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Why Joshua From Animal Kingdom Looks So Familiar

When TNT's "Animal Kingdom" — an episodic version of the Australian film by the same name — debuted in 2016, it quickly drew in a devoted following of audience members nostalgic for the love-to-hate-them relationship they had toward families like the Sopranos. There's something about the merciless justification of criminal behavior as a means of "keeping the family together" that will truly never go out of style (see: "Yellowstone," as well as ... most shows on TV at the moment.) One of the series' most dynamic characters — narrative catalyst and protagonist-turned-who knows what, Joshua ("J") Cody — is portrayed by a face that's grown increasingly familiar to television audiences in recent years. This is no small feat, considering the actor behind J Cody, English actor Finn Cole, began his career barely a decade ago. 

If you're one of the almost thirty million viewers (via Deadline) who have previously tuned in to see how J navigates life with the frequently savage Cody family, and have wondered where exactly you've seen the series' young star before, here's everything you need to know about Cole's short (thus far) but incredibly prolific career.

Finn Cole got his start in an era to which he'd later return

After landing a small role as a riot boy in Ron Scalpello's "Offender" in 2012 (alongside his brother Joe Cole, who was cast in the lead role of Tommy Nix), Finn Cole quickly landed a much larger role in the BBC's "An Inspector Calls." In the 2015 television movie — the most recent adaptation of J. B. Priestley's play of the same name — Cole played Eric Birling, the insecure, alcoholic son of a reasonably well-off English family who, over the course of three acts, must come to terms with their understanding of who they are as well as their responsibility in a society unwilling to care for its own (via Cult Box).  

Directed by Aisling Walsh and adapted for the screen by "Mary Magdalene" writer Helen Edmundson, the film garnered critical acclaim, and introduced Cole and his ability to breathe life into complex characters to a wider audience. It wouldn't be the last time the actor starred in an early-20th century narrative dealing the struggles of the working class, and the actor's breakthrough role was a prescient and memorable indicator of things to come. 

In Slaughterhouse Rulez, the Animal Kingdom actor dabbled in horror comedy

Following his role in the weighty and socially-relevant period piece, Cole starred alongside Asa Butterfield ("Sex Education") and actor-comedian Simon Pegg ("Mission: Impossible Fallout," "Hot Fuzz") in the 2018 horror comedy "Slaughterhouse Rulez." Cole portrays Don Wallace in the film, a new student at the illustrious and cut-throat boarding school called Slaughterhouse. But what begins as an almost "Mean Girls"-esque dissection of the difficult social structures that govern teenage life quickly devolves into a hilariously chaotic fight for survival "when a mysterious sinkhole appears at a nearby fracking site unleashing unspeakable horror" (via IMDb).

The film is also graced by "Prodigal Son" and "Masters of Sex" star Michael Sheen, who plays the school's headmaster, and "Birds of Prey" (and "Suicide Squad") powerhouse Margot Robbie, who lends her comedic talents to the role of teacher and housemaster Meredith Houseman's (Pegg's) long-distance girlfriend Audrey. Once again, Cole's role in the film would foreshadow his next project — albeit, one extraordinarily different in tone — as the actor's very next job would reunite him with one of his "Slaughterhouse Rulez" co-stars. 

Finn Cole harbored a Depression-era fugitive in Dreamland

In 2019, Cole tackled the role of Eugene Evans in director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte's Depression-era period piece, "Dreamland." The film follows Eugene, a young man struggling on his mother's farm in the aftermath of continued drought and dust storms, and the decisions he makes after finding serial bank robber and wanted fugitive Allison Wells (played none other than Margot Robbie), who's been hiding out in his barn and nursing a bullet wound to the leg. Allison has just narrowly escaped a botched robbery that left five people dead, but Eugene quickly falls for the outlaw once he hears her side of the story. She may not harbor the same romantic feelings toward her unlikely savior that he has for her, but she's more than willing to manipulate his affection in order to achieve her goal of escaping to Mexico. 

Though the film received uneven reviews (Roger Ebert's Peter Sobczynski called it less of an "homage" to and more of an "uninspired imitation" of "the early works of filmmaker Terrence Malick") many were impressed as ever with Robbie's performance, and her addition to the cast helped earn the film a kind of star power that only added to Cole's rise in ranks of Hollywood. His next film would take him out of a small, 1930s Texas farming town and into the streets of Dublin, Ireland for a film The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw would liken to "movies such as Trainspotting or Human Traffic." 

In Here Are the Young Men, Cole starred alongside a future co-star

Cole's character in Eoin Macken's "Here Are the Young Men" was a far cry from the lovestruck, innocent farmer of "Dreamland." An adaptation of author Rob Doyle's novel by the same name, Macken's film follows the general uncertainty and malaise of hard partying high school graduates Matthew Connolly (Dean-Charles Chapman), Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), and the dark and menacing Kearney (Cole), whose lives are impacted in various ways when they witness the death of a young girl during a car accident. Of the collage-like film, The Hollywood Reporter's John Defore writes that although "Macken doesn't make the (car accident) scene arresting enough to build a whole film on, we're meant to view all the bad choices to come as a failure to cope with trauma." Unlike her friends, Anya Taylor-Joy's Jen (with whom Matthew is in love) seems to have her act at least somewhat together, though Matthew's continually poor choices threaten to drive a wedge between them. "Throw in a failed suicide, concerned elders and a couple of attempted rapes," Defore writes, "and you have a troubled-teens drama that should be much more involving than it is." 

Despite receiving criticism for some of its lazier stylistic plot devices, the film allowed Cole to slip into a much darker role than he'd previously played on film, and it's easy to see shades of his "Animal Kingdom" character's volatile psychology in Kearney. Cole and Taylor-Joy were both lauded for their performances (via The Guardian), and fans of one of the actors' other joint-projects were no doubt pleased to see them working together again. But before we get to that, it's worth noting that Cole popped up in one of American audiences' guiltiest pleasures...

Finn Cole joined the Fast & Furious franchise in 2021

Last year, the in-demand actor nabbed the role of the young Jakob Toretto in "F9: The Fast Saga," while the older Jakob was portrayed by "Peacemaker" star John Cena. For those unfamiliar with the approximately one-billion-films-and-counting franchise, Jakob is a "master thief," "assassin," and "high performance driver," who just so happens to be Dom's estranged younger brother and the film's main antagonist. 

As the young Jakob, Cole's scenes shed light on the events that led to the two Jakob's exile from the family, the brothers' rivalry, and their eventual confrontation. Dom has believed for decades that his younger brother intentionally caused the death of their father, but "F9" reveals that their father asked Jakob to sabotage his vehicle so he could throw the race, then "made him swear never to tell Dom because of the shame of it" (via Den of Geek). Not unlike the scene in "Batman vs. Superman" where the vigilante from Gotham decides not to kill the Kryptonian once he finds out the latter also has a mom (named Martha, no less!), the two brothers ultimately put their long-held hatred and thirst for revenge behind them once the secret is finally out. 

However, while "F9" marks Cole's most recent motion picture to date, it has been in yet another popular and acclaimed television series that the actor has most made a name for himself. 

Finn Cole stepped back into the early 20th century with Peaky Blinders

In 2014, Cole joined the ranks of yet another criminal family (from whom, like his later character in "Animal Kingdom," he was originally estranged) when he landed the role of Michael Gray in the BBC's "Peaky Blinders." Over the course of the series' five seasons, Michael transformed from an innocent but awestruck outsider to an intellectually minded and strategic cut-throat capable of going toe-to-toe with the show's violent and complex anti-hero, Cillian Murphy's charismatic killer, Thomas Shelby. Though Michael didn't grow up as a Shelby, as he was taken from his mother Polly (Helen McCrory) while he was still a child, it didn't take him long to go from ingenue, to Shelby accountant, to the would-be opponent to Tommy's decades-old rule over the Shelby family and fortune. 

His role in the acclaimed series marked a return to the early 20th century for the actor, and it also reunited him with both his brother Joe Cole and his "Here Are the Young Men" co-star, Anya Taylor-Joy. In Season 5, Michael returns from America with his pregnant wife in tow — Taylor-Joy's cunning and heavily-accented Gina Gray. Gina convinces Michael to challenge Tommy's hold over the family, and fans of the show have been eagerly anticipating her character's return for the series' sixth and finale season. Given Cole's experience with both period pieces and playing the conflicted and dangerous next generation of criminal families, it's little wonder he's earned such a following in the role of Michael Gray. 

Since 2016, Cole has been starring simultaneously in both "Peaky Blinders" and "Animal Kingdom," and it's easy to see how his performance in one might impact and inform the other.