The Cast Of 'Manhattan' Is The Show's Secret Weapon — Forget the A-Bomb

There's no doubt that Manhattan is making a big splash for a teeny-tiny network. The WWII-era drama is only the second scripted series for WGN — the first was the also-period Salem — and the L.A. Times reports that the debut "more than [tripled] the network's season-to date average of 300,000 among total viewers on Sundays during that same time slot." And why wouldn't viewers check it out? It's got all the makings of a prestige cable drama a la Mad Men, with its period setting, ensemble cast, and moody atmosphere.

The show revolves around a team of scientists working on the super-secret Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as well as their in-the-dark family members who've been trotted out into the desert with them. "Welcome to nowhere," one character greets a newcomer in the series premiere.

But Manhattan the show isn't content to be nowhere — it's clearly looking to earn a place on the TV map, along with other worthy dramas. And the series has its own — if you'll pardon the expression — secret weapon up its sleeve: its cast. The radiation surrounding Los Alamos is only a concern if we care about the people living on top of it. And, thankfully, the show has assembled an ensemble that's worthy of the task, with a mixture of award-winning and character actors from film, TV, and even theater. Take a look at some of the show's cast members...

Image: WGN

Olivia Williams

Who she plays: Liza Winter, Frank’s wife and a scientist in her own right, with a PhD in botany

We know her from: Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, where she played Adelle DeWitt, the creepy businesswoman behind the curtain. She’s also won praise for her work in films like Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer and An Education.

But our favorite credit is: Rushmore, where, as Miss Cross, she was the cause of a romantic rivalry between Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) and Herman Blume (Bill Murray). She’ll always be our Rushmore.

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Rachel Brosnahan

Who she plays: Abby Isaacs, Charlie’s wife and native Massachusetts suburbanite

We know her from: House of Cards, where she played a sex worker who (unfortunately) catches Doug Stamper’s intense attention.

But our favorite credit is: Another Netflix original, Orange Is the New Black, where she played Little Allie, the hoodlum friend-made-good of poor, poor Tricia. At least Allie got her life together.

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Ashley Zukerman

Who he plays: Charlie Isaacs, who, at 26, is the newest member of the team and a newcomer to New Mexico

We know him from: The glimpses we got of him in the HBO miniseries The Pacific (and, well, Terra Nova before it was canceled).

But our favorite credit is: We’ll have to defer to our Aussie mates on this one, as they’ve gotten to see him in an award-nominated turn in Rush, an Australian crime drama.

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John Benjamin Hickey

Who he plays: Frank Winter, a scientific genius leading a team on the Manhattan Project

We know him from: The Big C, where he played Cathy’s sometimes-homeless, bipolar, environmentalist brother. (Talk about a tall order.) Hickey was nominated for an Emmy for the role. On stage, he won a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for The Normal Heart.

But our favorite credit is: Pitch Perfect. He’s only on screen for an aca-second, but he’s perfectly disapproving as Beca’s dad.

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Daniel Stern

Who he plays: Glen Babbit, Frank’s mentor

We know him from: Taking a paint can to the face in Home Alone and running from bulls in City Slickers — basically getting hurt in some of the biggest comedies of the ’90s.

But our favorite credit is: It is at this moment, as we stare into middle-distance, that we realize how much his reflective voiceover as adult Kevin Arnold added to The Wonder Years.

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Alexia Fast

Who she plays: Callie Winter, Frank and Liza’s teenaged daughter

We know her from: We might not have been devoted fans of MTV’s Kaya, a short-lived series that featured Fast, but we do recognize the name of one of her cast mates: Cory Monteith.

But our favorite credit is: We haven’t had a chance to see it, but we think it’s totally rad that Fast wrote, directed, starred in, and screened a short film at the 2002 Atlantic Film Festival — all at the tender age of 7.

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Eddie Shin

Who he plays: Sid Liao, a scientist on Frank’s team who’s caring for a sick child at home

We know him from: Who can forget Henry Cho, Lane’s first (and secret) boyfriend on Gilmore Girls?

But our favorite credit is: All these smart, highbrow dramas are fine, but we secretly can’t wait to see what Shin is up to in Dumb and Dumber To.

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Michael Chernus

Who he plays: Louis "Fritz" Fedowitz, another scientist on Frank’s team

We know him from: Orange Is the New Black, where he plays Cal Chapman, the only hippie charming enough to turn a funeral into a wedding and have it somehow turn out okay.

But our favorite credit is: Well, Orange Is the New Black, but that’s probably because we haven’t had a chance to see him on stage yet. Another veteran of the theater, Chernus won an OBIE award for his role in the Off-Broadway production of In the Wake.

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Harry Lloyd

Who he plays: Paul Crosley, one of the eager go-getters on the scientific teamWe know him from: Where we know most British actors from — Game of Thrones, where he played the also-ambitious Viserys Targaryen. (Bet you didn’t recognize him without his flowing blonde hair.)

But our favorite credit is: Though he was in the BBC Robin Hood and on two episodes of Doctor Who, our favorite is still Game of Thrones, because his exit from the series sticks with us to this day.

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Christopher Denham

Who he plays: Jim Meeks, a scientist with an artsy side.

We know him from: Another fraught moment in history. In Argo, he plays one of the Americans looking to escape Iran.

But our favorite credit is: His co-starring role in Sound of My Voice, an indie film where he plays a documentary filmmaker trying to expose a cult leader.

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Katja Herbers

Who she plays: Helen Prins, the only female scientist on Frank’s team

We know her from: Nothing, because we’re not from her native Netherlands. There, she’s starred in multiple films, plays, and TV shows we can’t even attempt to pronounce (De Onderkoning: Strijd om de Grondwet).

But our favorite credit is: Manhattan — hooray for female scientists!

Image: WGN