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Why Ridgeway From The Underground Railroad Looks So Familiar

"The Underground Railroad" — "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins' powerful limited-series adaptation of Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name — has two relative unknowns in the lead roles of escaped enslaved Black people Cora (Thuso Mbedu) and Caesar (Aaron Pierre). However, there are a number of recognizable faces in the supporting cast, like William Jackson Harper from "The Good Place," Lily Rabe from "American Horror Story," and "The Blacklist" star Megan Boone. Perhaps the best-known actor in the main cast plays Ridgeway, the slave catcher pursuing Cora and Caesar after they escaped from a plantation in Georgia. He's determined to capture Cora because her mother is the only runaway he never caught. It's a challenging role, but the actor who plays him is not afraid of a challenge. 

Actor Joel Edgerton has built a career out of striking and memorable roles in films big and small. He's a highly prolific character actor who can do a wide variety of parts and whose IMDb listing includes some very good movies. Edgerton has had a number of very notable roles over the course of his career; here are some of the roles in which you may have seen him before.

Joel Edgerton had a small but important role in the Star Wars prequels

Before he became the prolific and well-respected actor and filmmaker he is today, Edgerton was in film's biggest franchise. One of Edgerton's earliest roles was a small supporting part in "Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones" and "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" as Owen Lars, Anakin Skywalker's (Hayden Christensen) moisture-farming Tatooinian stepbrother who later is given infant Luke Skywalker to raise after the death of Padmé (Natalie Portman) and Anakin's turn to the Dark Side. He doesn't have much screen time, but he's actually in the very last shot of the prequels, alongside his wife Beru (Bonnie Piesse), after Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) gives them Luke.

Edgerton is slated to reprise his role as Lars in the upcoming Disney+ "Obi-Wan Kenobi" series. In 2014, he told ComingSoon.net he'd like to reprise his role as Owen Lars as long as he got to do some "good action s—." "I don't want to just be a nerdy moisture farmer," he said. Hopefully he's getting his wish.

He broke out with Animal Kingdom

Edgerton kicked around the Australian film industry until he broke out in a big way with the 2010 crime thriller "Animal Kingdom," which also helped launch the international careers of Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver, the latter of whom was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as crime family matriarch "Smurf" Cody. The film's legacy is bigger than the number of people who've seen it; in America, it's best known as the source material for the TNT's "Animal Kingdom" series adaptation that's going into its fifth season.

Edgerton played Barry "Baz" Brown, a gang leader and armed robber who wants to go straight. Baz serves as a mentor to young J (James Frecheville), Smurf's grandson, who falls in with the gang after his mother dies. In a memorable scene, Baz teaches J how to wash his hands. He's also the subject of one of the twisty film's most shocking moments.

He played an iconic American character in The Great Gatsby

In 2013, Edgerton had a prominent supporting role in visionary director Baz Luhrmann's hit adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, "The Great Gatsby." He played Tom Buchanan, the rich, selfish, stuck-up husband of Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who resents Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) for his new-money social status and prior relationship with Daisy. "It's a great gift to play a character like Tom Buchanan, because he's all the things that you would hate to recognize in yourself in life, but that you really enjoy playing on screen because you can go home and not be them once you've finished work," Edgerton told "Good Morning America" about the character. "And Tom is all the great qualities that I'm glad that I'm not — well, I hope that I'm not."

Ben Affleck was originally supposed to play Tom, but after he dropped out of the project to make "Argo," Edgerton stepped in. It worked out very well for both of them, as Edgerton noted in the GMA interview.

He creeped us out in The Gift

In addition to acting, Edgerton has had success as a writer-director. He wrote, directed, and starred in the unnerving 2015 psychological thriller "The Gift," a Blumhouse movie that made $59 million at the box office against a budget of $5 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The film stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as Simon and Robyn, a wealthy couple whose lives are upended by the entrance of a strange former schoolmate of Simon's named Gordo (Edgerton). At first, Gordo seems very friendly, but then things turn sinister as secrets from their past get revealed to Robyn. It was a pretty audacious move for Edgerton, who wrote a very disturbing character for himself, but Edgerton is not afraid to play very dark characters.

Edgerton wrote the film as an exercise in subverting expectations in the thriller genre. "You take the dog away from the couple — he's stolen the dog. What's going to happen? Of course, the dog is going to end up in five pieces. But then you do the opposite," Edgerton told RogerEbert.com. "You constantly jostle around. What I wanted to do was swap the roles of the villain and the hero."

He got made up for Bright

You may not recognize Joel Edgerton from "Bright," even though he's a huge part of the Netflix movie. In the fantasy crime thriller, he's under heavy prosthetic makeup as the bald, blue-skinned, yellow-eyed orc Nick Jakoby, America's first orc police officer. The only recognizable part of Edgerton is his cheekbones. In the film, Jakoby is partnered with human LAPD veteran Daryl Ward (Will Smith), who doesn't trust him because he's an orc. Together, they uncover a magical conspiracy and have to dive deep into Los Angeles' elvish underworld to save the city.

Edgerton had to sit for more than three hours in the makeup chair each day to get in character, which meant he had to get to set long before Will Smith did, meaning Smith didn't see Edgerton's face for almost the entire shoot, according to an interview the actors did with Rotten Tomatoes. "I visited set towards the very end after getting out of makeup a little early one day," Edgerton said. "And people just looked at me like 'What's that dude doing here?'"