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Why The Cast Of HBO's Watchmen Looks So Familiar

In 2009, Zack Snyder's adaptation of Watchmen hit theaters, bringing Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel to the big screen for the first time. After years in development, the long-awaited film finally arrived, only to disappoint longtime fans of Moore's groundbreaking work thanks to Snyder's bombastic direction and some surprising choices. It may not have been entirely Snyder's fault, as many have long believed that Watchmen was, simply put, unfilmable, but still, the movie was largely viewed as a failure. 

Fans had to wait years for a new, hopefully definitive adaptation, and in 2018, HBO announced that they would be giving the world a new Watchmen — but this time, it would be a television series. Helmed by Lost and The Leftovers auteur Damon Lindelof, this new version of Watchmen serves as a new and original story based within Moore's world and builds on the events of the film, so fans can expect a brand new story in this dark and layered universe that happens to be populated with plenty of incredible stars. From Academy Award winners to Mad Men alumni, here's where you've probably seen the cast of HBO's Watchmen series before.

Regina King

In the reimagined world of HBO's Watchmen, active police members wear masks on duty to defend against the Seventh Kalvary, a violent group inspired by the original novel's character Rorschach. Since the Kalvary wear masks that mimic Rorschach's signature ink-blot look, the police don masks as well, adhering to a protective law that makes sure police can hide their true identities from those who might target them. One of those officers is Detective Angela Abar, who masquerades under her mask as Sister Night and is played by Regina King.

King has had a long and successful career in Hollywood, which becomes clear when you look at her slate of major awards; alongside three Emmys and a Golden Globe, King also took home an Academy Award in 2018 for her supporting turn in Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk. You might have also seen her in films like Boyz n the Hood, sequels like Legally Blonde 2 and Miss Congeniality: Armed & Fabulous, in supporting television roles on shows like The Big Bang Theory, and as the star of Netflix's short-lived Seven Seconds, which netted her one of her three Emmys, as Latrice Butler, a grieving mother.

Jeremy Irons

For a little while, British legend Jeremy Irons' role in Watchmen was kept quiet, lending an air of mystery to the proceedings, but in the end, an HBO featurette broke the news about which character Irons would play. Released in early September 2019, the behind-the-scenes look at the series featured cast interviews referring to Irons as Ozymandias  — a.k.a. Adrian Veidt, a hugely important character from the original novel known as the "World's Smartest Man" — if you turn on the video's subtitles.

As one of the only performers in cinematic history who has won an Emmy, a Tony, and an Academy Award, Irons has had an incredible career on the stage and screen, and you've undoubtedly seen — or heard — one of his acclaimed performances over the years. One of his most famous performances only features his voice, but even so, Irons' performance in The Lion King is still regarded as the definitive version of the evil lion Scar. Beyond the African plains, Irons has appeared in everything from The French Lieutenant's Woman, Reversal of Fortune (in a role that won Irons an Oscar), The Man in the Iron Mask, and his role as Alfred Pennyworth in the DCEU. If you're a fan of historical drama, you likely also enjoyed his role as Pope Alexander VI in Showtime's The Borgias.

Don Johnson

In a world that requires constant protection for police officers who are clearly under attack from roving terrorist groups, the police chief has to be a powerful presence, protecting his officers from danger while still somehow trying to keep the peace. In this iteration of Watchmen, that job falls to Chief Judd Crawford, played by Don Johnson.

Johnson has led an illustrious career, but he might not be quite as recognizable to younger Watchmen viewers at first glance. Despite a few high-profile supporting turns in projects like Django Unchained, Eastbound & Down, and The Other Woman, Johnson is undoubtedly best known for his starring role as Sonny Crockett on Miami Vice, the hit NBC detective show that ran from 1984 to 1989. After returning to television with ABC's short-lived 2015 drama Blood & Oil, Johnson has found a new small-screen venture, but these days, he might be best known to some Hollywood trivia buffs thanks to his talented offspring: his daughter with actress Melanie Griffith, Dakota Johnson, has made a name for herself in movies such as Fifty Shades of Grey to Bad Times at the El Royale.

Tim Blake Nelson

Because this version of Watchmen is telling a brand new story set within Moore's ultra-detailed universe, there are bound to be some new characters woven into the narrative, one of whom is known as Looking Glass. Tim Blake Nelson, who plays the new figure, described him in a podcast for Empire, saying, "it's a really interesting, intriguing character... I don't really completely understand him, and that's intentional. Damon Lindelof metes out facts about your character as you go along... so I'm learning as I go along who this guy is, and trying to... It's almost like fresco painting. The clay is always wet." According to casting calls, the character is described as a super-sharp cop with excellent interrogation skills who might have a more sinister personality lurking under the surface.

Luckily, veteran actor Blake Nelson is no stranger to complicated characters. A frequent collaborator of Joel and Ethan Coen, Blake Nelson has appeared in several of their films, including O Brother Where Art Thou? and Netflix's acclaimed The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but this accomplished character actor has shown up in everything from Holes to Syriana to The Incredible Hulk to Lincoln, as well as supporting and cameo roles on shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Modern Family

Jean Smart

An ideal way to connect Moore's Watchmen universe to HBO's show is to feature familiar characters who have aged since audiences last checked in with them during the 2009 film adaptation, and fans will likely be pleased to see Silk Spectre once again. Played by Malin Akerman in the film, a more mature version of Silk Spectre, whose real name is Laurie Juspeczyk, will be played by Jean Smart. Years after the events of the movie, Silk Spectre is now working as FBI agent Laurie Blake.

A formidable performer, Smart is the perfect person for such an indispensable character. From 1986 to 1991, Smart was best known for her leading role on the popular television series Designing Women, and since then, she's continued an incredible career, including roles on Frasier and Samantha Who? (both of which netted her Emmy awards), 24 (as a First Lady of the United States), and the FX adaptation of Fargo, for which she was nominated for yet another Emmy. She has also appeared in films such as Garden State, I Heart Huckabees, A Simple Favor, and Life Itself.

James Wolk

In the dystopian universe of Watchmen, government officials have a harder job than ever, and as a junior senator from Oklahoma (where the series is set), Senator Keane, a recurring role played by James Wolk, has an impossible job ahead of him as he tries to use the law to keep the peace between police and attacking terrorists. Especially as a younger member of government, Keane is between a rock and a hard place, and thanks to his strong dramatic resume, Wolk is an ideal choice to play the struggling bureaucrat.

Wolk, who has worked mostly on television, has appeared in a pretty impressive number of acclaimed dramas during his career. After appearing in Showtime's Shameless alongside Emmy Rossum and William H. Macy and USA Network's miniseries Political Animals with Sigourney Weaver, Wolk made a splash in prestige television as Bob Benson on Mad Men, a recurring character who joined the show during its sixth season. Benson may have been a small role, but he quickly became one of the show's most discussed supporting characters thanks to plenty of fan theories — as well as spawning a now-famous meme — setting Wolk on the path to serious dramatic stardom.

Frances Fisher

Playing against Don Johnson's Chief Crawford, an experienced character actor was a must when it came time to cast the role of Jane Crawford, and the minds behind Watchmen found the perfect fit — Frances Fisher, who has been working steadily in Hollywood for decades.

Fisher's breakout role came in Unforgiven, which was directed by actor and director Clint Eastwood, and she followed that part with projects like The House of Sand and Fog, Laws of Attraction, In the Valley of Elah, The Host, and Woman in Gold. Despite her long career in television and film — on the small screen, she has appeared in everything from Grey's Anatomy to Resurrection to Criminal Minds to Masters of Sex — most audiences probably are familiar with her supporting role in Titanic, where she played Ruth DeWitt Bukater, the formidable mother of Kate Winslet's Rose Dewitt Bukater in James Cameron's smash hit film.

Hong Chau

Class divisions abound in the world of Watchmen, and there's no better person to represent the ultra-rich bourgeoisie than Lady Trieu, an elusive trillionaire who holds plenty of wealth, power, and money. This juicy, exciting role will be played by actress Hong Chau, who has made a splash in the past decade and will return to HBO, the network where she got her start, for Watchmen.

Beyond adding to the cast's overall diversity — with a majority of the leads played by actors of color, this is an excellent step for prestige television — Chau brings the same talents to Watchmen that she did to her breakout role in Alexander Payne's 2017 film Downsizing, for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Chau also appeared on two different HBO shows, Treme (where she played Linh from 2011 to 2013) and the smash hit Big Little Lies (where she played a gossipy mother at an upscale Monterey elementary school), as well as lending her voice to Netflix's dark cartoon BoJack Horseman and appearing in Amazon's short-lived afterlife comedy Forever

Andrew Howard

Much like Tim Blake Nelson's Looking Glass, Red Scare is a new character created especially for HBO's Watchmen adaptation, and beyond his signature red tracksuit, the character is identified as a cop and Mafioso with a thick and intimidating Russian accent. The role requires a true chameleon, and the man behind the character is certainly up for the job; Welsh actor Andrew Howard plays the part of Red Scare, which is credited as a regular role.

Howard has been building his career on the stage and screen since 1999, when he made his film debut in an adaptation of The Cherry Orchard. As well as appearing in television projects like Band of Brothers, Hatfields & McCoys, Hell on Wheels, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Howard has shown up in films like Limitless, The Hangover Part II, Taken 3, CHiPS, and Truth of Dare. However, his most notable pre-Watchmen television role came as Will Decody on Bates Motel, on which he appeared for eight episodes.

Robert Redford

One of the most remarkable features of Watchmen's futuristic world is its elected president. Certainly, choosing a celebrity as the President no longer seems like a particularly new concept, but within the universe of Watchmen, one of Hollywood's most legendary actors serves as the most powerful man in the world. On July 26, 2019, the team behind Watchmen announced via Instagram that Robert Redford would play America's longest-running president, who was elected to office in 1992. For context, this version of Watchmen is set in 2019, albeit one with no smartphones or Internet.

One of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood history, Redford gained fame and acclaim alongside Paul Newman in 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the pair teamed up again in 1973 for The Sting, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination. After appearances in The Way We Were and All The President's Men, Redford moved behind the camera and into the director's chair, crafting films like Ordinary People, A River Runs Through It, Quiz Show, and other classics. He was also awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 by President Barack Obama.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Though Regina King's Angela Abar tells a group of elementary school students that she no longer works as a police officer during the Watchmen pilot, that's quickly revealed to be a cover for Sister Night, her nocturnal, masked alter ego who works to fight against the Seventh Kavalry. Naturally, Angela needs a solid support system to make sure her family is cared for, and her husband, Cal Abar, proves himself to be a caring and patient man right off the bat. Cal and Angela's marriage feels extraordinarily solid.

The character of Cal Abar requires a calming and bracing performance, making Yahya Abdul-Mateen II perfect for the role. Abdul-Mateen made his film debut as recently as 2012, but he's been impressively busy since then; after a leading role in Netflix's short-lived Baz Luhrmann series The Get Down, he appeared in Baywatch and The Greatest Showman in 2017, followed by a supporting turn in 2018's Aquaman as villain Black Manta. Other television appearances include brief stints in acclaimed shows like The Handmaid's Tale and Black Mirror. In 2019, he appeared in Jordan Peele's Us, which yielded a starring role in Peele's new Candyman film. His schedule won't be clearing up anytime soon: Abdul-Mateen is also set for a leading role in the fourth Matrix film.