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

Why Felix from No Time to Die looks so familiar

Delayed though it may have been, we're still plenty hyped for a new James Bond movie, especially since No Time To Die is ready to close the book on Daniel Craig's long tenure in the role. In addition to that inevitable turn in cinematic history, the Bond franchise is making some long-needed strides in expanding the number and importance of roles for people of color — a modern trend begun, to a certain extent, by Felix Leiter, who has been portrayed by Jeffrey Wright for a number of years, now.

The long gaps between movies may have faded your memory, but Leiter is hardly the role for which Wright is best-known in his long career across both film and television. His star has been on a meteoric rise in the past five years thanks to one smash-hit prestige television role, and we can only assume it will keep growing from there as his excellent talent dovetails with the long-needed expansion of who gets to tell what stories in Hollywood. Here are the most likely roles in which you've seen Jeffrey Wright in before, what you can look forward to in his bright future, and where to look if you want to indulge some more, a few quality deep cuts from his filmography.

Felix Leiter is familiar, indeed

The character of Felix Leiter has appeared in a number of Bond movies dating all the way back to 1953's Casino Royale. Although several different actors have taken on the role over the decades, Wright has been Leiter in almost every film in Craig's tenure as the British superspy. Casino Royale (the 2006 version) features him most prominently, with Leiter positioned as the man who has an in to the high-stakes gambling world that Bond needs to infiltrate to hunt down Le Chiffre, portrayed by the then-little-known Mads Mikkelsen. He went on to also appear in 2008's Quantum of Solace, though script rewrites limited his role. He's also mentioned in passing by Bond in Spectre, though Wright himself does not appear in the film. Since this is Craig's last movie, and since Leiter is one of Bond's oldest buddies originally established in the novels' canon, it makes sense that his last ride will require calling in one last favor from his American friend.

Jeffrey Wright had big roles in dystopian sci-fi

There are two major properties from which the average person will recognize Jeffrey Wright, although it's been a while since one of them was at the forefront of pop culture. Wright was in the Hunger Games film adaptations as Beetee, one of the former Tributes from District 3 selected for the Quarter Quell in Catching Fire. He was paired with the highly-paranoid and traumatized Wiress (Amanda Plummer) for the twisted gladiatorial revisit, and both eventually joined the rebellion covered in both parts of Mockingjay.

The near-future dystopian hits continue with Wright's other biggest, most recognizable role. Westworld took the very competitive prestige television world by storm when it premiered in 2016, garnering flattering comparisons to other beloved sci-fi like Blade Runner and Black Mirror. Jeffrey Wright has been a presence on the show from the get-go as Bernard Lowe, an AI within the simulated park who is at first unaware he is a programmed construct like the rest of the so-called hosts — androids given sentience by copying the neural interfaces of actual people or animals and inserting them into semi-naturalistic bodies. Wright in particular made great press when Westworld first began blowing up the awards circuit, and was nominated for (but did not win) an Emmy for his performance.

The role has made him more reflective of the potentially maladaptive relationship between man and technology, and what constitutes true happiness and freedom for both his character and others, which he described to Cnet: "Bernard is grounded in loss and tragedy. As a construct, suffering is used as a kind of crucible toward freedom. And that is built into his programming. That's a question he wrestles with himself. And I'm not sure if we get to the answer, but I think the answer lives for Bernard where freedom lives ... He's on a journey toward discovering these things including happiness."

Deeper cuts

Wright is hardly new to prestige-level television; he's been at it since arguably its modern infancy. Most notably, he won an Emmy for the highly-acclaimed 2003 TV miniseries production of Angels in America, in which he reprised his role (he was a member of the original stage production's cast and also won a Tony for it) for the characters Belize, the caretaker of the protagonist, and the imaginary Mr. Lies. 

Semi-historical dramatizations are at the heart of Wright's filmography: He's in Oliver Stone's W., Cadillac Records, and Syriana, just to give a few older examples. If you grew up in the '90s and loved to tear through National Book Award-winning young adult novels, Wright also had a role in the film adaptation of Walter Dean Myers' Monster. In more recent years, he held a recurring role on Boardwalk Empire, the Prohibition-era gang drama starring Steve Buscemi. He portrayed Valentin Narcisse, a Harlem racketeer and antagonist across the final two seasons of the show. 

Jeffrey Wright puts a voice made for radio to work

Screen acting isn't Wright's only milieu — he has done a fair amount of voice work as well. That soft, rich baritone deserves its own recognition, especially since it will soon be put to work in a particularly ambitious project. Wright will be voicing the enigmatic, nigh-omnipotent alien Uatu The Watcher for What If?, the upcoming animated MCU series that will feature alternate histories of the Infinity Stones arc of the MCU films.

As exciting as that is, it's far from Wright's first foray into the field. His voice acting credits run the gamut, from portraying McWinkle, one of the characters in Netflix's recent serialized adaptation of Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham, to brief stints in adult animation with a few episodes each of Bojack Horseman, The Venture Brothers and Rick and Morty. The big-time voice gig of 2020 for Wright, however, comes from The Last of Us Part 2, the highly-anticipated post-apocalyptic video game sequel in which he portrays Issac, one of the primary antagonists and leader of one of the survivor sects at war in the story. If that's a little too intense for your sensibilities, Wright has also had a turn in documentary work, voicing the Black Panther Bobby Seale in Chicago 10, an animated re-enactment of the trial of protestors charged with rioting in the wake of the 1968 Democratic Convention.

There's a lot to look forward to for fans of Jeffrey Wright -- eventually

What If? is an exciting upcoming project, but the comics-based roles don't stop there for Wright's upcoming work, as he'll be appearing as hard-bitten Commissioner Gordon in The Batman alongside Robert Pattinson. The first-peek trailer offered up at the DC Fandome event promises a story simmered in old-fashioned noir, and Wright's iteration of Gordon has all the right gestures at first blush: A man who's clearly exhausted and desperate, but nonetheless hesitant to let the Caped Crusader elbow in on his turf.

No Time to Die, of course, is still on the horizon (and will, fingers crossed, stick to that November 10th US release), but that isn't Wright's only release originally intended for the mess 2020 has made of the movie scene. The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson's latest offering, called upon Wright as a new addition among the director's usual slate of go-to actors. In the film, Wright will play Roebuck Wright, a food journalist reportedly partially inspired by James Baldwin, the famous Harlem Renaissance poet and novelist. The French Dispatch is also suffering from uncertainty, and has been indefinitely delayed, but we're willing to wait however long is necessary for what Jeffrey Wright will bring to the cinematic table.