Meet the cast of A Series of Unfortunate Events

Everything you need to know about the cast and characters of Netflix’s fiendish Lemony Snicket TV adaptation

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A Series of Unfortunate Events is about just what its title suggests, with a tale of doom and gloom at its heart (if it even has one).

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It revolves around the lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents die in a fire that blazed through the Baudelaire Mansion. The tragic incident leaves them in the very incapable hands of their relative, Count Olaf, who rather than helping them through their grieving process, plots to steal their bountiful inheritance.

The series is based on 13 children’s books that were published between 1999 and 2006. They are written and narrated by Lemony Snicket (actually author Daniel Handler’s pen name). Season one consists of eight hour-long episodes, with each instalment covering half of one of the first four novels: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill.

Before embarking on your Netflix binge when the series is released on Friday 13th January (how fitting), brush up on the cast and characters of this fantastical – and fearsome – world.

Neil Patrick Harris – Count Olaf

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Count Olaf is wretched in looks and personality, sporting bushy brows and a permanent scowl. He’s determined to find a loophole to get his hands on Violet, Klaus, and Sunny’s inherited fortune – whatever it takes.

Moonlighting as a professional “actor”, Count Olaf appears in many guises, whether as salty sea dog Captain Sham the sailor, or ribald receptionist Shirley. Adults are blinded by his impersonations, but the children see right through him.

“Count Olaf is, quite honestly, just a horrible person. It’s called A Series of Unfortunate Events due in great part to him,” star Neil Patrick Harris says. “It’s interesting for me as an actor. You kind of want to choose a role and then have the good and the bad and figure out the inner conflict. Not so much with Count Olaf, and that’s fun for me.”

Where do I recognise him from?

Harris is the ultimate triple threat: he can sing, dance, and act – all talents that have been acknowledged by a stream of awards. He’s probably best known for his role as ladies’ man Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother. He also starred in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and took to the stage for theatre production Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Malina Weissman – Violet Baudelaire

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Violet Baudelaire, aged 14, is the eldest of the three unfortunate siblings. She uses her smarts and penchant for inventing to help them get out of multiple sticky situations, most of them devised by Count Olaf. 

“I think the coolest thing about my character is that she’s always determined,” actress Malina Weissman says. “When she has an idea in her mind, she always wants to go out and fight for it.”

Where do I recognise her from?

Malina Weissman previously collaborated with executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld when he directed her in the family comedy film Nine Lives, which came out at the tail end of 2016. He already envisioned her as Violet during filming.

Sonnenfeld says, “The whole time I was working with Malina on Nine Lives, I said, ‘Hey, have you read these Lemony Snicket books? You should read them.’”

“Malina is fantastic; she’s beautiful, smart, energetic. She has an urgency about her. She is Violet Baudelaire.”

She was also seen in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot in 2014.

Louis Hynes – Klaus Baudelaire

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Klaus Baudelaire’s voracity for reading allows him to soak up useful information like a sponge. The 12-year-old’s memory is verging on the photographic, which acts as an invaluable Rolodex of the mind that that he can sift through when he’s trying to solve problems. He read most of the Baudelaires’ private library collection before it burnt down in the fire and cites Herman Melville as one of his favourite authors.

“Klaus is fairly introverted,” actor Louis Hynes says. “At the same time, he’s a big reader, which is his kind of defining quality.”

Where do I recognise him from?

The British actor’s career took off last year in a television series about the Roman Empire – Barbarians Rising.

Presley Smith – Sunny Baudelaire

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Infant Sunny is remarkably intelligent for her young age. Her sizeable, razor-sharp teeth are a great asset in helping her and her siblings’ ongoing plight.

Where do I recognise her from?

This appears to be Presley Smith’s breakout role!

“Sometimes Presley will be a computer graphic, sometimes we’ll replace just her head,” Sonnenfeld says. “Often, we’ve got Presley doing amazing things.”

K. Todd Freeman – Mr. Poe

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Mr. Poe is the bearer of bad news about the children’s newly orphaned status. The banker at Mulctuary Money Management deals with the Baudelaires’ estate. Although he means well, he falls for Count Olaf’s trickery time and time again, endangering Violet, Klaus, and Sunny in the process.

K. Todd Freeman says, “He is the most well-intentioned and ineffectual person on the planet. Everything he does, for the most part, ends up wrong.”

Where do I recognise him from?

K. Todd Freeman has several television series under his belt, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The American actor also played police officer Jeremy Polk in The Dark Knight alongside Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Patrick Warburton – Lemony Snicket (The Narrator)

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A few minutes into A Series of Unfortunate Events, narrator Lemony Snicket tells us to turn back before it’s too late, “This story will be dreadful, melancholy, and calamitous,” he warns. Our less than enthusiastic narrator threads the scenes together and is there to commentate every step of the way, joining us on a journey of darkness, disaster, and destruction. 

“Our Lemony Snicket appears throughout all the episodes, telling the story from the future,” Sonnenfeld says. “He’s in the frame with the characters, but he’s telling the story not from when this event is happening. I think it’s a really special way of doing it.”

Where do I recognise him from?

If you don’t recognise Patrick Warburton from shows such as Seinfeld and Rules of Engagement, you might be able to identify his voice. He’s lent his vocals to a variety of outlets: television (as character Joe Swanson in Family Guy), video games, and advertisements. He worked with Sonnenfeld on the series The Tick and the film Men in Black II.

Joan Cusack – Justice Strauss

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Justice Strauss is a high court judge and Count Olaf’s likeable neighbour. The Baudelaire children warm to her immediately and she lets them use her extensive library.

Where do I recognise her from?

Joan Cusack has had a long and successful acting career, starring alongside her brother John in films such as High Fidelity and the John Hughes-directed Sixteen Candles. Her voice is instantly discernible as cowgirl Jessie in the Toy Story film series.

Aasif Mandvi – Uncle Monty

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Uncle Monty is described by Mr. Poe in the second novel in the series, The Reptile Room, as the children’s “late father’s cousin’s wife’s brother.” This gentle herpetologist who studies amphibians and reptiles becomes Violet, Klaus, and Sunny’s guardian for a time.

Where do I recognise him from?

Aasif Mandvi has been cast in Spider-Man 2 and The Dictator. The Indian-American comedian nabbed a spot on The Daily Show as an occasional contributing correspondent in 2006.

Alfre Woodard – Aunt Josephine

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Aunt Josephine is the Baudelaires’ second cousin’s sister-in-law who becomes their guardian in the third novel in the series, The Wide Window. She harbours an irrational fear of things like doorknobs and doormats, which she considers dangerous.

Where do I recognise her from?

Alfre Woodard can boast a wide portfolio of film, including 12 Years a Slave and Annabelle, and television (True Blood and Luke Cage). She also has extensive theatre experience, something that appealed to producer Sonnenfeld.

“We’re really expanding the role of our guest stars and they all bring so much unique, specific characterisation to their roles,” Sonnenfeld says. “Many of our actors come from theatre and I think it’s the right tone and style for our show, which is very stylised.”

Catherine O’Hara – Dr. Orwell

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Dr. Orwell is an optometrist and hypnotist who works out of an eye-shaped office.

Where do I recognise her from?

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Catherine O’Hara played Justice Strauss in the 2004 film rendition of A Series of Unfortunate Events, executive produced by Sonnenfeld. You also might have seen her in cult classic films Home Alone and Beetlejuice.