Netflix’s starry new drama Hollywood brings together an impressive cast, with Broadway veterans and new talent and plenty of Ryan Murphy’s favourite actors from his portfolio of TV shows. You’ve got Patti LuPone, you’ve got Darren Criss, you’ve got Jim Parsons – and they’re all together to take us back to Hollywood’s Golden Age and show us what might have been.
Here are the actors who feature, and the real-life or fictional characters they play.
David Corenswet plays Jack Castello
Who is Jack? An aspiring young actor who is determined to make it in Hollywood – but when we meet him in episode one, he’s not having much luck. He’s a veteran of World War Two who moved to Los Angeles with his wife to try and make his dreams come true, but now she’s pregnant and they can’t get a mortgage on a house and things are looking pretty hopeless…
What else has David Corenswet been in? He is best known for starring as River Parkley in Ryan Murphy’s previous Netflix drama, The Politician. David Corenswet has also made appearances in TV shows including House of Cards, Instinct, and Moe & Jerryweather – and in the movie Affairs of State, in which he played Michael Lawson.
Darren Criss plays Raymond Ainsley
Who is Raymond? An upcoming director and screenwriter, keen to get his foot in the door and change Hollywood for the better by tackling racial discrimination. He is half-Asian; like Darren Criss in real life, his mother is Filipino.
What else has Darren Criss been in? Having first attracted the public’s attention by playing boy wizard Harry Potter in the series A Very Potter Musical, Darren Criss really shot to fame as Blaine Anderson in Glee (the musical TV series created by Ryan Murphy). Since then, he’s won Emmys and Golden Globes for his lead role in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. He has also appeared on Broadway, explored his talents as a musician and a voice actor, and started working on a new drama called Royalties.
Jeremy Pope plays Archie Coleman
Who is Archie? A young gay man trying to make it as as screenwriter in Hollywood – despite the discrimination against African Americans.
What else has Jeremy Pope been in? This is a breakout screen role for the actor. On Broadway, he’s previously starred in Choir Boy and Ain’t Too Proud – roles for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.
Laura Harrier plays Camille
Who is Camille? An aspiring actress under contract at Ace Studios, which means she’s taking acting and elocution lessons while waiting for small on-screen roles in movies. She’s dating Raymond.
What else has Laura Harrier been in? Viewers are most likely to recognise her as Liz from the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming. She’s also starred as Destiny Evans in the US series One Life to Live, and has appeared as Patrice Dumas in the movie BlacKkKlansman.
Samara Weaving plays Claire Wood
Who is Claire? Another aspiring actress under contract with Ace Studios. She is determined to be a star.
What else has Samara Weaving been in? The Australian actress began her career starring as Kirsten Mulroney in the TV series Out of the Blue and then Indi Walker in Home and Away. In recent years, she’s played Penelope in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, and Irma Leopold in the TV adaptation of Australian classic Picnic at Hanging Rock – and in 2019 she led the cast of the comedy horror movie Ready or Not, alongside Adam Brody and Andie MacDowell. Other credits include Mayhem, The Babysitter, and SMILF.
Dylan McDermott plays Ernie
Who is Ernie? The boss of an unusual gas station.
What else has Dylan McDermott been in? Dylan McDermott is another long-time Ryan Murphy collaborator, having starred in American Horror Story as the characters Bruce, Johnny Morgan, and Dr Ben Harmon; he also played Theo Sloan in The Politician. The Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated actor starred as law firm head Bobby Donnell in legal drama The Practice, and also appeared in the movies The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Olympus Has Fallen, and Blind. TV credits include No Activity, Stalker, Hostages, and The Grid.
Holland Taylor plays Ellen Kincaid
Who is Ellen Kincaid? A boss at Ace Studios, who’s involved in casting.
What else has Holland Taylor been in? The Emmy-winning actress previously starred alongside her Hollywood co-star Dylan McDermott (above) in TV series The Practice, playing Judge Roberta Kittleson. She was also nominated for a bunch of Emmys for her role as Evelyn Harper in US comedy series Two and a Half Men. Holland Taylor is a prolific actress with 120 screen credits to her name, including Mr Mercedes, ‘To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You’, Legally Blonde (as Professor Stromwell), The Wedding Date, The L Word, and The Truman Show.
Patti LuPone plays Avis Amberg
Who is Avis? A former star of the silent movies, who became redundant when the talkies arrived thanks to her Jewishness. She is unhappily married and finds sexual pleasure elsewhere.
What else has Patti LuPone been in? The actress has a groaning awards shelf, with two Grammys, two Tonys, and two Oliviers. She’s best known for her work in stage musicals, including The Robber Bridegroom, Evita, Les Misérables, Gypsy, and Company. Like many (many!) of the actors in this TV series, she’s also worked with Ryan Murphy a few times before – playing Frederica Norman in Pose, Joan Ramsey in American Horror Story, and herself in the season two finale of Glee. Other screen credits include 30 Rock (as Sylvia Rossitano) Penny Dreadful (as Dr Seward), Steven Universe, Vapirina, Oz, Frasier, Life Goes On, Ugly Betty, Driving Miss Daisy, and Girls.
Rob Reiner plays Ace Amberg
Who is Ace? Avis’s husband, who is also the big boss of Ace Studios.
What else has Rob Reiner been in? Rob Reiner won his first Emmy in 1974 for his role as Michael Stivic in All the Family, and in 1993 he was nominated for an Oscar for producing the movie A Few Good Men. He was Max Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, and Bob Day in New Girl; but he’s also directed a ton of movies too, including The Princess Bride, Misery, This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, When Harry Met Sally, and The American President.
Joe Mantello plays Dick Samuels
Who is Dick? A boss at Ace Studios, involved in casting and commissioning movies.
What else has Joe Mantello been in? The actor and director is mainly known for his work on Broadway and on the stage, including Angels in America, Wicked, Take Me Out, 9 to 5, and Assassins. He’s also directing the upcoming Netflix film The Boys in the Band, featuring his Hollywood co-star Jim Parsons.
Maude Apatow plays Henrietta
Who is Henrietta? Jack Castello’s wife. She is three months pregnant and working in a coffee shop and living in a tiny rented ‘efficiency’ apartment, and she’s reached a point of extreme exasperation with her unemployed husband.
What else has Maude Apatow been in? The young actress is actually the daughter of Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann. So far in her career she’s played Cleo in the TV series Girls, Sadie in Knocked Up, and Lexi Howard in Euphoria.
Jim Parsons plays Henry Willson
Who is Henry Willson? This character is actually based on the real-life Henry Willson, a Hollywood talent agent who helped develop the ‘beefcake craze’ of the 1950s for a specific kind of actor.
What else has Jim Parsons been in? Most viewers know Jim Parsons best for his starring role as Sheldon Cooper in long-running sitcom The Big Bang Theory; he then executive produced the spin-off series, Young Sheldon. Other credits include ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’, Hidden Figures (as Paul Stafford), Garden State, Home, and The Normal Heart.
Jake Picking plays Rock Hudson
Who is Rock Hudson? The real Rock Hudson (previously known as Roy Fitzgerald) was an American actor who became hugely popular and famous from the 1950s onwards. Many in the industry knew he was gay, but his sexual orientation only became public knowledge after his death from an AIDs-related illness in 1985.
What else has Jake Picking been in? The actor has so far appeared in Horse Girl, Blockers, Dirty Grandpa, Sicario 2, and Patriots Day. He also has an upcoming role in the movie Top Gun: Maverick.
Queen Latifah plays Hattie McDaniel
Who is Hattie McDaniel? A real-life American actress of stage and screen, best known for her role as “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
What else has Queen Latifah been in? Aside from her acting work, you probably know Queen Latifah as a rapper / singer / songwriter, with hits including Ladies First, U.N.I.T.Y., and Nature Of A Sista’. Her screen performances include Matron Mama Morton in the movie Chicago (a performance which earned her an Oscar nomination), Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray, Sasha Franklin in Girls Trip, and Belle Williams in Taxi. She’s also the voice of Ellie in the Ice Age movies.
Michelle Krusiec plays Anna May Wong
Who is Anna May Wong? Another real-life actress, Wong is considered the first Chinese American actress to gain international recognition, and is known for her roles in films including The Toll of the Sea, The Thief of Bagdad and Shanghai Express.
What else has Michelle Krusiec been in? Krusiec has appeared in a vast range of TV series and films, including a recurring role in Hawaii Five-0, and a part in 2015 thriller film The Invitation.