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Meet The Cast Of Characters In Amazon’s The Underground Railroad

·6-min read

Slight spoilers are ahead. Like the detailed routes throughout the actual Underground Railroad, the cast of characters involved in the journey depicted in the new Amazon Prime series are plentiful. The Underground Railroad's visually captivating story of runaway slave Cora Randall spans a plethora of states — from Georgia to North Carolina to Indiana — over the course of months, with each new town bringing people who mean to both help and harm her into her proximity.

The Underground Railroad is, at its core, not just Cora’s story. Viewers are taken on a journey through multiple characters’ origins, as well as their hopes for the future. With slaves, slave catchers, freeborn men and women and abolitionists alike given their chance to tell their story over the course of 10 episodes, viewers walk away from the series more knowledgeable about what led each character to become involved in the system known as the U.S. slave trade. For some, it’s hatred. For many others, it’s a fact of life they must live with. Like the locomotives that give the titular railroad its name being underground, the system connects our characters in a way they can’t always see, for better and for worse.

These are the characters who make up The Underground Railroad and how they’re involved in Cora’s epic journey.

<h2>Thuso Mbedu plays Cora Randall<br></h2><br>The heroine of <em>The Underground Railroad</em>, Cora initially doesn’t see a life for herself beyond the Randall plantation. After her escape with Caesar, however, she begins to envision a life for herself as a free woman far away from <a href="https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/united-states-history-primary-source-timeline/national-expansion-and-reform-1815-1880/pre-civil-war-african-american-slavery/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Southern U.S." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the Southern U.S.</a>; the kind of woman her mother Mabel became after she abandoned a young Cora during her escape.<br><br>South African actor Mbedu is largely known for her television work, most notably in the South African series <em>Is'Thunzi,</em> which earned her an International Emmy nomination in 2017.<span class="copyright">Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.</span>

Thuso Mbedu plays Cora Randall


The heroine of The Underground Railroad, Cora initially doesn’t see a life for herself beyond the Randall plantation. After her escape with Caesar, however, she begins to envision a life for herself as a free woman far away from the Southern U.S.; the kind of woman her mother Mabel became after she abandoned a young Cora during her escape.

South African actor Mbedu is largely known for her television work, most notably in the South African series Is'Thunzi, which earned her an International Emmy nomination in 2017.Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
<h2>Aaron Pierre plays Caesar Garner<br></h2><br>Caesar was sold to the Randall plantation in Georgia after being promised his freedom following his master’s death in Virginia. A sharp and literate man — a trait he must hide <a href="https://americanexperience.si.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Literacy-as-Freedom.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:as an enslaved man" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">as an enslaved man</a> — Caesar has connections to the Underground Railroad prior to his and Cora’s escape, ensuring their safe getaway from Georgia.<br><br>British actor Pierre was known for this stage and TV work prior to <em>The Underground Railroad</em>. He starred in the SyFy series Krypton and played Cassio in the Globe Theatre’s 2018 run of Othello in London. <span class="copyright">Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.</span>

Aaron Pierre plays Caesar Garner


Caesar was sold to the Randall plantation in Georgia after being promised his freedom following his master’s death in Virginia. A sharp and literate man — a trait he must hide as an enslaved man — Caesar has connections to the Underground Railroad prior to his and Cora’s escape, ensuring their safe getaway from Georgia.

British actor Pierre was known for this stage and TV work prior to The Underground Railroad. He starred in the SyFy series Krypton and played Cassio in the Globe Theatre’s 2018 run of Othello in London. Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
<h2>Joel Edgerton plays Arnold Ridgeway<br></h2><br>Ridgeway is <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/underground-railroad-how-slave-catchers-track-down-plantation-runaways-1591605" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a slave catcher" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a slave catcher</a> with a reputation for being the best in his line of work. But the skills he takes pride in can’t hide the religious and moral guilt he clearly struggles with. He sets his sights on capturing Cora and Caesar soon after their escape, a job he takes especially seriously since Mabel, Cora’s mother, was the only slave to evade him.<br><br>Edgerton is famous for his starring roles in films like <em>Star Wars: Episode II and III</em>, <em>Zero Dark Thirty</em>, <em>The Great Gatsby</em>, and <em>Loving</em>.<span class="copyright">Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.</span>

Joel Edgerton plays Arnold Ridgeway


Ridgeway is a slave catcher with a reputation for being the best in his line of work. But the skills he takes pride in can’t hide the religious and moral guilt he clearly struggles with. He sets his sights on capturing Cora and Caesar soon after their escape, a job he takes especially seriously since Mabel, Cora’s mother, was the only slave to evade him.

Edgerton is famous for his starring roles in films like Star Wars: Episode II and III, Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby, and Loving.Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
<h2>Chase W. Dillon plays Homer<br></h2><br>A free young boy, Homer is Ridgeway's assistant and informant, helping him track down any runaway slaves the man has his sights on. Homer was bought by Ridgeway to settle a debt, and was offered his freedom almost immediately. He refused and decided to assist the man down his cruel life path instead.<br><br>Twelve-year-old Dillon has starred in <em>The First Wives Club</em> TV series on BET, <em>Little America</em> on Apple TV, and <em>That Damn Michael Che</em> on HBO Max.<span class="copyright">Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.</span>

Chase W. Dillon plays Homer


A free young boy, Homer is Ridgeway's assistant and informant, helping him track down any runaway slaves the man has his sights on. Homer was bought by Ridgeway to settle a debt, and was offered his freedom almost immediately. He refused and decided to assist the man down his cruel life path instead.

Twelve-year-old Dillon has starred in The First Wives Club TV series on BET, Little America on Apple TV, and That Damn Michael Che on HBO Max.Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
<h2>Will Poulter plays Sam<br></h2><br>Sam is a station agent for the Underground Railroad and helps Cora and Caesar begin their new lives in South Carolina after their escape from Georgia. He is also involved with the local efforts to include free Black men and women into <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/ghana-year-of-return-slavery" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:post-slavery society" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">post-slavery society</a>.<br><br>Poulter earned praise during his career for his roles in the comedy <em>We Are The Millers</em>, <em>The Maze Runner</em> and <em>Maze Runner: The Death Cure</em>, Netflix’s <em>Black Mirror: Bandersnatch</em> and <em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/05/232696/midsommar-trailer-ari-aster-breakup-movie" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Midsommar" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Midsommar</a>.</em><span class="copyright">Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.</span>

Will Poulter plays Sam


Sam is a station agent for the Underground Railroad and helps Cora and Caesar begin their new lives in South Carolina after their escape from Georgia. He is also involved with the local efforts to include free Black men and women into post-slavery society.

Poulter earned praise during his career for his roles in the comedy We Are The Millers, The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Midsommar.Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
<h2>William Jackson Harper plays Royal<br></h2><br>Royal helps Cora escape from Ridgeway while the latter is passing through his family farm in Tennessee. Born as a free man, Royal dedicates his life to the Underground Railroad mission and helping enslaved men and women escape to better lives. He develops a fondness for Cora during their time on the Valentine farm in Indiana.<br><br>Harper first rose to prominence as Chidi Anagonye on <em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/06/234895/the-good-place-ending-season-4" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Good Place" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Good Place</a></em> from 2016 to 2020. Since then, he’s starred in the films <em>Midsommar</em> and <em>Dark Waters</em> and will star in the <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/11/10150955/william-jackson-harper-hbo-max-love-life-season-2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:second season of" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">second season of </a><em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/11/10150955/william-jackson-harper-hbo-max-love-life-season-2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Love Life" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Love Life</a></em>.<span class="copyright">Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.</span>

William Jackson Harper plays Royal


Royal helps Cora escape from Ridgeway while the latter is passing through his family farm in Tennessee. Born as a free man, Royal dedicates his life to the Underground Railroad mission and helping enslaved men and women escape to better lives. He develops a fondness for Cora during their time on the Valentine farm in Indiana.

Harper first rose to prominence as Chidi Anagonye on The Good Place from 2016 to 2020. Since then, he’s starred in the films Midsommar and Dark Waters and will star in the second season of Love Life.Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
<h2>Damon Herriman plays Martin<br></h2><br>Martin is a station agent based in North Carolina who takes Cora in after she escapes South Carolina. His life in an overtly religious and racist town and his marriage to Ethel, a bigot, make him a nervous wreck who must hide his involvement in the abolitionist movement.<br><br>The Australian actor has portrayed Charles Manson twice in his career, on <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/08/240391/mindhunter-who-plays-charles-manson" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Netflix’s" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Netflix’s </a><em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/08/240391/mindhunter-who-plays-charles-manson" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Mindhunter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Mindhunter</a></em> and in <em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/08/239611/bruce-lee-mockery-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Once Upon a Time in Hollywood</a></em>. Herriman also starred as Dewey Crowe in <em>Justified</em> from 2010 to 2015.<span class="copyright">Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.</span>

Damon Herriman plays Martin


Martin is a station agent based in North Carolina who takes Cora in after she escapes South Carolina. His life in an overtly religious and racist town and his marriage to Ethel, a bigot, make him a nervous wreck who must hide his involvement in the abolitionist movement.

The Australian actor has portrayed Charles Manson twice in his career, on Netflix’s Mindhunter and in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Herriman also starred as Dewey Crowe in Justified from 2010 to 2015.Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
<h2>Lily Rabe plays Ethel<br></h2><br>Ethel is Martin's wife and the unwilling holder of his secret effort to help slaves travel through the Underground Railroad. Despite living with Cora and Grace, another slave who secretly takes residence in their home thanks to Martin, Ethel considers them beneath her and sub-human. Her faith in God is the only thing helping her cope with keeping their secret.<br><br>Rabe has remained a staple in <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2014/03/64432/american-horror-story-season-4-cast-rumors" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Ryan Murphy's" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Ryan Murphy's </a><em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2014/03/64432/american-horror-story-season-4-cast-rumors" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:American Horror Story" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">American Horror Story</a></em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2014/03/64432/american-horror-story-season-4-cast-rumors" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:anthology series" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> anthology series</a>, portraying several different characters since the show’s inception in 2010. She’s also starred in the TV series <em>Legion</em> and <em><a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/12/10204594/mystery-shows-like-the-undoing-hbo" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Undoing" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Undoing</a></em> and in numerous stage productions, most notably Shakespearean works.<span class="copyright">Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.</span>

Lily Rabe plays Ethel


Ethel is Martin's wife and the unwilling holder of his secret effort to help slaves travel through the Underground Railroad. Despite living with Cora and Grace, another slave who secretly takes residence in their home thanks to Martin, Ethel considers them beneath her and sub-human. Her faith in God is the only thing helping her cope with keeping their secret.

Rabe has remained a staple in Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story anthology series, portraying several different characters since the show’s inception in 2010. She’s also starred in the TV series Legion and The Undoing and in numerous stage productions, most notably Shakespearean works.Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
<h2>Amber Gray plays Gloria Valentine<br></h2><br>Gloria Valentine is the wife of John Valentine, the owner of Valentine Farm in Indiana, where Royal and Cora live after leaving Tennessee. Despite being born a slave herself, Gloria continuously works to bury any trace of her lineage in her speech and instead adopts a more proud demeanour.<br><br>A stage veteran, Gray originated the role of Persephone in the Tony-winning Broadway musical <em>Hadestown</em>. She also starred as Hélène Bezukhova in the musical <em>Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812</em>.<span class="copyright">Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.</span>

Amber Gray plays Gloria Valentine


Gloria Valentine is the wife of John Valentine, the owner of Valentine Farm in Indiana, where Royal and Cora live after leaving Tennessee. Despite being born a slave herself, Gloria continuously works to bury any trace of her lineage in her speech and instead adopts a more proud demeanour.

A stage veteran, Gray originated the role of Persephone in the Tony-winning Broadway musical Hadestown. She also starred as Hélène Bezukhova in the musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
<h2>Sheila Atim plays Mabel<br></h2><br>Mabel is Cora's mother, a woman who escaped the Randall plantation in Cora's youth and, subsequently, Ridgeway's grasp. Mabel is infamous among the Randall plantation slaves as a selfish, careless person to leave her only daughter behind in search of freedom. Her lack of a presence weighs heavy on Cora, who vows to beat Mabel should the two ever meet again.<br><br>The British-both Atim is another actor whose first love is the stage, having starred in various Shakespearean plays including <em>The Tempest, Henry IV </em>and<em> Othello</em>. She’s also starred in <em>Girl from the North Country</em> as Marianne Laine.<span class="copyright">Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.</span>

Sheila Atim plays Mabel


Mabel is Cora's mother, a woman who escaped the Randall plantation in Cora's youth and, subsequently, Ridgeway's grasp. Mabel is infamous among the Randall plantation slaves as a selfish, careless person to leave her only daughter behind in search of freedom. Her lack of a presence weighs heavy on Cora, who vows to beat Mabel should the two ever meet again.

The British-both Atim is another actor whose first love is the stage, having starred in various Shakespearean plays including The Tempest, Henry IV and Othello. She’s also starred in Girl from the North Country as Marianne Laine.Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.

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