A show about an orphaned chess prodigy who spends her high school years and early twenties on a relentless quest to become the best player in the world may not sound like particularly thrilling TV, but trust us—you won't be able to look away from The Queen's Gambit (opens in new tab). The Netflix miniseries is part inspirational tale of a young girl's unflagging ambition, part gritty drama about her struggle with substance abuse (opens in new tab), and part sexy 1960s period piece (opens in new tab). It's an adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, and after nearly four decades in development hell—during which, at one point, Heath Ledger was attached to direct and star—the 2020 version of The Queen's Gambit was helmed and created by Scott Frank, and stars an ensemble cast of ultra-recognizable stars who will have you wondering where, exactly, you've seen them before. Instead of scrambling down a Wikipedia black hole, click through to unravel the mystery of who's who in the cast of The Queen's Gambit.
Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon
Taylor-Joy takes the lead role (opens in new tab) in The Queen's Gambit as a chess prodigy who will stop at nothing to reach her goal of defeating the USSR's many grandmasters. Taylor-Joy made a name for herself in Hollywood as something of a horror aficionado, but has recently begun to show off just how capably she can steal the spotlight in every other genre, too— for proof, look no further than her star turns as Beth Harmon and in the titular role of the latest adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma.
Moses Ingram as Jolene
Jolene has already been at the Methuen Home for Girls for a while when Beth arrives, and advises the younger girl to hoard the tranquilizer pills they're given each day, leading to the beginning of Beth's years-long dependency on the pills. Later, Jolene returns to Beth's life at exactly the right time, when she's most in need of a friend. This is Ingram's first role after graduating from the Yale School of Drama, but she'll next appear opposite Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth.
Christiane Seidel as Ms. Deardorff
Ms. Deardorff runs the Kentucky orphanage where Beth is taken after the death of her mother, and grants her permission to practice chess both in and outside of the orphanage. Seidel is a prestige TV pro, with credits including Boardwalk Empire and Godless, The Queen's Gambit creator Scott Frank's previous Netflix project.
Bill Camp as Mr. Shaibel
Beth stumbles upon Mr. Shaibel, the orphanage's custodian, playing chess with himself in the basement soon after her arrival at Methuen, and thus begins her obsession with the game. Later, even after she's left the orphanage, he supplies her entrance fee for her first-ever chess competition. Camp has decades of film and TV credits under his belt, including, most recently, Joker, Vice, The Night Of, and The Outsider.
Marielle Heller as Alma Wheatley
An unhappy housewife and Beth's adopted mother, Alma blossoms over time as she uses her daughter's burgeoning chess career as an opportunity to basically Eat Pray Love her own life. You probably know Heller best as the director of Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Mr. Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as D.L. Townes
Beth develops an almost immediate crush on Townes when they play at her first-ever chess competition, culminating years later in an awkward one-on-one hangout full of mixed signals and confusion. But all is not lost: Townes swoops back in later to play a big part in getting Beth ready for her Russian matches. Fortune-Lloyd (opens in new tab) has spent much of his career on the stage, but can also be seen in Medici, Wolf Hall, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Matthew and Russell Dennis Lewis as Matt and Mike
Matt and Mike meet Beth at her first chess meet, and continue to pop up throughout the series to offer her a pep talk, backup, or a fun night away from chess prep whenever she most needs it. The Lewis twins are also Godless alums, in which they first worked with The Queen's Gambit creator Scott Frank.
Harry Melling as Harry Beltik
As with many of the young men in Beth's life, Harry goes from being a competitor to a friend to a love interest throughout the series. Melling is undoubtedly best known for playing Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films, but has also proved he knows how to pick a Netflix project: Prior to The Queen's Gambit, he appeared in The Old Guard, The Devil All the Time, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Benny Watts
Yet another member of Beth's roster of competitor-friend-lovers, Benny has the somewhat oxymoronic persona of the bad boy of chess, and plays a major role in getting Beth to the USSR to face down her Russian competition. No matter how much he tries to pull off the Harry Styles vibe in The Queen's Gambit, though, Brodie-Sangster will never not be the lovesick kid from Love, Actually.
Marcin Dorociński as Vasily Borgov
Borgov looms large in the series as Beth's #1 competitor. They first go head-to-head at a Mexico City competition, the loss of which haunts Beth for years, before meeting up once again in Borgov's native Russia at the series' climax. In real life, Dorociński is actually Polish, with the majority of his work in Poland's film industry. Fun fact: He did the Polish dubbing for Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.
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