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Where You've Seen The Cast Of Blockbuster Before

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By the time the once unstoppable Blockbuster Corporation filed for bankruptcy in 2010, the behemoth video store chain had just 1,700 locations, down from 9,094 just six years earlier. As companies like Netflix made renting video through the mail easy and movies found homes on cable (and soon, streaming) networks, the remaining Blockbusters closed down, leaving only a few locations. By March of 2019, the last store remained in Bend, Oregon. It became the subject of a 2020 documentary, "The Last Blockbuster," in which we met the owners and staff, and in which a number of film and comedy talking heads including Kevin Smith, Paul Scheer, Jamie Kennedy, Brian Posehn, and Lloyd Kaufman, fondly recalled a bygone era.

Enter veteran comic writer Vanessa Ramos, who took the documentary's concept and created a sitcom out of it, which bows on — oh, the irony — Netflix, on November 3. Featuring the gifted Randall Park, the show's description reads like a combination of "Superstore" and "Parks and Recreation." The cast also features familiar faces (Melissa Fumero, Madeleine Arthur, J.B. Smoove) and newcomers (Olga Merediz, Kamaia Fairburn, Tyler Alvarez). We'll see if "Blockbuster" has what it takes to join the pantheon of modern sitcom classics. Meanwhile, let's check out (sorry) our leading players and where we've seen them before.

Tyler Alvarez

Tyler Alvarez will be familiar to those who enjoyed the supernatural comedy "Every Witch Way" on Nickelodeon between 2014 and 2015. He also appeared on Netflix's true crime mockumentary series "American Vandal," in which Alvarez played the lead miscreant, Peter Maldonado. Aside from appearances on Hulu's reboot of "Veronica Mars" and Freeform's "The Fosters," Alvarez has found something of a home on Netflix, appearing in Mindy Kaling's "Never Have I Ever" and as Gloria Mendoza's son Benny on "Orange is the New Black." Fluent in Spanish, Alvarez has put his language skills to work as the co-star of Funny or Die's hilarious "educational" web series "¡Me Llamo Alma!" 

On "Blockbuster," Alvarez plays Carlos Herrera, a first-generation American who learned English by watching movies. Apparently, he basically wants to be Quentin Tarantino when he grows up, which means his aspirational goals are just as trapped in the '90s as his current job.

Melissa Fumero

Few would believe that the plucky Amy Santiago from "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" got her start in soaps, but like so many stars, her career had to begin somewhere. For the Cuban-American Melissa Fumero, nee Gallo, her break came when she nabbed the role of Adriana Cramer on "One Life to Live" in 2004, fresh out of NYU. Fumero recalls the casting as "the biggest redeeming moment," and, thinking of her parents who scrimped and saved to get her to college, Fumero informed USA Today that she immediately told them, "I did good! I'm going to get you really nice Christmas gifts from now on!" 

And good she did. Fumero, who met her husband David on the set of "One Life" (and took his name), won the role of Amy in the Michael Schur and Dan Goor-created "Nine-Nine" in 2013, and the rest is history. The series became a bona fide hit that ran until 2019, when it took a creative break following the murder of George Floyd. After that, "Nine-Nine" played its final season in 2021. Fumero next voiced the character of Melissa Tarleton on Hulu's "M.O.D.O.K." opposite Patton Oswalt and Ben Schwartz. On "Blockbuster," Fumero plays Eliza Walker, a possible soon-to-be divorcée and old friend of Timmy's who takes a job at Blockbuster.

Kamaia Fairburn

Known primarily for her roles in several Canadian YA television series, "Blockbuster" won't be Kamaia Fairburn's introduction to American audiences, but considering the exposure it will afford, it might as well be. An avid surfer, vegan, and active Instagrammer, on "Blockbuster" Fairburn is Kayla Scott, the headstrong daughter of Percy (J.B. Smoove), and potentially the TikTok generation's answer to Randal Graves. In terms of where you've seen her, let's start with the two series that made their way to Hulu: "Endlings," an action-adventure-sci-fi eco-excursion, and "Holly Hobbie," in which Holly is a 13-year-old singer-songwriter dreaming of ways to save the world. Less familiar might be Nickelodeon's child-friendly rom-com "Star Falls," and even less familiar, as it never made its way south of the border, would be "Overlords and the Underwoods," in which — wait for it — an evil overlord flees his home planet and moves in with a suburban family (hijinks ensue). 

Madeleine Arthur

Madeleine Arthur almost didn't become an actor. Growing up in Vancouver, Arthur specialized in competitive gymnastics before switching her attention to acting toward the end of high school. And it was off and running, with the wide-eyed actor's first movie role arriving in Tim Burton's 2014 "Big Eyes" with Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. From there, it was on to "The Family," the short-lived 2016 ABC series in which she played the younger version of Alison Pill's character, Willa Warren. Guest spots on "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" and the rebooted "X-Files" followed before she landed the first "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" film for Netflix. Two sequels followed in which Arthur reprised her role as Christine. In 2019, she secured her sci-fi-horror bona fides as the daughter of Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson in Richard Stanley's supremely creepy H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, "Color Out of Space." More TV followed, including "Snowpiercer" for TNT, "Guilty Party" for Paramount+, and the recent "Devil in Ohio" for Netflix. On "Blockbuster," Madeleine Arthur is Hannah Hadman — a Blockbuster employee who's overcome considerable childhood trauma to become reasonably well-adjusted, if not a little uptight.

J.B. Smoove

As a performer, Jerry Angelo Brooks chose the nom de comedy J.B. Smoove, starting out on "Def Comedy Jam" and "Cedric the Entertainer Presents" in the early 2000s before winning a prized gig on the writing staff of "Saturday Night Live," where he remained for three seasons and was part of the team that won a WGA Award for best comedy variety series. In 2007, Smoove landed what is perhaps his most enduring role — Leon Black on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which continues to this day. In between, there have almost been too many shows and films to mention, but highlights include Manny on "Everybody Hates Chris," Ray on "The Millers," and the Quibi short "Mapleworth Murders," for which Smoove earned his first Emmy. He's leant his voice to plenty of animated series, most recently "Harley Quinn" as Frank the Plant and "Fairfax" as Quattro. Big screen roles include "Spider-Man: Far from Home" and its sequel "No Way Home," "The Jesus Rolls," and basketball comedy "Uncle Drew."

On "Blockbuster," the 6-foot-5-inch Smoove is Percy Scott, owner of the strip mall of which the titular store is part. A "man with a plan" according to Netflix's description, Percy is the chatty bestie of Timmy and father of Kayla, which makes him a regular presence in the video emporium.

Olga Merediz

If her face isn't familiar, her voice may be. Olga Merediz has trodden the Broadway boards in "Les Misérables," "Mamma Mia!," and "Man of La Mancha," but it was as Claudia in Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights" that she earned her first Tony Award nomination and Drama Desk Award. Merediz went on to reprise the role in the 2021 film adaptation and provided the singing voice of Alma in Disney's smash hit "Encanto." Born in Guantánamo, Cuba, and raised in Miami from the age of 5, Merediz nabbed her first film role in John Sayles' 1984 movie "The Brother from Another Planet" before embarking on a career full of television and film roles, including a series of judges on the O.G. "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," Lourdes in "Orange is the New Black," George Lopez's mom on FX's short-lived "Saint George," Neil Simon's update of "The Sunshine Boys" with Woody Allen and Peter Falk, and a host of roles in which her character was either named "Abuela," or she played someone's actual abuela (including "In the Heights" and "Encanto"). In "Blockbuster," Merediz is the straight-talking Connie Serrano. How can a Blockbuster video franchise possibly afford to employ this many people in 2022? We'll have to watch and find out.  

Keegan Connor Tracy

Keegan Connor Tracy, who plays Rene on "Blockbuster," has branched out since establishing herself as a busy working actor. She's written children's books and directed a few TV movies. It's the continuation of a long career for the Windsor, Ontario, native that began with a network guest role on the NBC-Paramount action-adventure show "Viper" and came to fruition with a recurring role on Brandon Tartikoff's proto-Sorkin BTS network comedy "Beggars and Choosers" in 1999. She's since played a lead role on UPN's "Six Million Dollar Man" homage "Jake 2.0" from 2003 through 2004, and the recurring role of Jeanne, a cult leader, on "Battlestar Galactica." More guest arcs followed; she meets a boy named Norman who seems completely harmless on the 2013 season of A&E's "Bates Motel," and she pops up in Syfy's "The Magicians." Tracy landed her biggest role to date in the form of Reul Ghorm, aka the Blue Fairy, aka the cursed Mother Superior, on ABC's "Once Upon a Time."  

Stephanie Izsak

A faculty member of the prestigious Vancouver Acting School, Stephanie Izsak is another celebrated Canadian multi-hyphenate featured in "Blockbuster." Like her co-star and fellow countryman Keegan Connor Tracy, she's moved beyond acting: she recently directed Tracy in a 12-minute short, "Consumer" (a winner of Stage 32's International Short Film Competition) and her horror short "Livefeed" won Scariest Film at the 2019 Blood 'n Guts Film Festival. A well-known voice actor, Izsak can be heard in 17 video games; in commercials for Nintendo, McDonalds, Tropicana, and Canadian chain Chatters Hair Salon; and on the Netflix series "The Dragon Prince." But fans of the Arrowverse might recognize her as Officer Daisy Korber of the Central City P.D. on "The Flash." Izsak, who plays Lena on "Blockbuster," is an outspoken animal welfare activist who has promoted the case of the Excelsior Four, fellow Canadian activists that were charged for exposing animal cruelty on an Abbotsford, British Columbia hog farm.

Adam Beauchesne

Hailing from Lethbridge, Alberta (name-checked in "These Apples," from Barenaked Ladies' second album, to add another Canadian reference), Adam Beauchesne's appearance as Tad in "Blockbuster" comes on the heels of a career filled with stage, screen, and voice appearances that have been seen north and south of the border. Notably: "Project Mc2" [squared], a Netflix After School production; "This Blows," a wild horror comedy from "Kids in the Hall" co-founder Bruce McCulloch; "You Me Her," a "polyromantic comedy series" from AT&T/Entertainment One; and roles on "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist," "Fringe," "Kung Fu," "Nancy Drew," "Tucker and Dale vs Evil," "Supernatural," and "DC's Legends of Tomorrow." Aside from "Blockbuster," he's got the charming-sounding holiday rom-com "Must Love Christmas" and a project called "Cold Copy" on the horizon. Beauchesne still maintains a connection to the stage, and, according to his website, along with numerous roles at Vancouver's Ensemble Theatre Company, he's served as an associate producer with the city's oldest professional queer theatre, the frank theatre company.

Randall Park

A member of the elite DCEU-MCU actors club, second generation Korean-American Randall Park has appeared in properties for both entities, including "Aquaman" as Stephen Shin and in "WandaVision" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp" as FBI agent Jimmy Woo. "Blockbuster," in which he plays store manager-movie buff Timmy Yoon, an "analog dreamer in a 5G world" (according to the press notes), will be Park's second time headlining a series after his five-year run as restauranteur Louis Huang on "Fresh Off the Boat." Other notable appearances: "Young Rock" as a future version of himself; the animated "Human Resources" for Netflix; HBO's "Veep," on which he played Minnesota governor Danny Chung; and Netflix original film "Always Be My Maybe" with Ali Wong, directed by "Fresh of the Boat" creator Nahnatchka Khan.

With "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom," HBO's animated "Gremlins" prequel "Secrets of the Mogwai," and the horror-comedy "Totally Killer" coming up, Park seems to have everything laid out for him, but the draw of "Blockbuster" was apparently too great to pass up. He told Entertainment Weekly, "There was just so much going on with these characters. There's just so much history and so many complicated feelings, but also just feelings of real love and camaraderie ... it just had so much heart. I think that's what really sold me."