects like the biblical comedy film "The Star." He'll also be heard in the upcoming "Garfield" movie starring Chris Pratt.

Tamara Smart as Siobhan

Tamara Smart plays the role of Siobhan, one of Kat's classmates at her new Catholic boarding school. Smart is a rising young English actress who made her acting debut in 2017, when she landed a series regular role on the children's fantasy drama "The Worst Witch." During the series' four-season run, she played Enid Nightshade, one of the loyal best friends of Bella Ramsey's lead character Mildred. She also had a recurring role on the British crime drama "Hard Sun."

In 2019, Smart made her American TV debut when she nabbed one of the leading roles on Nickelodeon's horror anthology reboot of the classic '90s series "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" For the first season, she portrayed Midnight Society member Louise Fulci. The following year, she scored her first high-profile film project in the form of Disney's live-action adaptation of "Artemis Fowl," in which she appeared as Juliet Butler. Despite having a powerhouse cast consisting of Judi Dench and Colin Farrell, the film was still received poorly by critics. During the same year, she landed the leading role of Kelly Ferguso in Netflix's film adaptation of "A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting."

Before "Wendell & Wild," Smart appeared as a young Jade Wesker on Netflix's series adaptation of "Resident Evil," marking her second collaboration with the streamer. Netflix ultimately canceled the series after it failed to garner enough views (per Deadline).

Ramona Young as Sweetie

Voicing Kat's classmate Sweetie in "Wendell & Wild" is Ramona Young. Young is a Chinese American actress, best known for her appearances in a handful of popular shows. Before venturing into mainstream media, she first starred in a few short films, including "Specter," "Wanderers," and "Star-Crossed." She also tried her hand at filmmaking as she directed, wrote, and produced the 2015 short "Live Exit Here."

Young's early acting roles in television consisted of brief appearances on shows like "This Indie Thing" and "Super Fun Night." In 2016, she finally landed her first series regular role on Syfy's horror series "Z Nation," playing Kaya for three seasons. The following year, she was cast on two more shows, FXX's romantic comedy "Man Seeking Woman" as Robin and Netflix's horror comedy "Santa Clarita Diet" as Ramona. After "Z Nation" ended in 2018, Young scored a key role on the Arrowverse series "Legends of Tomorrow." For two seasons she played Mona Wu, who in the later episodes gained the ability to shapeshift into a werewolf-like creature called the Kaupe.

Young can also be seen as a main cast member on Netflix's popular teen dramedy "Never Have I Ever," loosely based on co-creator Mindy Kaling's childhood. Compared to her television career, Young has only appeared in a few films so far, with supporting appearances in YouTube's sci-fi thriller "The Thinning," Universal Pictures' sex comedy "Blockers," and HBO Max's buddy road comedy "Unpregnant."

David Harewood as Ling Klaxon

In "Wendell & Wild," David Harewood can be heard as businessman Ling Klaxon. Harewood has become a familiar face on British television due to his many recurring roles, including on the medical drama "Always and Everyone" as Mike Gregson, the police drama "The Vice" as Joe Robinson, the BBC dramedy "Babyfather" as Gus Pottinger, ITV drama "Fat Friends" as Max Robertson, "The Palace" as Major Simon Brooks, and the BBC One adaptation "Robin Hood" as Tuck.

By the 2010s, Harewood started to make his mark on American television, thanks to his memorable role as Davis Estes on Showtime's spy thriller series "Homeland." In 2015, he signed on to his biggest TV project to date with the Arrowverse series "Supergirl." For six seasons, Harewood played Hank Henshaw, aka J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter. Besides being a main cast member on the Melissa Benoist-led superhero series, he also served as a director for four episodes.

As for his film career, Harewood has made supporting appearances in a few British independent films, including the crime thriller "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," the romantic drama "The Merchant of Venice," the action thriller "Victim," and the spy film "Spooks: The Greater Good." He was also featured in star-studded movies like the political war thriller "Blood Diamond" with Leonardo DiCaprio, the action comedy "Grimsby" with Sacha Baron Cohen, and the romantic drama "Tulip Fever" with Alicia Vikander.

Natalie Martinez

Natalie Martinez is set to voice a supporting character in "Wendell & Wild," which marks her second animated project after voicing the role of Meghan in the 2019 musical adventure "UglyDolls." Martinez launched her acting career in 2006, when she was cast as Michelle Miller on the soap opera "Fashion House." The following year, she scored the series regular role of Pilar Martin in the telenovela "Saints & Sinners."

In 2008, Martinez made her feature acting debut in the action thriller "Death Race" starring Jason Statham. She followed that up with major appearances on two police dramas, "Detroit 1-8-7" as Det. Ariana Sanchez and "CSI: NY" as Det. Jamie Lovato, as well as on the mystery drama "Under the Dome" as Deputy Linda Esquivel. Afterward, she continued getting cast for main roles on short-lived dramas like "Secrets and Lies," "The Crossing," "The I-Land," "The Fugitive," "The Stand," and "Ordinary Joe." She also was a memorable presence on Audience Network's Frank Grillo-led drama "Kingdom" as Alicia Mendez.

Following "Death Race," Martinez has only appeared in handful of notable films, including the action thriller "End of Watch" starring Michael Pena, the neo-noir "Broken City" with Mark Wahlberg, the sci-fi actioner "Self/less" led by Ryan Reynolds, the Chadwick Boseman-led revenge thriller "Message from the King," and "Reminiscence" with Hugh Jackman. After "Wendell & Wild," she can be seen alongside Michelle Monaghan on the Apple TV+ drama series "Bad Monkey."

Tantoo Cardinal

Tantoo Cardinal is another veteran performer lending her voice to "Wendell & Wild." She's an award-winning actress who's gained recognition through her numerous roles in films and television, spanning from the late 1970s up to the present.

Cardinal's most notable performances in film include Black Shawl in the epic Western "Dances with the Wolves," Pet in the Brad Pitt-led drama "Legends of the Fall," and Illanaq in the action thriller "Hold the Dark." In addition, she's also made recurring appearances on several hit shows in both Canada and the States, including "Street Legal, "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," "The Guard," "The Killing," "Blackstone," ”Mohawk Girls," "Longmire," "Outlander," and "New Amsterdam." For her contributions in the advancement of Aboriginal performing arts in Canada, she was inducted in 2009 to become a member of the Order of Canada, one of the country's highest civilian honors. She was also recently given the Governor General's Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award in recognition for her work in film and TV.

Besides "Wendell & Wild," Cardinal is currently attached to appear in two high-profile projects — Martin Scorsese's Western crime drama "Killers of the Flower Moon" starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and Marvel Studios' upcoming Disney+ series "Echo," centering around Alaqua Cox's "Hawkeye" character, Maya Lopez.