As fans of rare indie and international titles, we love discovering and getting to know the unknown. Most of the actors in our series and films are not household names, which is quite special because it means we can get to know them more intimately. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t welcome a more familiar face. Occasionally, among the casts of our favorite Topic shows and films is someone we’re sure we’ve seen before, but we can’t quite put our finger on where. Whether it’s a rising star who’s on the verge of breaking out or a seasoned actor who’s always flown under the radar, plenty of the titles on Topic feature faces that might make you do a double-take and wonder, “Is that my landlord or did I see him in ‘Harry Potter’?” Here are six series and films that have probably made you squint and ask, “Where have I seen that person before?”
You May Have Seen Them: Melanie Lynskey, Christopher Abbott
In this romantic dramedy about a woman who moves in with her parents after her divorce, you’ll spot not one, but two familiar actors: Melanie Lynskey and Christopher Abbott. Lynskey is an indie darling who has appeared in films like “Up in the Air,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and the Duplass Brothers series “Togetherness,” but also has the range to pull off mainstream comedy like “Two and Half Men.” You’ve most likely seen Abbott as Marnie’s sensitive boyfriend Charlie on “Girls.” Abbott has impressive range too, as seen through Charlie’s shocking transformation that most definitely made fans of the show gasp. Both actors are capable of playing nuanced, flawed characters, but together in “Hello I Must Be Going,” they create palpable, scorching chemistry. It’s so hot you might entertain the idea of moving back to the suburbs.
If you can’t get enough of these two, you can also catch Lynskey in our series “Sunshine Kings” and Abbott in “James White” alongside Cynthia Nixon.
You May Have Seen Them: Stephen Graham
“The Virtues” is a can’t-miss drama about a fractured man who comes face to face with his troubled past after his son leaves the country with his ex. Protagonist Joseph is played by Stephen Graham, who you’ve definitely seen before. Even if you don’t think you’ve seen him, you have. Just trust us. Maybe it was two decades ago in the Guy Ritchie classic “Snatch,” or maybe you saw him basically become Al Capone in “Boardwalk Empire.” Or maybe it was more recently than you think — he was the irritating, but entertaining Tony Pro in Martin Scorcese’s latest, “The Irishman.” Or maybe you caught his alarmingly convincing performance as a skinhead in the indie hit “This Is England” and promptly tried to put his character out of your mind. But if gangster and indie films aren’t your thing, then you had to have seen him in the Hollywood blockbuster “Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides.” Or maybe you’re a unique case and you recognize Graham from that one British Christmas comedy “Get Santa.” Either way, there doesn’t seem to be a role that Graham can’t play.
You May Have Seen Them: Wyatt Cenac
Though he fights neighborhood crime by night as his vigilante alter ego, the Viceroy, Wyatt Cenac spends most of his time dealing with much more annoying offenders: the perpetrators of gentrification in Brooklyn. In “aka Wyatt Cenac,” the comedian plays a version of himself who is constantly at odds with strollers, chatty yoga class attendants, and artisanal mustard shops (but seriously though, how do those places stay in business??). If Cenac looks familiar to you, it’s because you’ve probably seen him on “The Daily Show,” where he was a writer and correspondent for four years, in his own Netflix stand-up special, “Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn,” or in the TBS series “People of Earth” — or it’s very well possible you could have passed him on the streets of Brooklyn, or maybe at an artisanal mustard shop? And if you haven’t seen him, then you’ve definitely heard him. Cenac has voiced characters for Nickelodeon’s “Fanboy & Chum Chum,” “BoJack Horseman,” “Bob’s Burgers,” and “King of the Hill.”
You May Have Seen Them: Jim Broadbent and Olivia Colman
This show has not one, but two British treasures. “Exile” is a psychological thriller about a father and son who unravel a shocking crime and reopen old wounds, starring Jim Broadbent and Olivia Colman. Broadbent has had a long film career, appearing in everything from Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” to “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” and of course as an overstuffed chair Professor Slughorn in the “Harry Potter” franchise. You’ve probably seen Colman as the love-to-hate-her stepmother in “Fleabag,” the self-deprecatingly funny detective Ellie in “Broadchurch,” or as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Crown.” She played another queen in “The Favourite,” which won her the Best Actress Oscar in 2018 and prompted one of the best Oscars speeches in history.
If you’re like us and can’t get enough of Colman, you can also catch her in another drama series on Topic, “Run.”
You May Have Seen Them: Romain Duris
French actor Romain Duris has the kind of face that makes you swear you’ve seen him somewhere before. No, he wasn’t in “The O.C.” In “Vernon Subutex,” Duris plays the titular character, who was once an icon of Paris’s subculture as the owner of the beloved record shop Revolver. After the shop is shuttered, Vernon embarks on a journey of survival and self-preservation through the streets of Paris, encountering colorful characters along the way. Maybe he looks so familiar to you because he plays the music-loving artist type so authentically — you swear you’ve seen him at a couple of shows or maybe he reminds you of an old flame who introduced you to Joy Division and then disappeared. But Duris is actually a pretty big name in French cinema. He starred alongside French ingenue Vanessa Paradis, in “Heartbreaker,” and he’s shared the screen with Audrey Tautou multiple times, in “Chinese Puzzle,” “L’Auberge Espagnole,” and Michel Gondry’s “Moon Indigo.”
You May Have Seen Them: Miriam Margolyes
In “Miriam’s Big American Adventure,” British actress Miriam Margolyes road-trips through Middle America learning about American culture straight from the people. Everywhere she goes, people cock their heads and think, “Where have I seen her before?” It’s a very meta experience because you may have thought the same thing as you sat down to watch. Well, if you’re part of the 61% of Americans who have seen the “Harry Potter” movies, then you might recognize her as Professor Sprout, the herbology expert of Hogwarts who was pretty formidable underneath that jovial demeanor. And she’s just as much of a powerhouse in the series. In one scene, her usual cheeriness quickly turns to assertiveness when someone says that America is the most generous country. “You don’t know that,” she calmly states. She may be a foreigner in a strange land, but she never loses her moral compass. “It riles me, this certainty.”