In 2020, The Queen’s Gambit swept the small screen, the chess epic on Netflix, inspiring people to dust up that old chessboard in the attic. The 1950s-era limited series, produced for television by Scott Frank and Allan Scott and based on Walter Tevis’ book of the same name, follows Beth Harmon, a young girl growing up in an orphanage who finds she has a remarkable chess aptitude. She fights her opponents and her addictions as she rises to the top of the chess world.
A compelling tale conveyed through the perspective of distinctive characters is at the heart of every great series. (And this episode has it in spades.) The loving mentor connection between Beth and Mr. Shaibel, Jolene’s grounded, but brave thinking and the numerous unusual personalities that flowed through Beth’s life drew us in. While the Emmy-winning chess adventure may be finished, The Queen’s Gambit’s cast will not be forgotten.
Anya Taylor – Joy
Anya Taylor-Joy had a big year in 2020, even before the debut of “The Queen’s Gambit.” She played Emma in “Emma,” a cinematic version of Jane Austen’s book of the same name, and in “The New Mutants,” a “X-Men” film. In 2021, Taylor-Joy presented “Saturday Night Live,” followed by a stunning performance in Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho.” She has also returned to the character of Gina Gray in the British detective thriller “Peaky Blinders.”
“The Queen’s Gambit” established Taylor-Joy as one of Hollywood’s most accomplished and marketable young actors, and her subsequent work has further bolstered that reputation. In 2022, she will co-star in Robert Eggers’ Viking epic “The Northman,” which will be released on April 22, and she’ll also provide Princess Peach’s voice in Illumination’s “Super Mario Brothers” film. “The Menu,” a “darkly humorous psychological thriller rooted in the realm of quirky culinary culture” (per Variety), and an untitled film from writer-director David O.
Anya Taylor-Joy is maybe most intriguing since she is just getting started. She’s established her star power in various roles in a short period, and it’ll be intriguing to watch what else she generates as her career progresses. Season 2 of “The Queen’s Gambit,” anyone?
Bill Camp, who plays Beth Harmon’s chess master Mr. Shaibel in The Queen’s Gambit, is one of those performers whose every film, television, and stage performance is worth seeing. In addition, one of Camp’s finest qualities is his devotion to his characters, which goes so far that you don’t see the actor and just the character.
This is particularly apparent in Mark Ruffalo’s upcoming courtroom drama Dark Waters, in which Camp dons the thickest of West Virginia accents. I didn’t realize it was him until the film was nearly through. And whether he was portraying Reverend John Hale in The Crucible on Broadway in 2016, Gerald Ford in Vice, or Howard Salomon in The Outsider earlier this year, Camp gives it his all.
Anya Taylor-Joy plays Beth Harmon for the entirety of “The Queen’s Gambit,” but she isn’t the only one who brings her to life. Beth is played by Annabeth Kelly (“The Small Francis”) as a small kid, and Isla Johnston as her throughout her formative years at the Methuen Home for Girls. As the young Beth, Johnston does an outstanding job, guiding her through difficult phases of pain and loss and the start of her chess career. But what else has been going on with the young star?
Since the conclusion of “The Queen’s Gambit,” Johnston has continued to work in television. She portrayed Lucy Spencer in the Apple TV+ original series “Invasion” in 2021, a sci-fi tale about an extraterrestrial attack on Earth. She’ll also act alongside Anya Taylor-“Last Joy’s Night in Soho” co-star Thomasin McKenzie in the forthcoming BBC adaptation of novelist Kate Atkinson’s book “Life After Life.”
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, who does an outstanding job as D.L. Townes in The Queen’s Gambit, is one of the cast’s lesser-known members, but that will change shortly when he kills it as Beth’s fellow chess player who becomes one of her most trusted and cherished friends.
Before his role as a Sith fleet officer in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Fortune-Lloyd participated in several television shows, including Medici Season 2, where he played Francesco Salviati, and numerous performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2015.
Vasily Borgov, played by Marcin Dorocinski, is shown as a distant menace who sits atop the realm of chess for most of The Queen’s Gambit. We know Beth will have to meet him to become the global champion, but she must first confront her issues.
When we eventually meet Dorocinski’s Russian grandmaster, he portrays himself as the most fearsome chess opponent, with a cold and calculating approach. Dorocinski is a well-known actor in Poland, having been in several films and television series, including the 2012 BBC co-production Spies of Warsaw and the Polish dub of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in which he played Kylo Ren.
D. L. Townes
In Episode 2, Beth meets the attractive D. L. Townes, one of the many competitors in the Kentucky State Championship. Townes can tell Beth is new to the competition circuit, so instead of dismissing her and her lack of knowledge, he goes out of his way to educate her and provide whatever tips he’s picked up along the road.
He is a journalist and a chess player, and he runs across Beth while covering a tournament in which she is playing. Beth and Townes never ceased caring for one other, even while they weren’t in each other’s lives. The time apart really brought them closer together.
The bond between Beth and her adopted mother, Alma Wheatley, portrayed by the multitalented Marielle Heller, is one of the most intriguing in “Gambit.” Heller has directed significant films such as Melissa McCarthy’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” Tom Hanks’ “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and the 2015 coming-of-age drama “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” which she also authored. Heller has also directed episodes of “Transparent” and “Casual,” as well as the film adaptation of the critically acclaimed Broadway play “What the Constitution Means to Me.”
Helen Deardorff, the headmistress of Methuen Home, is very briefly seen in the early scenes of The Queen’s Gambit, but her treatment of a young and sad Beth is difficult to forget. Christiane Seidel, who plays Sigrid Mueller on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, is best recognized for her supporting appearances on programs like Godless and Fosse/Verdon and a one-off appearance on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Although Akemnji Ndifornyen only appears briefly in the first episode of The Queen’s Gambit, he plays a crucial role. Mr. Ferguson, his character, introduces Beth to the tablets that would allow her to play chess in her thoughts at night, setting her on her road to excellence and addiction.
Ndifornyen has made appearances on Doctors, an episode of Law & Order: the UK, and Famalam, a BBC Three sketch comedy program he wrote, scored, and produced.
Harry Melling (Harry Potter) co-stars in “Gambit” as Beth’s on-again, off-again chess partner Harry Beltik (which might be one Harry too many for this sentence). When Beth initially joins tournaments, Beltik is her first genuinely competitive opponent.
Although she swiftly out skills him, their relationship grows in strange ways, eventually making them into excellent friends and confidants. Melling distinguishes Beltik from other characters like Beth and Benny Watts with an intriguing combination of clumsiness and hubris.
Miss Lonsdale, portrayed by Rebecca Root, is the last prominent “Queen’s Gambit” character from Beth’s time at the Methuen Home for Girls. Root’s previous credits include leading parts in films like “The Danish Girl,” “The Sister Brothers,” “Last Christmas,” and “Colette,” as well as cameos in films like “Boy Meets Girl” and “The Sister Brothers.” She’s also worked extensively in audio plays, notably the Big Finish “Doctor Who” specials – a natural fit considering her background as a voice coach.