Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Professor Kim From An American Pickle Looks So Familiar

On August 6, 2020, HBO Max released its first original film – and the streaming network certainly wasn't playing it safe with its inaugural cinematic outing. The inspired comedy-drama from director Brandon Trost (the cinematographer behind movies like Halloween II and The Night Before), An American Pickle tells the story of Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen), an early-20th-century Jewish immigrant who falls in a huge pickle vat and spends a century preserved in the pickling liquid before waking up in 2019. The freshly de-pickled Herschel then locates his last living relative, Ben (also Rogen), and starts his new life as a fish out of water. (Or should we say "a pickle out of brine"?)

Though he often clashes with his more modern-minded relative, Herschel becomes something of an internet celebrity when he starts a pickle business (of course) and later repeats the trick when he becomes a free speech icon on Twitter. This leads to one of the movie's most memorable and important scenes, where Herschel's debate with Professor Kim Ecklund ends in a disastrous religion-themed tirade, provoked by an antagonistic Ben. It's a wonderful scene where both debate opponents shine and play off each other.

However, if you've seen An American Pickle and have a nagging feeling that you've seen the actress who plays Professor Kim, Joanna P. Adler, somewhere before, you're not alone. Let's take a look at why Professor Kim from An American Pickle looks so familiar.

Joanna P. Adler was Opal on Devious Maids

Since 1993, Joanna P. Adler has been appeared in a whole bunch of movies and major TV series — including Sex and the CitySchool of Rock, Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, Chicago Fire, The Blacklist, Interrogation, and no less than three Law & Order shows (the OG Law & Order plus SVU and Criminal Intent). 

For a long time, Adler was largely a one- or two-episode wonder, though she did have a recurring voice-acting role on the Cartoon Network animation Venture Bros. as Myra Brandish, the mentally disturbed former bodyguard of Dr. Venture. In 2011, she got her first recurring on-screen role as Mrs. Phillips on the Terry Crews family sitcom Are We There Yet? 

That gig ended in 2012, and in 2014, Adler joined the Lifetime comedy-drama Devious Maids – as a series regular. Her role was Opal Sinclair, the trusted but conniving maid of Nicholas Deering (Mark Deklin). Opal was at odds with Marisol Suarez (Ana Ortiz) when the latter grew close with Nicholas. After a complex series of twists and turns, we discovered that Opal was also behind the supposed suicide of Dahlia Deering (Susie Abromeit), and Adler ended up exiting the show with a rather literal bang.  

Joanna P. Adler was Chaplain Royce on Orange Is the New Black

Fans of the Netflix prison comedy-drama Orange Is the New Black may recognize Adler from her appearance as Chaplain Royce of Litchfield Penitentiary on seasons 1 and 3. In her very first scene, we found Adler's Royce arguing with the hyper-religious Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) about chapel decoration matters. A bit later, we revisited her in only slightly more serene circumstances, when she had to sit through the many atrocious auditions for the prison's Christmas play. 

On Orange Is the New Black season 3, the good Chaplain was yet again outdoing her own exasperation. The episode "Where My Dreidel At" had her dealing with the "Norma-worshippers," a peculiar sect that believed the introverted Norma Romano (Annie Golden) had special powers. She was dismayed by the way the Norma-worshippers were using the chapel for their meetings, as she insisted they were basically a meditation group and therefore had no right to claim religious freedom. Later in the season, Royce officiated the marriage ceremony of Lorna Morello (Yael Stone) and Vince Muccio (John Magaro).

Joanna P. Adler was Mary Ann Cunanan on American Crime Story

In 2018, Adler gave a powerful performance on American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, the second season of FX's true-crime anthology series, which dealt with the events that led to the death of fashion legend Gianni Versace. Adler played Mary Ann Cunanan, the mother of Versace's murderer, the spree killer Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss of Glee fame). Mary Ann is depicted as a tragic, weak character who had few earthly possessions but who welcomed Andrew with open arms when he came to live with her after running out of options. She doted on her son and gave him everything he needed, only for him to reject her in the end. 

Adler's body of work has been full of quality, and thankfully, it looks like we're going to see a lot more of her in the future. In fact, she has three projects in various stages of production as of August 2020. Adler is set to appear opposite Sharon Stone, Kevin Kline, and Billy Crystal in the Crystal-directed romantic comedy Here Today, and she has a role in Lin-Manuel Miranda's upcoming feature directorial debut, the musical drama Tick, Tick ... Boom! According to Deadline, Adler is also slated to appear as one of the main characters in Patty's Auto, an upcoming Fox comedy pilot. She'll play Chyna, the mentor to the main character Patty Stewart (Sarah Levy of Schitt's Creek), who has a penchant for practical jokes. Judging by Adler's previous work, we suspect that all of those projects will be worth checking out. 

In the meantime, An American Pickle is available to stream on HBO Max now.