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

Why The Cast Of Atlanta Looks So Familiar

There's nothing quite like "Atlanta," a show that blends genres but always maintains its own unique tone. While it is primarily about a rising talent from the eponymous city trying to make it in the music business without losing his identity, it's full of moments of dark, surreal comedy, deep drama, and outright horror. The only way a show this ambitious can succeed is with a team of talented creators at the top of their game striving to make art that they are truly proud of. However, those creators also need strong actors capable of nuanced performances, and "Atlanta" has exactly that.

With a blend of acting veterans and promising young talent, "Atlanta" has an incredible cast. The actors involved in the show have helped catapult it from a cult favorite to a genuine hit that is well known in the United States and beyond. Here's why they look so familiar.

Matthew Barnes (Lucas)

Matthew Barnes shows up in the second season of "Atlanta" as Lucas, the manager of a rapper named Clark County. He and Earn have known each other for some time, but there doesn't seem to be much of a friendship between them. In fact, Lucas doesn't hesitate to try and woo Paper Boi away from him. Thankfully, this doesn't happen — Lucas gets taken away by the TSA after Clark County has him take the fall for a firearms offense.

Barnes decided to commit to acting after getting a bachelor's degree from Auburn University, where he studied radio, television, and film. Before he landed the role of Lucas, he appeared in an episode of "The Vampire Diaries" as Jay, a member of the Mystic Falls Community Protection Squad who died via a stake to the neck. In 2017, he joined the cast of the Tyler Perry series "The Haves and the Have Nots" as Officer Allen. You may also recognize him as Agent Wallace from the series "Strange Angel" or as Peter Crane from the 2021 film "Queen Bees."

Zazie Beetz (Van)

Like many characters in "Atlanta," former teacher Vanessa "Van" Keefer is at a crossroads. Her relationship status with Earn (her ex and the father of her daughter Lottie) is constantly in question. She wants to make it work but knows it probably never will, and she's struggled to find the right path for herself since losing her teaching job. This complex character is played to perfection by Zazie Beetz, who received an Emmy nomination for her performance in 2018.

Since her first acting credit in 2013, Beetz has been working like crazy. In 2016, she appeared as Allie in the mini-series "Margot vs. Lily." She began playing Van on "Atlanta" that same year, and she also debuted as Noelle in the Netflix series "Easy." Two years later, she played the lucky mutant Domino in "Deadpool 2," one of the only members of X-Force to survive their parachute mission. She starred in another R-rated comic book film in 2019, appearing as Sophie (the object of Arthur Fleck's romantic delusions) in "Joker." She continues to work steadily and shows no signs of slowing down.

Khris Davis (Tracy)

Season 2 of "Atlanta" saw the introduction of Khris Davis' Tracy, a friend of Al who stays with him following his release from prison. He's intimidating, fearless, and loyal, making him a perfect bodyguard. However, his over-enthusiasm for this role causes more problems than solutions in Earn's eyes, and he sees him as a direct threat to his future with Al.

Davis only had a couple of other credits to his name when he won his "Atlanta" role: He played a security guard in the TV series "Unforgettable" and then popped up in "Detroit," a film about the riots that took place in the city during the 1960s. Since appearing in "Atlanta," Davis has been in the critically acclaimed films "Goldie" and "Judas and the Black Messiah," which scored 95% and 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. His hot streak came to an end in 2021 when he appeared in the disappointing "Space Jam: A New Legacy" as Malik, an old friend of LeBron James.

Griffin Freeman (Dave)

In the pilot episode of "Atlanta," Earn needs to convince his cousin Al that he can be his manager. To do this, he decides to try and get his single played on a local radio station. He has a connection named Dave (Griffin Freeman), who considers Earn a friend but isn't willing to help him out. Earn goes over his head to get the track played, but they seem to be on friendly terms when he pops back up in Season 2.

One of Griffin's earliest and most recognizable roles was Margo's unfaithful boyfriend Jase in the 2015 film "Paper Towns," based on the novel by John Green. He went on to make appearances in the television shows "Ray Donovan," "NCIS: Los Angeles," and "The Goldbergs." Fans of "The Walking Dead" will no doubt recognize him as Mark, a member of the Saviors who got punished by Negan for sleeping with Amber, his ex-girlfriend. Amber ended her relationship with Mark to become one of Negan's wives, giving her access to medication for her sick mother. In 2022, Freeman joined the cast of Tyler Perry's "The Oval," playing the character Agent Sims.

Christopher Farrar (Loquareeous)

"Atlanta" Season 3 opens with a perfect reminder of how surreal, dark, and hilarious the show can be with a standalone episode that focuses on an entirely new character. Loquareeous is a kid just trying to get by in school, but nobody wants to give him a genuine chance. His mother and grandfather are fed up with him, and his foster mothers are terrifying people who should have never been allowed to watch over children.

Fronting a season premiere is a lot of pressure to put on a young man's shoulders, but Christopher Farrar never plays a weak note. He commands our attention and empathy from start to finish, which is no surprise given the experience he's already had in the entertainment business. In just seven years, the young actor has made appearances in highly-respected shows like "Jane the Virgin," "All American," "Veep," and "Young Sheldon." In 2020, he played Auggie Roberts in several episodes of the medical drama "Chicago Med."

Brian Tyree Henry (Alfred)

When Alfred Miles isn't playing video games or selling marijuana, he's performing under the name Paper Boi. He decides to take his rap career seriously when his eponymous song gets some attention, but he soon discovers that the music business isn't all it's cracked up to be. Al struggles to get paid what he deserves without compromising his pride or diluting his image. He is played by Brian Tyree Henry, who is Emmy-nominated for his performance in the series.

Like many others, his career began with a role in the long-running police procedural "Law & Order." Not long after this, he had a multi-episode run as Winston on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," and he played Travis Brown in "Vice Principals," another HBO show. In 2018, he played Fonny's friend Daniel in the romantic drama "If Beale Street Could Talk," based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name. That same year, he was part of the star-studded cast of the Steve McQueen film "Widows." He has also worked on blockbuster flicks like "Joker," "Godzilla vs. Kong," and the 2021 Marvel Studios epic "Eternals." He co-starred as Phastos, the inventor of the titular group.

LaKeith Stanfield (Darius)

The holy trinity at the center of "Atlanta" consists of Earn, Al, and a fascinating character named Darius. While many people in Al's orbit are concerned with how they appear, Darius doesn't mind what people think of him. Full of dubious factoids and drawn to the esoteric, Darius is one of those people you can never quite figure out, but you're always glad he's around. He's played by LaKeith Stanfield, an actor who can stand out in a role while disappearing into it at the same time. You might recognize him when he shows up, but you quickly accept him as the character, allowing any pre-existing expectations to fall away.

Early in his career, Stanfield portrayed civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson in the 2014 Ava DuVernay film "Selma." The following year, he was Snoop Dogg in the N.W.A biopic "Straight Outta Compton." He had a memorable role in Jordan Peele's "Get Out," playing Andre, the character who first confirmed Chris' suspicions that something was very wrong at his girlfriend's childhood home. In 2018, he starred as telemarketer Cassius Green in the Boots Riley film "Sorry to Bother You," and in 2021, he reunited with his "Get Out" co-star Daniel Kaluuya for "Judas and the Black Messiah." He was nominated for an Oscar for his turn as real-life FBI informant Bill O'Neal in the film.

Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Raleigh)

At first, Raleigh Marks (portrayed by Isiah Whitlock Jr.) doesn't really have much time for his son Earn. When Earn stops by the house in the pilot episode, he refuses to let him in because he knows he's going to ask for money. He is clearly disappointed in his son's decision to leave Princeton, but he knows not to push him on the subject. When Al asks him if he can trust Earn to be his manager, Raleigh admits he doesn't blame his nephew for being cautious. However, he assures him that when his son really wants to do something, he gets it done.

Isiah Whitlock Jr. is one of those actors that seems to show up everywhere. He has over 120 credits to his name, having appeared in everything from shows like "Cagney & Lacey" and "As the World Turns" to movies like "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" and "Goodfellas." He's known for his collaborations with Spike Lee, having plied his trade in "25th Hour," "BlacKkKlansman," and "Da 5 Bloods." Fans of HBO's "The Wire" will no doubt recognize him as Clay Davis, Maryland's corrupt senator.

Myra Lucretia Taylor (Mrs. Marks)

We meet Earn's mother in the pilot episode of "Atlanta," but it's not until the Season 2 episode "Fubu" that we get a sense of who she is. Like any mother, Mrs. Banks only wants what's best for her son. This means not sugar-coating things for him and giving life lessons, like the importance of hard work, always making a good first impression, and sticking by your family. She is played by Myra Lucretia Taylor, who has been active in Hollywood since the 1990s.

Taylor debuted in a Season 4 episode of "Law & Order," a show she would appear on many more times in the years that followed. She's also popped up in "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." Taylor has made several other TV appearances on shows like "Girls," "Elementary," "Madame Secretary," "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," and "Hunters." In terms of feature films, she's known for Sidney Lumet's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" and the hit rom-com "The Big Sick," in which she plays Nurse Judy.

While all of this was happening, she also worked extensively in the theater, even spending a lot of time on Broadway.

RJ Walker (Clark County)

RJ Walker joined the cast of "Atlanta" in its second season, playing the rapper Clark County. He's initially friendly with Al, but there is something very sinister bubbling below the surface. While Al is concerned with making it as an artist without compromising a sense of normalcy, Clark County is fine with sacrificing the people closest to him to achieve his goals.

Walker became interested in acting during frequent visits to the movie theater with his father. "Every time I went to the movies — especially if it was an action movie or a thriller — when I would leave, I would leave with this feeling," he told Arts Atl. "After a while, I thought, 'Wow, I want this feeling forever. How can I do this?' And that's where acting really came into my life."

He studied drama and improv before landing his first TV role in 2014's "Jon and Jen Are Married." Two years later, he guested on the Zach Galifianakis series "Baskets" and appeared in an episode of "Castle." He went on to secure roles in "2 Lava 2 Lantula," "Switched at Birth," and the Amy Poehler film "Wine Country." In 2019, he began playing David Wright in the BET series "Boomerang," a sequel to the Eddie Murphy film of the same name.

Donald Glover (Earn)

Donald Glover is probably the most widely recognizable "Atlanta" actor. He stars as Earnest "Earn" Marks, an intelligent and creative guy with something to prove. Earn left college before the start of the series and has been trying to find his place in the world ever since. Although he truly believes he has what it takes to manage his cousin Al's rap career, his inexperience leads to continuous missteps and failures. Not only is Glover the primary protagonist of "Atlanta," but he is also the show's creator, in addition to frequently penning and directing episodes.

Glover is a multi-hyphenate who has been blazing his own unique trail in film, television, and music for years. An early success for him was the role of Troy Barnes, a former high school football player who bucked under the pressure of being a star athlete and wound up attending Greendale Community College rather than a major university in "Community." He had a small role on "30 Rock" (a show he also wrote for), and he was impressive as the young Lando Calrissian in the underrated 2018 film "Solo: A Star Wars Story." If you're not familiar with any of his other acting work, you may know him better as rap artist Childish Gambino.

Katt Williams (Willy)

Arguably the most recognizable "Atlanta" cast member after Donald Glover, Katt Williams appeared as Earn's uncle Willy in the Season 2 opener "Alligator Man." Just as Clark County is a reflection of what Al could be if he allowed himself to be corrupted by the music business, Willy — who never amounted to much despite having potential — symbolizes what could happen to Earn if he doesn't get his act together.

Most people know Williams for his prolific career as a stand-up comedian, though he's also been acting since 2002. He got the ball rolling with a guest appearance on the crime drama "NYPD Blue" and made his movie debut that same year, appearing in the third installment of the "Friday" franchise, "Friday After Next." Other notable film credits include "Norbit," "Epic Movie," "First Sunday," and "For the Love of Money." In 2021, he starred opposite Mike Epps in "The House Next Door," playing a vampire pimp. This sequel to the 2016 comedy "Meet the Blacks" (a parody of "The Purge") was one of the worst movies of 2021.