ByKristi Roe-Owen/Sept. 27, 2022 9:36 am EST
Starting a new job can be a challenge under even the best of circumstances. But for John Nolan, a small-town divorcee who finds himself compelled to join the LAPD after a life-changing bank robbery, stepping into a new role means proving to himself and all of the naysayers that he's not too old for the gig.
Although it's hard to imagine many 40-somethings are willing to make such a dramatic life change as Nolan's in the ABC series "The Rookie," it's certainly possible in Los Angeles. The LAPD is one of the few police departments in the United States that doesn't impose a maximum age limit, leaving the door open for anyone who can hack it. In an interview with BUILD, star and executive producer Nathan Fillion discussed the inspiration for the series, emphasizing that these days, people don't work the same job throughout their lifetimes anymore, observing, "If you are not experiencing a do-over in your life, you know someone who is." According to Fillion, the series is inspired by the true story of a real officer who joined the LAPD at the age of 40.
In the spirit of everyone who has ever made good on a do-over, let's look into where we've seen the cast of "The Rookie" before.
Nathan Fillion as John Nolan
Nathan Fillion stars as the titular rookie John Nolan, whose new job as part of the LAPD is the primary focus of "The Rookie." The actor has made a career out of playing iconic fan-favorite roles over the years. He is most recognizable as the snarky, charming Browncoat Captain Mal Reynolds on Joss Whedon's cult classic space Western series "Firefly" and the follow-up film "Serenity." He also played the eponymous Richard Castle on the ABC mystery series "Castle," which followed a mystery writer dealing with real NYC crimes.
One of Fillion's earlier roles was in the soap opera "One Life to Live," for which the actor earned a Daytime Emmy nomination in 1996. He has appeared in a number of films over the course of his career, including a role in the star-studded "Saving Private Ryan." He also appeared as Hermes in "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," and played Cory Pitzner in "The Suicide Squad."
Fillion recurred as Johnny Donnelly on the ABC series "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place" from 1998 through 2001, appearing in 60 episodes. The Edmonton native has also guest starred on quite a few TV shows, including "Spin City," "The Outer Limits," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Lost," "Community," "Modern Family," "Resident Alien," and even the animated series "Gravity Falls," voicing the character Preston Northwest.
Harold Perrineau as Nick Armstrong
For John Nolan, becoming the best officer he can be means looking to more seasoned officers and detectives like night-shifter Detective Nick Armstrong, played by Harold Perrineau. Unfortunately for all parties involved, Armstrong turns out to be ethically compromised, a fact that leads to his own demise with help from a self-defense shot at Nolan's hands. The New York-born actor who plays him has a fairly extensive acting career that extends to both film and television.
In 1996, Perrineau played Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet," a modernized version of Shakespeare's tragedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. He went on to play Nebuchadnezzar pilot Link in "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions," and then appeared as Flynn in "28 Weeks Later," the 2007 sequel to Danny Boyle's apocalyptic horror film "28 Days Later."
From 2004 through 2010, Perrineau played Michael Dawson on the confusing cultural phenomenon "Lost," and he also played lead roles on the shows "Oz" and "Constantine." His later work includes playing Dean Simms on the dramedy "Claws," a role that would earn him an NAACP Image Award. More recently, he was nominated for a Saturn Award for his lead turn in the sci-fi horror series "From." Perrineau has guest starred on a number of primetime shows, including "Criminal Minds," "CSI," and "The Good Doctor."
Alyssa Diaz as Angela Lopez
Alyssa Diaz plays smart, no-nonsense training officer-turned-detective Angela Lopez on "The Rookie." Over the years, Diaz has landed numerous lead and supporting roles. Before becoming the savvy police detective, Diaz played aspiring singer Celia Ortega on the CBS soap "As the World Turns," and she appeared as generational protector Jasmine in the short-lived supernatural ABC show "The Nine Lives of Chloe King." She also played Bunchy's ex-wife Teresa on "Ray Donovan," a role she reprised for "Ray Donovan: The Movie."
Elsewhere, Diaz played Dariela Marzan in the sci-fi series "Zoo," and she appeared as Mika Camarena (the wife of Michael Peña's Enrique Salazar) in "Narcos: Mexico." In addition to her leading and supporting roles, the actor has had brief appearances in quite a few primetime dramas, including "The Last Ship," "The Vampire Diaries," "Lucifer," "How to Get Away With Murder," "Bones," and "Revolution," among others. DC fans will no doubt recognize her voice from " Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two," in which she voiced another no-nonsense cop in Renee Montoya.
Richard T. Jones as Wade Grey
Among the many Nolan detractors who find themselves changing their minds, one of the more prominent is sergeant and watch commander Wade Grey, who calls the rookie a "walking midlife crisis" when they initially cross paths. But as an officer who once lost his partner and spent two weeks recovering in intensive care himself, he has good reason to be suspicious of anyone that could compromise the safety of his officers or their community by not being fit to wear the badge. Grey is played by Richard T. Jones, whose acting career is every bit as formidable as Grey's police resume. Jones has been working in television since the early 1990s, and he has spent decades playing law enforcement officers on one show or another.
The actor briefly appeared on "NYPD Blue" and "In the Heat of the Night," and, in 1997, he played Officer Clement Johnson on the short-lived cop show "Brooklyn South." He played a detective on "American Horror Story: Hotel" in 2015; played a CIA officer on "Narcos;" appeared as Officer Lionel Wilkins on Season 12 of "Criminal Minds;" and played a detective on "Wisdom of the Crowd." In short, Jones can play a lawman in his sleep. He has also appeared in quite a few legal dramas, including "Ally McBeal," "Judging Amy," and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." Feature film credits include "Event Horizon," "Phone Booth," and "Vantage Point."
Melissa O'Neil as Lucy Chen
Nolan isn't the only newbie on the LAPD books in "The Rookie." He's joined by several fellow rookies, including Lucy Chen, who he soon strikes up a relationship with. Of all the officers that Nolan works with, Chen has one of the most interesting lives, whether she's getting a good deal by renting a dead man's apartment, mentoring a would-be car thief, or unintentionally auditioning for "American Idol." Interestingly, the actor who plays her appeared on "Canadian Idol," winning the third season of the show.
Chen is portrayed by Melissa O'Neil, who, like co-star Nathan Fillion, has her own sci-fi fandom thanks to her work on the Space channel series "Dark Matter," a show about a bunch of people who wake up aboard a starship with no memory of who they are. She plays a character known as Two (the crew all go by numbers because they don't know their names), who emerges as the leader of the group.
The Calgary-native has also appeared in several Canadian shows, including the police drama "Rogue." In 2018, she played the recurring role of Suki in The CW's "iZombie." O'Neil also appeared with Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick in the 2018 film "A Simple Favor" and played the recurring role of Janice on the CIA-themed series "The Condor."
Eric Winter as Tim Bradford
One of the more complicated characters on "The Rookie" is former Marine Tim Bradford, played by Eric Winter. Initially Lucy Chen's training officer when she first started at Mid-Wilshire Division, Bradford is known for being a hard man who believes that a tough approach is what it takes to keep officers alive. As his complicated backstory and the pain of watching his former cop wife's drug addiction is revealed, it eventually becomes clear that he is one of the most dedicated officers in the department.
Eric Winter got his start in modeling and appeared in quite a few campaigns, including a commercial for the Britney Spears fragrance Curious. He got his big break playing Roman Brady's son Rex on the long-running soap "Days of Our Lives." The California-native later appeared as murderous FBI agent and Red John operative Craig O'Laughlin on "The Mentalist," and he's also known for his supporting role in the Lifetime supernatural series "Witches of East End," appearing as Dr. Dash Gardiner. The actor has also guest starred on a few primetime dramas, including "CSI: Miami," and in terms of feature films, he's been seen in the romcom "The Ugly Truth" and the Bruce Willis actioner "Fire with Fire."
Mekia Cox as Nyla Harper
Before becoming John Nolan's training officer, Nyla Harper spent four years working undercover, work that would earn her a so-called golden ticket to be stationed anywhere she wanted to be, giving her an opportunity to be close to her daughter. The officer is played by Mekia Cox, who worked in regional theater during her younger years thanks to her extensive training in theater and dance.
Cox has appeared in quite a few primetime series and procedurals in particular over the years, including "CSI: NY," "Bones," "Gotham," "The Mentalist," "Common Law," and "Almost Human." In 2016, Cox joined the cast of the mystery anthology series "Secrets and Lies" in the role of Amanda Warner. She would later appear in the recurring role of Dr. Robyn Charles on "Chicago Med." From 2017 through 2018, she played Tiana on the seventh and final season of the Disney fairy tale fantasy series "Once Upon a Time."
Shawn Ashmore as Wesley Evers
Public defender Wesley Evers' initially contentious relationship with Lopez gets a different kind of heated pretty quickly on "The Rookie," and the pair end up in a long-term relationship that leads to marriage and a kid. The attorney is played by Shawn Ashmore, the identical twin brother of actor Aaron Ashmore, known for his work on "Killjoys," "Warehouse 13," and "Smallville."
Shawn Ashmore is well-known for playing X-Men founding member Bobby Drake, aka Iceman, in the "X-Men" franchise. Before he became Iceman, he would develop his superhuman abilities on "Animorphs" while playing Jake Berenson, a morphing expert employed by the United States Department of Defense. From 2002 through 2004, he appeared as Eric Summers on "Smallville," the series his twin brother played Jimmy Olsen on, a casting decision that would lead to some interesting fan theories in the Reddit r/Smallville community.
Ashmore also played the lead role of Ged on the SyFy miniseries "Earthsea," a role that would land him a Leo Award for best lead performance by a male in a feature length drama. More recently, he played the pyrokinetic Lamplighter on the hit Amazon series "The Boys."
Jenna Dewan as Bailey Nune
Nolan meets LAFD firefighter Bailey Nune when she locks herself out of his neighbors' place while dog-sitting for them. After this adorably awkward meet-cute, the pair hit it off. Bailey is played by actor and dancer Jenna Dewan, who music fans will recognize from Janet Jackson's video for her 2000 song "Doesn't Really Matter." In 2006, Dewan took those dancing skills to the next level while appearing in "Step Up" with Channing Tatum. She went on to play Coach Carr in the Lifetime movie "Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal," a film based on a real group of tearaway cheerleaders from Texas, as reported by ABC News.
Dewan appeared in the "American Horror Story" season "Asylum" as the horror-obsessed Teresa Morrison, whose exploration of the abandoned titular asylum is used as a plot device for framing the series. In 2013, she was cast as reincarnated bartender and witch Freya Beauchamp in the Lifetime series "Witches of East End." She also appeared in the recurring role of Julian Booth on "The Resident." More recently, she's become known for playing Lucy Lane on
Sara Rue as Nell Forester
New York-native Sara Rue plays Mid-Wilshire dispatch call center operator Nell Forester on "The Rookie." The actor has a fairly extensive film and TV resume that extends back to the late 1980s when she began working as a child actor with a role in the film "Rocket Gibraltar." Fans of old-school "Roseanne" may recognize Rue from when she played the teenage version of Roseanne Conner in the 1992 episode "Halloween IV." The young actor also appeared on an episode of "Blossom" in 1995.
From 1999 through 2001, Rue played awkward girl Carmen Ferrera on the Ryan Murphy and Gina Matthews series "Popular," which aired on The WB. In 2008, she appeared in several episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" as Dr. Stephanie Barnett. The actor has also had recurring roles on "A Series of Unfortunate Events," "Bones," and "Rules of Engagement," and has guest starred on quite a few series, including "Psych," where she played Detective Carlton Lassiter's homicidal and obsessive neighbor.
Currie Graham as Ben McRee
Nolan's old college buddy Ben McRee is the in-story explanation for why Nolan lives in a gorgeous home overlooking Los Angeles. As Nolan's wealthy friend, Ben is more than happy to supply his pal with a free place to stay — at least, for the first season or so. Ben is played by Canadian actor Currie Graham, who has appeared in loads of primetime TV shows and films during his career. Film fans will recognize him from the 2014 disaster film "Pompeii," led by "Game of Thrones" star Kit Harington. The Hamilton native is most notable for his role as the abrasive Nate Knaborski on "Suddenly Susan." From 2004 through 2005, Graham played Lieutenant Thomas Bale on Season 12 of "NYPD Blue."
Graham had a recurring role on "Boston Legal" as ADA Frank Ginsberg and played Tom and Lynette's boss on nine episodes of "Desperate Housewives." He also had a supporting role in the short-lived TNT legal drama "Raising the Bar," which dealt with some of the politics surrounding the interactions of district attorneys, law enforcement agencies, and judges. The actor went on to play Chief Prosecutor Mario Siletti in another TNT legal drama, "Murder in the First." In addition to all of those leading and supporting parts, Graham has appeared in minor roles in dozens of primetime shows, including "House," "24," "The Practice," "Monk," "CSI," "Criminal Minds," "Weeds," "Suits," and "Fringe," just to name a few.
Zayne Emory as Henry Nolan
John Nolan's relationship with his son Henry is just as important to him as his job, and, like all good parents, Nolan just wants the best for his kid. The role of Henry Nolan is played by Zayne Emory, who boasts a surprisingly impressive resume despite his relatively young years. Emory got his first onscreen gig at the tender age of 11 when he appeared on "Criminal Minds" in the Season 5 episode "Haunted." Within a few years, the young actor had racked up appearances on "CSI: Miami," "The Closer," "Ghost Whisperer," and "Shameless," among others.
In 2016, Emory appeared on "24: Legacy" as Drew, a teenager whose girlfriend is part of a terrorist sleeper cell. Emory also played Adam's bully-turned-friend J.C. Spink on all but the first season of "The Goldbergs." From 2015 through 2018, he played Brendan Proctor on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." The actor has also guest starred in several other series, including "Supergirl" and "Runaways."
Michael Beach and Titus Makin Jr. as Percy and Jackson West
Internal Affairs CO and dad to rookie Jackson West on "The Rookie," Percy West has been on the force for 30 years by the time his son joins up. The seasoned cop is portrayed by Michael Beach, who has been appearing on camera in both TV and films for decades. West's many film credits include the 1989 ocean fantasy "The Abyss," the 1994 TV movie "Knight Rider 2010," and the DC hit "Aquaman," in which he plays Black Manta's father. He has had guest appearances in quite a few detective and procedural shows over the decades, including "Walker, Texas Ranger," "NYPD Blue," "Law & Order," "Numbers," "Lie to Me," "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior," and "NCIS," to name but a few.
From 1995 through 1997, West was a supporting cast member on "ER" in the role of Jeanie Boulet's husband Al. He went on to star as paramedic Monte "Doc" Parker in the main cast of "Third Watch." Beach would also play the recurring role of Colonel Abe Ellis on "Stargate: Atlantis" from 2007 through 2009. Starting in 2016, the actor appeared as the Ark kids' hardline Earth Skills teacher on "The 100." More recently, he portrayed Detective Murphy in Netflix's "Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story."
Meanwhile, his onscreen son Jackson is played by Titus Makin Jr., who viewers will recognize from a variety of TV shows. He's perhaps best known for his turn as David in "Glee," but Makin Jr. has also plied his trade on the likes of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Pretty Little Liars," in which he plays undercover cop Clark Wilkins. He poses as a photography student in order to get close to Aria. He's also no stranger to Nathan Fillion, having previously appeared in "Castle."