The Good Lord Bird: Why The Actor Who Plays Frederick Douglass Looks So Familiar

Those who don't have access to Showtime or have just never heard of the series should know: The cable giant's historical drama series The Good Lord Bird was legit one of the best programs to hit the airwaves in 2020. But even if you're not aware of the show, you're likely familiar with the history behind it. The Good Lord Bird follows radical abolitionist John Brown (Ethan Hawke) as he and his integrated militia barrel toward their infamous raid on the Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry in 1859.

Told with a flair for the gritty and a fierce, sweaty-palmed immediacy, The Good Lord Bird finds Hawke in rarified form as Brown, delivering a fiery, wild-eyed performance that sees his character teeter between wise, willful revolutionary and full-blown maniac with a thirst for blood. Hawke also surrounds himself with a few frequent acting collaborators, such as Steve Zahn (Hamlet, Chelsea Walls), Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood), and Ben Dickey (Blaze) — not to mention his own daughter, Strangers Things' breakout Maya Hawke.

As one might expect, those actors are largely playing characters based on historical figures, as is one notable new face to Hawke's orbit, the actor portraying The Good Lord Bird's Frederick Douglass. Odds are, that actor's face looks familiar to you because it's been quite prominent in and around Hollywood in recent years. It belongs to Daveed Diggs, and you'll definitely be seeing a lot more of him moving forward as he's a bona fide star on the rise. Here's why Frederick Douglass from The Good Lord Bird looks so familiar.

Before playing Frederick Douglass, Daveed Diggs commanded stage and screen in Hamilton

If you're familiar with Daveed Diggs, it's almost certainly because you're also familiar with a little Tony-winning theatrical juggernaut by the name of Hamilton. Adapted for the stage by musical ingenue Lin Manuel Miranda from Ron Chernow's beloved biography about founding father Alexander HamiltonHamilton brought historical drama into the modern era by melding classic Broadway-style singing and dancing with inspired flourishes of hip-hop beats and rapping. Miranda was also famed for casting people of color in all the major, historically white roles, telling The Atlantic that the radical decision was designed to portray the story of "America then, told by America now."

Hamilton premiered off-Broadway in 2015 to rave reviews, setting records at the Tony Awards a year later and eventually winning the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. And yes, before playing Frederick Douglass on The Good Lord Bird, Daveed Diggs was among the original cast members of Hamilton, portraying both Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette throughout the play's lauded run on Broadway. Though Diggs left the production in mid-2016, he was more than happy to reprise his dual roles when Walt Disney Pictures green-lit a new theatrical taping for their Disney+ streaming platform in 2020. And even after a couple of years away from his star-making roles, Daveed Diggs clearly hadn't lost a step when he made his triumphant return.

Like on The Good Lord Bird, Blindspotting saw Daveed Diggs playing for laughs and for drama

One of the reasons Daveed Diggs opted to step away from Hamilton after such a lauded tenure was because the play had seriously raised his profile in entertainment circles. The actor had quickly booked gigs on Netflix series' The Get Down and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and he landed a recurring role on the hit ABC sitcom Black-ish. Diggs soon began scoring big-screen gigs, too, turning up opposite Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson in 2017's Wonder.

A year later, Diggs appeared as the co-lead in a big-screen production that was clearly close to the Oakland native's heart. That film was 2018's tragi-comic crime marvel Blindspotting, which Diggs co-wrote with his pal Rafael Casal. Casal appears alongside Diggs in the movie, which follows a pair of Oakland-born pals, one of whom (Diggs) is a convicted felon just days away from ending his parole period and starting his life anew. The other (Casal) is a kind but troublemaking misanthrope who seems bent on inadvertently landing his buddy back in jail. Though we're sincerely hoping you caught Diggs' towering work in Blindspotting, we recognize that it was easily among the most overlooked films of 2018. Even a couple of years later, Blindspotting's hilarious, heartrending, and brutally honest tale of racial and socio-economic struggles still feels tragically underseen. It honestly could not come more highly recommended, especially after you've watched Diggs as Frederick Douglass in The Good Lord Bird.

Having played Frederick Douglass, Diggs is now leading a revolution on TNT's Snowpiercer

If you've somehow managed to miss Daveed Diggs in any of the aforementioned productions, it's still likely you recognize his face from a small-screen project other than The Good Lord Bird. And as it happens, said project is another steeped in themes of racial and socio-economic injustice — though this one also comes fit with a narrative propelled by the potentially world-ending perils of global warming. The series in question is none other than TNT's bracing post-apocalyptic drama Snowpiercer, which sees the last remnants of humanity trapped aboard a high-tech train speeding through an icy landscape years after Earth was engulfed in a second Ice Age.

If that plot sounds familiar, it's because Snowpiercer is based on a beloved graphic novel of the same name, which itself inspired a cult hit 2013 film from Oscar-winning Parasite helmer Bong Joon Ho (starring none other than Captain America himself, Chris Evans). The TNT adaptation doesn't wholly reinvent the Snowpiercer narrative as much as it expands the world we've already seen, taking careful cues to explore the story's heady themes down to their very core. It also finds Diggs trading lines with the likes of Jennifer Connelly (Requiem for a Dream) and Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings trilogy). If you haven't seen Diggs in Snowpiercer, you haven't yet seen him at his absolute best.