Your guide to the cast and characters.
There are a lot of newcomers in the cast of Netflix’s gritty new teen show Grand Army. That’s because while crafting the story, which follows a group of students at the fictional Grand Army High School in Brooklyn, New York, showrunner Katie Cappiello sought to include many of the young acting students she’d previously worked with.
"For me, it was always a goal to have as many young people that I’ve worked with over the course of my years of teaching involved in this project,” she told the New York Post. “I’ve watched these kids grow up, I’ve watched their acting skills evolve. And the show would not be the show without their involvement.”
The series is based on Cappiello’s short 2013 play SLUT and inspired by true stories from kids in her theater program. The play focused on 16-year-old Joey Del Marco, who’s sexually assaulted by three of her friends. But the Netflix series expands the story, following five students as they grapple with other weighty issues like racism, intersectionality, and homophobia. It’s the cast who helps to make these topics feel authentic.
“It’s really special to watch kids who have lived this experience then embody it on TV,” Cappiello told the New York Post of the cast, which includes a number of native New Yorkers. “There’s a deep understanding. These are not biz kids. They get it. We needed that grit, we needed that passion, we needed that thing that New York City kids have in order to make our show feel real.”
Get to know them and their characters below.
Dominique Pierre, Played By Odley Jean
Jean’s character is a 17-year-old from Brooklyn who’s striving to be the first in her family to go to college. The show also marks a first for Jean, who’s starring in her first leading role after studying theater with Cappiello. "[In theater] you memorize beginning to end, you go onstage, and you give your all — you make a mistake and just keep pushing, you do what you’ve got to do until the end of the play," Jean explained to Backstage. "But TV was different… seeing how it’s dissected and cut up and shot and filmed was a huge learning experience."
Jayson Jackson, Played By Maliq Johnson
Jayson is a sophomore at Grand Army High School who plays the saxophone and hopes to one day get into Juilliard, per Deadline. According to Instagram, Johnson himself is a dancer and model and, yes, he really did learn to play the saxophone for Grand Army. You also might recognize him from another intense Netflix series: he played Terence in two episodes of When They See Us.
Leila Kwan Zimmer, Played By Amalia Yoo
Leila is a freshman at Grand Army, and as an adopted Chinese girl living with Jewish parents in the Upper West Side, she’s feeling torn between her identities. Actor Amalia Yoo took on the role after appearing in Cappiello’s original play, albeit in a much smaller capacity. Now she gets to step into her own as one of the lead characters.
Siddhartha Pakam, Played By Amir Bageria
Sid is an 18-year-old senior from Queens who’s dealing with a lot of pressure from his parents, girlfriend, school, and swim teammates. Confronting the particular pains of adolescence are nothing new for actor Amir Bageria, though: he previously appeared in Degrassi: Next Class as Baaz Nahir.
Joey Del Marco, Played By Odessa A’zion
Joey, who was the main character in the original play, is portrayed by Pamela Adlon’s daughter Odessa A’zion, who previously appeared in Nashville and CBS’ Fam. She told Nylon that she has mixed feelings about the show coming out, because it was a challenging role for her to take on and an intense show to film. "I’ve never been this vulnerable in front of the camera before."
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