For a series set in the murky world of international espionage, Berlin Station definitely isn’t afraid to hire well-known people. Season two sees Ashley Judd joining the team as the head of the CIA’s Berlin team, but she’s just the tip of an all-star iceberg: this is one group of spies just about everybody is going to recognise.
Ashley Judd as BB Yates, Berlin’s new Chief of Station
Much of the focus in season one of Berlin Station was on who exactly was going to take over the CIA’s Berlin Station once the old chief finally quit. In a move that’s depressingly true-to-life even for a gritty spy thriller, the CIA ended up bringing in someone from outside. The good news is, new station chief BB Yates is played by Ashley Judd, who knows a little something about playing tough law enforcement officers.
Best known for a string of thrillers around the turn of the century, including Kiss the Girls, High Crimes, Twisted, and the legally dubious Double Jeopardy, Judd – who started her career with a reoccurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation – has done everything from romantic comedy (Someone Like You) to feel-good drama (The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya- Sisterhood) to family comedy (The Tooth Fairy, where she played Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s girlfriend).
Most recently she appeared in the revival of Twin Peaks as Beverly Paige, Benjamin Horne’s personal assistant and one of the most straightforward characters on the show. And if they ever get around to making the long-delayed fourth Divergent movie she might once again turn up as the heroine’s dead mother.
Rhys Ifans as Case Officer Hector DeJean
It’s not really fair to single any one cast member out, but Rhys Ifans has played Mycroft Holmes (on Elementary), supervillain The Lizard (in The Amazing Spider-Man) and Eyeball Paul (in Kevin and Perry Go Large, which is probably not a film that you need to see), so it’s safe to say he’s one of the big guns on Berlin Station – and yes, he is back in series two. He’s probably still best known to many as slovenly best friend Spike in Notting Hill, but appearances in Harry Potter and the Deathly Harrows (as Xenophilius Lovegood) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (as Zanik Hightopp) suggest that he may be selecting his roles based on how strange his characters’ names are.
Michelle Forbes as Valerie Edwards, Berlin Station Internal Branch Chief
It’s probably easier to list the shows you haven’t seen her in. Forbes’ first big break in prime-time television was as Ensign Ro on Star Trek: The Next Generation (sorry, she never appeared in an episode with Ashley Judd). After she turned down a lead in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (she didn’t want to be locked down for a seven year contract) she moved between movies and television, appearing in Swimming With Sharks, Escape From L.A., Perfume and more recently the final Hunger Games film and in series such as Homicide: Life on the Street, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Boston Legal, Prison Break, Waking the Dead, In Treatment, The Killing and True Blood. She’s been busy.
John Doman as Richard Hanes, the new American ambassador to Germany
Hey, it’s Rawls from The Wire! Or, if you have somewhat different tastes, Don Falcone from the Batman-as-a-boy series Gotham. He’s been spreading his wings internationally too, appearing in the European co-production Borgia as Cardinal (later Pope) Borgia. An ex-marine and Vietnam veteran who spent twenty years working in advertising, he’s also played eleven separate characters across the various Law & Order franchises
Scott William Winters as CIA agent Nick Fischer
Hey, it’s the guy from Good Will Hunting who was trying to pick up Minnie Driver! Those with long memories or excellent taste might also remember him from the HBO prison drama Oz, where he appeared opposite his brother Dean (playing his brother, which was convenient). His appearance in season two makes it something of a Borgia reunion: Winters was also a series regular, playing Cardinal Raffaele Riario.
Thomas Kretschmann as far-right extremist Otto Ganz
You know this guy is up to no good, because he was Baron Strucker in the last two Captain America movies. Plus he voiced Professor Z in Cars 2, and nobody involves with that terrible, terrible film can be all good. And being a German actor working in Hollywood, he’s played plenty of members of the Third Reich, including major roles in The Pianist, Valkyrie, Downfall, and the lead in a 2007 film about Adolf Eichmann.
Richard Jenkins as Steven Frost, the former Chief of the Berlin Station
If you don’t recognise Richard Jenkins, you clearly don’t own a working television – actually, how are you even reading this? Sure, he was the dead dad in Six Feet Under, but he’s been turning up in every second decent Hollywood movie for decades now – this year alone he was in The Shape of Water and Kong: Skull Island. Want more credits? He’s also been in Bone Tomahawk, White House Down, Jack Reacher, Killing Them Softly, The Cabin in the Woods, Hall Pass, The Rum Diary, Let Me In, Friends with Benefits, and The Joy Luck Club. Plus he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in 2007’s The Visitor.
Richard Armitage as Agent Daniel Miller
Last but far from least is the star of Berlin Station, Richard Armitage, who plays analyst and undercover agent Daniel Miller. It’s a bit of a change from his best known role as Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit trilogy, though he’s been busy outside of Middle Earth, most notably turning up as Francis Dolarhyde in Hannibal, as a Nazi spy in the first Captain America film, plus regular roles in UK action series Spooks and Strikeback. And if you’re waiting to see him again on the big screen, good news: he’ll be appearing in the upcoming heist film Ocean’s Eight.
Watch Berlin Station Wednesdays at 10:30pm on SBS. The first two seasons of the show are streaming at SBS On Demand: