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Why Knowles From Spiderhead Looks So Familiar

There is plenty of star power in Netflix's "Spiderhead," beginning right at the top with its two leads, Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller. From top to bottom, though, this is a movie brimming with talent, from "Top Gun: Maverick" director Joseph Kosinski to a script from "Deadpool" scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to the actors filling out supporting roles.

A lot of the plot for "Spiderhead" – which was based on George Saunders' short story "Escape from Spiderhead" — has been kept under wraps, but the gist of it is that convicts are offered a chance to shorten their sentences by volunteering for a scientific experiment. Judging by the trailer, Hemsworth's mad doctor is influencing the good and bad emotions of his subjects, and it is sure to go wrong.

Even for those who have read the short story, the film is taking off in some new wild directions, according to the writers, who said they had to expand on Saunders' ideas to give a cinematic take on the work (via JoBlo).

Going back to the film adaptation's supporting cast, the most recognizable may be Jurnee Smollett as Lizzy, but a lot of faces are likely familiar, though perhaps not by name. That's the case with the actor portraying a character named Knowles, and it's likely that the face is familiar. That's for good reason, as the actor behind Knowles has a long history in this business popping up in a wide array of roles and films. 

Charles Parnell was on a soap opera

Charles Parnell plays Knowles in "Spiderhead," and, like many other actors, he found himself earning his 10,000 hours of practice on a soap opera. Parnell's first credit is for "Sex and the City" in 1999, but it was in 2005 that he had his first steady gig as police officer Derek Frye on "All My Children." Parnell appeared on the long-running series until 2008 for a total of 80 episodes (per IMDb). 

Parnell only spent a few years in the fictional Pine Valley, but "All My Children" was a series that debuted all the way back in 1970 and has thousands of episodes under its belt. 

Parnell has been in huge projects since leaving this soap opera days behind, and he doesn't talk about the series much, but he has spoken with fondness about the humble beginnings of his career before he became part of the main cast for a massive Netflix film. Talking with KTLA this year, Parnell revealed he became an amateur bread maker during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and he finds the baking progress he makes similar to his career. "A little starter I started with and I've picked little bits of myself to make the loaves that I put in the movies," the actor said (via KTLA). 

He was Jeter on The Last Ship

In TNT's "The Last Ship," Parnell appeared as Master Chief Petty Officer Russell "Russ" Peters, a character who is credited as being all 56 episodes of the show from 2014 to 2018. The series, produced by Michael Bay, followed the crew of a Navy Destroyer after most of the world's population has been wiped out. The show also starred Eric Dane, Adam Baldwin, and others as fellow Navy officers.  

Bay actually convinced the Navy to allow the show to use the real USS Halsey and USS Dewey to portray the fictional Nathan James in front of the camera (per the Los Angeles Times). According to Parnell, the real locations employed by the show took care of most of the acting for him. 

"You're on an actual Navy Destroyer. So, it's easier," Parnell said, joking that 80% of his job was completed simply by being in the authentic military environment (via Daily Actor). 

Parnell's relationship with Bay extended beyond just "The Last Ship," with Parnell also taking on a small part in Bay's "Transformers: Age of Extinction" in 2014. In that film, Parnell was an unnamed character simply referred to as CIA Director (per IMDb). It should be noted, though, that he seems to be making a good impression on numerous directors as Bay isn't the only filmmaker to pull him from one project to the next. 

He just appeared in Top Gun: Maverick

Parnell is one of multiple carryovers from "Top Gun: Maverick" to "Spiderhead." The actor rejoins Teller and director Kosinski for the adventure, which will arrive only weeks after the much-anticipated "Top Gun" sequel. 

Parnell plays Adm. Solomon 'Warlock' Bates in the hit sequel, and it is arguably the biggest project he's ever been part of. Bates even gets to introduce Maverick (Tom Cruise) early on in the movie. As one of the higher-ranking characters in the film, Parnell didn't get as involved with the breathtaking flying sequences Cruise and Kosinski put together, but he doesn't need such theatrics to make his presence felt. 

"I was jealous of the flying at first, but then when I found out what they had to do to get up in the air, I was like, 'you guys go ahead,'" Parnell joked about the training he got to skip over (via The Hollywood Reporter). 

Parnell even sounds like he's game for another sequel. Asked about the potential for a third movie, he told ScreenRant, "You never know. If you were to ask that question in '87 and then revisit it in 2000, you would have some doubts. You never know."