The new black-and-white drama Passing, which stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as two biracial friends who reconnect after years of being apart from one another, has finally made its arrival on Netflix. Directed by Rebecca Hall (who is making her feature directorial debut), the film centers on one of those women’s decision to pass as white and not tell her wealthy and racist husband about her heritage. After watching the movie, you might be wondering where you’ve seen some of the members of the Passing cast before and why they look so familiar. If that’s the case, take a look at the list down below in which we break down the major players in this riveting drama about race, class, and personal identity.
Tessa Thompson (Irene Redfield)
Tessa Thompson co-leads the Passing cast as Irene Redfield, a middle-class woman living in Harlem with her husband and children, whose life becomes complicated when she has a chance encounter with an old childhood friend. Since giving a breakout performance as Jackie Cook on the long-running teen mystery series Veronica Mars in 2005, Thompson has gone on to become one of the most recognizable faces in TV and film alike. In recent years, Thompson has graced the small screen on shows like Copper, Dear White People, and the HBO sci-fi drama series Westworld.
To fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tessa Thompson is best remembered for her portrayal of Valkyrie since making her debut in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. Outside of the MCU, Thompson’s film appearances include Creed and Creed II, Sylvie’s Love, Sorry to Bother You, and much more.
Ruth Negga (Clare Bellew)
Ruth Negga co-anchors the Passing cast as Clare Bellew, a woman who unlike her childhood friend, passes as white and adopts a completely different lifestyle. In 2016, Negga became an international sensation with her tremendous performance in the biographical drama Loving, in which she portrayed Mildred Loving, a young black woman whose fight to marry her white husband Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In 2019, Negga shared the screen with Brad Pitt in the surprisingly emotional space movie Ad Astra.
Over the years, Ruth Negga has shown up on several notable TV series including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., on which she played Raina in the first two seasons and again later in the fifth season. Negga’s other shows include Preacher, Misfits, and Secret State to name only a few.
Alexander Skarsgård (John Bellew)
Alexander Skarsgård takes on the role of John Bellew, Clare’s wealthy, racist, and demanding husband in Passing. Throughout his career, Skarsgård has been featured in some of the biggest HBO shows in the premium cable channel’s history including True Blood and Big Little Lies, the latter of which earned him a Primetime Emmy, a Golden Globe, and multiple other accolades. He is currently a member of the Succession Season 3 cast and finished up his turn as Randall Flagg on the Stephen King adaptation The Stand.
Like his father before him, Alexander Skarsgård has also had success on the big screen as well. With appearances in movies like Hold the Dark, Long Shot, Straw Dogs, and Melancholia over the years, the talented and versatile actor has done a little bit of everything since he started acting nearly 40 years ago.
André Holland (Brian Redfield)
André Holland portrays Irene’s husband Brian Redfield in Passing. Throughout his career, Holland has been a part of some of the most important movies of the 21st Century including 42, Selma, and Moonlight, all of which were released over the course of three years. Since then, Holland has appeared in A Wrinkle in Time, High Flying Bird, and Battle at Big Rock.
In addition to his film work, André Holland has also had several major roles on the small screen as well. Ever since first appearing on an episode of Law and Order back in 2006, Holland has made appearances on everything from The Knick to American Horror Story: Roanoke and 1600 Penn to Castle Rock, as well as several others.
Bill Camp (Hugh Wentworth)
Bill Camp shows up in Passing as famous author and close friend of Irene, Hugh Wentworth. Over the years, Camp has established himself as one of the best living character actors in film, television, and theatre. With titles like Lincoln, 12 Years a Slave, Vice, Joker, and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), it’s easy to see why he continues to get called upon so often.
The TV side of Bill Camp’s career is just as impressive with brilliant turns on The Night Of, The Outsider, and most recently The Queen’s Gambit as well as more than a dozen smaller performances throughout his career. On top of that, Camp has also given multiple outstanding performances on the stage in productions of Hamlet, Death of a Salesman, and The Crucible.
Gbenga Akinnagbe (Dave Freedland)
Gbenga Akinnagbe takes on the role of Dave Freeland, one of Irene Redfield’s friends in Passing. Akinnagbe’s first claim to fame was his commanding portrayal of the quiet yet ruthless killer Chris Partlow on The Wire starting with the show’s third season. Over the years, Akinnagbe has also landed major roles on 24: Live Another Day, The Deuce, and The Good Wife.
Throughout this film career, Gbenga Akinnagbe has shown up in movies like Savages, Edge of Darkness, and Detroit to name only a few. In 2018, Akinnagbe took on the role of Tom Robinson in Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird following years of appearances in productions ranging from Romeo and Juliet to The Rainmaker.
Antoinette Crowe-Legacy (Felise)
Antoinette Crowe-Legacy portrays Felise, Irene Redfield’s friend in Passing. A relative newcomer to the acting world, Crowe-Legacy’s most notable performance outside of the new Netflix drama is that of Elise Johnson on the Epix series Godfather of Harlem.
Ashley Ware Jenkins (Zu)
Ashley Ware Jenkins’ portrayal of Irene Redfield’s maid Zu in Passing is only the second performance in her young career. Ware Jenkins previously appeared in the 2020 drama Green Flake.
Passing is currently streaming on Netflix. If you want to know what else is coming to the streaming service the final few weeks of the year, take a look at our schedule of all the 2021 Netflix movies.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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