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

Why Arby From Utopia Looks So Familiar

Amazon Prime Video's Utopia, scripted by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, presents a world that's anything but utopic.

There's a pandemic on its way — one devastating enough to turn society inside out, closer to Cormac McCarthy's The Road than anything envisioned by Thomas More. There is, however, a way to stop it: by placing trust in a comic book called The Utopian Experiments, which is essentially a step-by-step guide to surviving the pandemic. Getting people to believe in a messianic comic book is a difficult sell, though. Those who buy it are a part of the "Network," a shady organization that goes after the main characters and the comic.

Arby is one of the Network's most dogged agents. He's not the most ... stable of individuals, making him a fearsome antagonist for the tense series. Actor Christopher Denham brings this dangerous man to life, and this is far from his first rodeo when it comes to prestige programming. In fact, he's been a part of some pretty popular movies and shows in the past, as well as some indie gems. Here's where you may have seen him before.

Denham shared a scene with Leo in Shutter Island

Leonardo DiCaprio is about as big as it gets in Hollywood. His epic fame is due in large part to his earlier days as a heartthrob, but also because he takes his job as an actor seriously. He's also not afraid to use his stardom to promote good causes like environmental conservation, either.

For all these reasons and more, Denham will probably one day tell his grandkids about the time he shared a scene with Leo's U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels in Shutter Island. The film takes place on the titular island, where insane asylum Ashecliffe Hospital houses some intense patients. Daniels is tasked with investigating the place after one of said patients disappears, a mission that tests his very sanity.

In the course of the investigation, Daniels interrogates Denham's Peter Breene, an Ashecliffe patient who's a bit off his rocker. The actors play off each other extremely well, delivering tension and intensity to the scene. The appearance doesn't last more than a minute or two, but Denham uses the time well, proving he's more than capable of bouncing off of Hollywood's biggest talents.

Denham hid a dark secret on Manhattan

The Manhattan Project marked a controversial time in world history. The advent of nuclear weapons capable of destroying the planet several times over is a dark topic for any story to revisit, and Manhattan revels in that inherent morbidity. The show isn't a pinnacle of historical accuracy, though history does certainly inspire the events and characters.

One of those character's is Denham's Jim Meeks, a stereotypically nerdy scientist who also happens to be an actor. A good man by all accounts, he's cognizant of the need to mourn (death isn't all-too uncommon when big government projects are the name of the game) and the importance of legacy. Yet, this sympathetic man isn't who he says he is; the audience learns late in the first season that Meeks is, in fact, a Soviet spy.

The revelation leads to a chain of events rife with violence and feelings of betrayal, but it's hard to completely hate Meeks. He has a noble reason for spying, at least. Per Meeks' logic, if multiple countries have the recipe for an atomic bomb, it will lead to a life-saving stalemate ensuring that the weapons are never used. Denham's performance actually makes this justification quite convincing.

Denham made a great escape in Argo

Like Manhattan, Ben Affleck's Argo is based on historical events, though it's not entirely historically accurate in its rendering of those events. Historical nits to pick aside, the film garnered an extremely positive reception upon release. The cast was nominated for — and won — several ensemble awards, including one from the Screen Actors Guild.

The film chronicles the story of CIA exfiltration specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck), burdened with a seemingly impossible mission: retrieve six Americans trapped in Tehran after the U.S. embassy there was stormed by Islamists. Iran was a land of revolutions and rampant change in the late 1970s and early 1980s — not a place any American would want to be stuck. It takes one doozy of a plan for Mendez to succeed: He poses as a movie producer and gets the hostages to pretend they're his film crew.

Denham's Mark Lijek is one of those hostages, so it's his job to play it cool and go with the flow. He doesn't trust Mendez at first — only natural when there's so much craziness going on — but he eventually concedes, becoming a vital "crew member" on the "production team." His performance helps sell just how tense the situation really is, and how an ordinary person can do extraordinary things when push comes to shove.

Denham played the lead in Sound of My Voice

Psychological thrillers have to be done right; it's almost too easy for them to end up feeling contrived or cheesy, minimizing the intended impact. Sound of My Voice definitely gets it right, making it somewhat unfortunate that the film was overlooked by mainstream audiences. Still, it was fairly well received by those who did see it, and was nominated for several awards for its acting, writing, and directing.

Unlike most of his other roles, Denham plays the lead here: a man named Peter Aitken who, along with his wife Lorna (Nicole Vicius), sets out to document a cult. The documentary isn't just an artistic endeavor, either. The couple's plan is to expose cult leader Maggie (Brit Marling) as a fraud. It's the sort of thing that can only lead to trouble, and that's exactly what happens.

Denham does an excellent job selling Peter's transformation as a character over the course of the film. Super skeptical of Maggie at first (who, just for reference, claims she's come from the future to find people to help her fix her messed-up timeline), Peter slowly but surely falls for her — belief-wise and romantically. It's more than worth the watch to find out how things end up playing out.

Lead or not, Denham's always had what it takes to make his screen time matter. Whatever role he takes after Arby, he's sure to be as watchable as ever.

Utopia debuts on Amazon Prime Video on September 25.