Okay, there’s no mini-series in the works (yet!) But I’ve been thinking, if my first three books (the Formist Series) are ever adapted into a mini-series, there are some people I had in mind for the main roles. And it’s fun to imagine real-life actors bringing life to the characters you created. At a certain point, you want to see if there are any actors/actresses who look as you imagine them and can capture their personality and spirit.
First up, here’s who I see filling all the lead roles:
The role of Ward calls for a certain brooding intensity and hardened quality, the kind of stuff that only comes from a traumatized soul. As such, I can see Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Javier Bardem, or James McAvoy filling the role perfectly. Morgan is best-known right now for his portrayal of Negan on The Walking Dead. But I’ve seen him in many roles and he is at his best (I think) as the conflicted good guy.
Bardem probably needs no introduction, but in case you don’t know, he’s the villain from Skyfall, No Country for Old Men, and Stilgar for Denis Villaneuve’s Dune remake. McAvoy is also instantly recognizable for fans of X-Men, since he’s played Professor X in all the Timeline B films. I seriously doubt that Bardem or McAvoy would ever be in my price range, but that’s okay.
Right now, Morgan is my first choice! He has the range, the finesse, and the rugged handsomeness to bring Ward to life!
For Janis Amaru, the lead female role, I was thinking that Cara Gee, Tonantzin Carmelo, and Sarah Shahi would be a good fit. As you can plainly see, all three women are drop-dead gorgeous. But the role of Amaru goes far beyond appearances. She’s known for her intelligence, cunning, humanity, and no-nonsense toughness.
Both Gee and O’Neil are Canadian actresses with extensive resumes that include SF roles. Fans of the Expanse are likely to recognize Gee from her portrayal of Camina Drummer, the Belter who captained the Nauvoo and kicked some serious ass! O’Neil, meanwhile, is well-known for her portrayal of Portia Lin/Two from Dark Matter and Lucy Chen on The Rookie, where she stars opposite Nathan Fillion (Capt. Mal on Firefly).
Carmelo, meanwhile, is a veteran and television and film. In addition to bit parts in The Revenant and a regular role in the new series Undone, she’s done extensive voiceover work and was a regular cast member in the Netflix series The Chosen One.
Emile is another challenging character to cast. He’s a bad guy, but he has the ability to convince people he’s a good guy, right on up to the point of betrayal! And of course, he comes from an influential family and has incredible resources at his disposal. So basically, he has to be posh, charming, and intelligent – in other words, a sociopath hiding in plane sight!
After much review, I decided on the following gentlemen. First up, there’s Naveen Andrews, who became famous in North America from his role as Sayid (the Iraqi veteran) from Lost and his more recent roles as Jonas Maliki (Sense8) and Julian Cousins (Instinct).
Second is Dev Patel, the actor who became an international sensation because of his role in Slumdog Millionaire. More recently, he’s done miniseries and films like The Newsroom, Chappie, and Hotel Mumbai. Third up is Sendhil Ramamurthy, a real up and comer whose appeared in Heroes Reborn, New Amersterdam, and The Flash.
Next up is the other leading lady, Veronika Gallego! Whereas Amaru is known for being tough, smart, and secretive, Gallego is a bit more demure. She’s got all the brains and can kick some serious ass when she needs to but doesn’t possess the jaded quality of her counterpart. As such, I wanted someone who could capture the warrior woman motif, but could also convey vulnerability.
I can think of no one better to do this than Sandra Oh. Recently, I binge-watched Killing Eve where she plays Eve, a British intelligence officer who becomes fascinated and even enamored with the psychotic assassin she’s trying to capture.
Second is Marion Cotillard, the veteran French actress who is perhaps best known for playing the villain Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises. Having seen her in a few things now, I can attest to the fact that she can do noble and gentle as ably as she does evil.
And then there’s Anya Chalotra, who has skyrocketed to fame in recent years because of her role in The Witcher. However, that’s just her latest breakout role, which was preceded by leading roles in the miniseries Wanderlust, Sherwood, and The ABC Murders.
Adelaide Cheboi is another interesting choice for casting. She’s a warrior woman, tough, and downright badass! Throughout the process of writing the Jovian Manifesto and the Frost Line Fracture, my wife would comment on some of the dialogue or action scenes I wrote for her. Repeatedly, I had to say, “she’s NOT Zoe from Firefly!” But I’d be lying if I said Zoe didn’t provide some inspiration.
Mostly, I wanted a character who was her own woman and understood discipline and service. So after much checking, I decided that there are three actresses I could see playing her. The first is Olunike Adeliyi, a Canadian actress of Nigerian descent. Her resume includes roles on American Gods, Working Moms, and the coming season of the Expanse (I didn’t even know that when I picked her!)
Next up, there’s Rosario Dawson, who played Roxane (the wife of Alexander the Great) in Oliver Stone’s Alexander. Other major titled include Clerks II, Rent, Sin City, and this coming season of The Mandalorian. She’s beautiful, powerful, and has a very good range. Hence, I think she would be a great addition to the cast!
Third, there’s child-actor and dancer turned-leading-lady Zendaya, whom you might recognize from Spiderman: Homecoming and Spiderman: Far from Home, where she played MJ – the love interest of Peter Parker. She was also in The Greatest Showman and will appear in the much-anticipated Dune, where she plays Chani, the Fremen warrior and wife of Paul Mohadib.
The role of Houte is an interesting one. He’s a leading man in the series, even though he doesn’t play much more than a supporting role in the first book. Nevertheless, by the second and third installment, he’s a permanent fixture in the story and even has a backstory – alongside his sister, Constance (see below) – which I hope to explore in a standalone story at some point.
The role calls for strength, grace, and a certain stoic nature that lets you know there’s plenty going on under the surface. In short, what you’d expect from a man with a long history and who finds himself having to make hard choices. On the one hand, I would want someone like Adrian Holmes to fill the role. Holmes is also Canadian and has distinguished himself in television and film that included roles in Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, Continuum, Arrow, Elysium, 19-2, and V-Wars.
At the same time, I feel like I want a little star power! Hence why I turned to Chiwetel Ejiofor, the man who not only played the villain in Joss Wedon’s Serenity (the Operative), he’s also delivered brilliant performances in Amistad, Kinky Boots, Children of Men, Seven Years a Slave, The Martian, Doctor Strange, The Boy Who Harnessed Wind, and many more!
Constance is another interesting role that requires a certain range. On the one hand, she’s a transhuman who exists largely in the virtual realm and barely acknowledges reality (or so it appears). On the other hand, she has a vital and almost omniscient presence in the Jovian network and is revered by many as sort of digital angel. That kind of double-existence requires someone with acting chops, and I had a certain look in mind when I wrote her.
As such, I decided to go with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Zoe Kravitz for the role. Mbatha-Raw is of English and South African descent and has distinguished herself in many roles, including The Morning Show, Black Mirror, MI-5, Doctor Who, The Cloverfield Paradox, and will be featured in the upcoming Loki miniseries.
Fans of Game of Thrones will recognize Nathalie Emmanuel for her portrayal of Missandei. She also starred alongside Mbatha-Raw in the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the Maze Runner franchise, and the Hollyoaks television series, and the adapted-for-television series Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Zoe Kravitz, daughter of music dynamo Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, has been acting since she was 9-years old. As an adult, she’s played prominent roles in movies like X-Men: First Class, the Divergent series, Mad Max: Fury Road, and will play Selina Kyle/Catwoman in the upcoming Batman relaunch.
Pinter Chandrasekhar is a strange and complex fellow. He lives a rich life and accomplished so much as a flesh-and-blood man. He helped create arcologies all across Earth, promote solutions for sustainable living, and led various geoengineering projects. After moving to Mars, and receiving multiple life extensions, he became a proponent of terraforming and spent years advancing ecological projects.
He is the ancestral founder of the Formist faction and is considered something akin to royalty on Mars. By the time the Formist Trilogy begins, he has spent many decades existing only as an upload, guiding Formist policy and allowing his grandson – Emile Chandrasekhar – to oversee the faction’s day-to-day operations. Eventually, he is forced to turn on Emile when he realizes that his grandson has become a monster.
I can think of no one who would be able to portray Pinter more ably than Art Malik. This Pakistani-born British actor has played countless roles during the many decades that he has performed. But like many gifted and classically-trained actors, he gets a lot of recognition for the sillier roles on his resume.
These include playing a Bond villain in The Living Daylights and the terrorist mastermind from True Lies. However, you would be robbed if you didn’t get to see him in The Jewel in the Crown, A Passage to India, City of Joy, Turtle Beach, the mini-series Borgia, or his recurring role as retired Pakistani general and intelligence operative Bunran Latif in Homeland.
This role was hard to place, mainly because when I wrote Elenko, I kept having visions of Mon Mothma (leader of the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars). But when it came time to pick an actress to portray her, I immediately ditched that image and began looking for a skilled actress who captured the spirit of Elenko.
She’s an elder stateswoman, smart as hell, and can come off as manipulative at times. She has a complex relationship with Veronika Gallego, who she essentially mentored. Basically, she’s a far-seeing individual who has a way of convincing people to do what needs to be done (and will do the same herself). After much consideration, I chose Stacy Haiduk, Jennifer Spence, and Irene Bedard.
Haiduk is a veteran actress who’s known for her roles in soap operas like Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless, and All My Children, as well as prime-time shows like Prison Break. She also has a history of SF/F roles, which include SeaQuest 2032, Kindred: the Embraced, True Blood, Heroes, and voice-over work for Star Wars: The Old Republic.
I first became aware of Jennifer Spence as an actress after watching Travellers, where she killed it as the AI-enamored and blunt-as-hell Grace Day. She also had recurring roles in the Stargate Universe franchise (as Dr. Lisa Park), The 4400, Continuum, Van Helsing, and The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco.
Last, there’s Irene Bedard, an actress for whom the word “veteran” just doesn’t seem to cut it. Her breakout roles were in Disney movies like Squanto (opposite Adam Beach) and providing the voice for the animated movie Pocahontas. She also starred in prominent Native American films like the Song of Hiawatha, Smoke Signals, Naturally Native, and the mini-series Into the West.
She also starred in The New World (as Pocahontas’ mother), The Tree of Life, Vertical, and had recurring roles in Longmire, Westworld, FBI: Most Wanted, and the remake of Stephen King’s The Stand.
The role of Michael Adler, the mercenary turned vengeful privateer, calls for someone who can be bad, badass, and can dole out a whole lot of murder and destruction with a smile and an even tone. The only person I could think of that is supremely qualified to do all that is Neal McDonough.
The role that I most associate him with is his portrayal of real-life paratrooper Lynn “Buck” Compton from Band of Brothers – the story of Easy Company, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in World War II. He was excellent in the role, capturing the full range of emotion that comes with being far from home and engaged in a terrible war that took him from D-Day to the Battle Bulge.
However, I’ve also seen him play the bad guy to perfection! Especially in season 3 of Justified where he played a mobster enforcer from Detroit who came to Kentucky to recruit locals into the lucrative Oxy trade. Other credits where he’s been so good at being bad include Red 2, Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The 100, Van Helsing, and Altered Carbon.
Like I said, he’s good at being bad!
Well, that’s the cast I cam up with and I hope you like them. I can think of nothing cooler than actors of their caliber bringing the characters I created to life someday. Hey, it could happen!