Where Do I Know That Actor? (Mamma Mia! Edition)

Every now and then, I like to veer slightly away from the small screen to make a big screen connection and, right now, there seems only one film deserving of such a look. The ABBA-inspired sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again took in around $34 million in its opening weekend, placing it number two at the box office. Although I’ve not seen it myself I couldn’t help but be taken by all the familiar names and faces I spied viewing the trailer during a recent cinematic outing. Some may be obvious, but let’s take note of them all as best we can.

The hit movie stars Lilly James in the role of Young Donna in 1979. James may not be the biggest name in the cast but she should be among the best well-known of PBS-related stars since she played Lady Rose on Downton Abbey.

Meryl Streep, of course, plays Donna, reprising her role from the first film. Offhand, you might think Streep hasn’t been a presence on public broadcasting and, for the most part, you’d be right. However, imdb.com credits her with two roles on Great Performances – Edith Varney on Secret Service (1977) and Leilah on Uncommon Women… and Others (1979). Moreover, the acclaimed actress had appeared on American Masters, Live From Lincoln Center, the documentary series Freedom: A History of Us and the Ken Burns’ series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, among others. So I think it’s safe to say Meryl Streep has a long and healthy PBS association.

Julie Walters, who plays Rosie, may be the second most recognizable PBS persona as she has most recently played Cynthia Coffin on Indian Summers. She was also Mistress Quickly on The Hollow Crown, Mrs. Holland on The Ruby in the Smoke (A Sally Lockhart Mystery) and Mrs. Mann on a turn-of-the-century Oliver Twist.

Dominic Cooper is Sky. He played Willoughby on Sense & Sensibility, a 2008 Masterpiece Classic presentation.

Pierce Brosnan portrays Sam. You have to go back to a 1980s Masterpiece Theatre series to catch his PBS connection but Brosnan played Robert Gould Shaw on Nancy Astor.

Colin Firth is Harry. He’s a big time movie star now but, going back a few decades, you could have caught Mr. Firth as Richard Herncastle on Lost Empires, Charles Gould on Nostromo and Master on Turn of the Screw (all on Masterpiece Theatre).

Celia Imrie is credited as Vice Chancellor. Imrie has had small roles on shows like Upstairs Downstairs, To The Manor Born, Bergerac, A Dark Adapted Eye and The Darling Buds of May. However, it wasn’t until this century that she started to get meatier roles that might be better known to UNC-TV viewers. She played Mrs. Meyrick on Daniel Deronda, Anna Gromyko on Doctor Zhivago, Diana on the Britcom After You’ve Gone and Gloria Millington on the Stephen Fry series Kingdom.

Hugh Skinner is Young Harry. He will probably best known as Unwin Trevaunance on series two of Poldark. Also, he played Lionel Mounstuart on Any Human Heart and Felix Clare on Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Naoko Mori plays Yumiko. She portrayed Yoko Ono in the Masterpiece presentation of Lennon Naked (opposite Christopher Eccleston’s John Lennon).

Now, I admit I can’t find much a connection for the other principals. There may have been a guest spot on a performance or chat show but no obvious starring roles in dramas and the like. The once exception somewhat surprised me. It was Cher. I would have thought the singer/actress would have no public television credits to speak of outside of a guest shot on maybe The Dick Cavett Show but I was wrong. Cher appeared on an episode of Sesame Street in 2004 and on a 2012 American Masters profiling David Geffen. Those alone might be labelled too tenuous as to be admissible but then I happened upon a pledge special from the early aughts: Cher: The Farewell Tour aired in 2003 and forevermore links the Goddess of Pop to PBS.

So there you have it. The stars of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and their public broadcasting connections. If you’ve seen the film, you may have recognized these actors from loads of UNC-TV programs we’ve aired. And that’s why today’s unknowns may be tomorrow’s A-list box office boffo. Keep watching and I’ll keep connecting the dots.

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