Meet the Cast & Characters of Us
Combine a funny and tender story of a family in transition, a diversionary European vacation, and a stellar cast bringing it all to life, and you have Us, based on the novel by David Nicholls. From familiar stars like Tom Hollander (Baptiste, Pirates of the Caribbean) and Saskia Reeves (Wolf Hall, Les Misérables), to up-and-comers like Tom Taylor and Thaddea Graham, get to know the cast of the all-new series, what they think of their characters and their complicated journeys, and more. Us premieres on Sunday, June 20 at 9/8c on MASTERPIECE on PBS.
Tom Hollander as Douglas
About The Character: Hollander plays Douglas Petersen, a man whose life is quickly turned upside down overnight, and he’s not sure how to make it right. “[He’s] is a man whose wife wants to leave him but he doesn’t want to be left,” Hollander explained. “Their son is about to go to art college and they have spent months planning an art tour of Europe. Douglas is fairly conflicted about the idea as he isn’t sure he wants to go on holiday with someone who might want to leave him. However he decides that the best way of fighting for his wife is to go on the holiday with the mission of making his marriage survive.”
Not only is Douglas struggling with his marriage, but his relationship with his son Albie isn’t exactly doing well, either. “Douglas thinks his wife Connie prefers her son Albie to her husband so there is a slight triangle there. There is also a certain amount of discomfort for both Albie and Douglas as he’s quite a grumpy dad! The story speaks to parents of a certain age, those who have children who might be about to fly the nest or go to college.”
Filming Around the World: “It was wonderful to be shooting in the actual places,” Hollander said. “It was particularly magical as we had access to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a couple of rooms in the Louvre in Paris for an afternoon, the glorious Joan Miro Fundacion in Barcelona for a day and in our very own National Gallery.”
But even beautiful, magical shooting locations are not without certain difficulties. “It was very challenging for production and shooting in four different countries. There were four different crews and we were shooting out of sequence as ever; so you could be walking into a doorway in Amsterdam in Episode 2 which then turned into a staircase in Paris in Episode 1 which turned into a bedroom and then weeks later back into a studio in London to play the room through the doorway in Amsterdam, to enable you to end up on a different street in Paris. It was quite a logistical feat to get it done.”
Where You’ve Seen Him Before: Hollander may be best known for his role as Mr. Collins in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride & Prejudice (starring Keira Knightley and Howards End star Matthew Macfadyen), from his role in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, or from his role in Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes’ Academy Award winning 2001 film Gosford Park, starring Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon (Harry Potter) and more. He also recently starred alongside Tchéky Karyo in the MASTERPIECE Mystery! series Baptiste.
Saskia Reeves as Connie
About the Character: Reeves plays Connie, wife of Douglas, mother to Albie, teacher, artist…and a woman looking to move forward in her life without Douglas by her side any longer. “There’s nothing dramatic about the reason that Connie wants to leave Douglas and that’s what makes it so difficult, knotty and complicated,” Reeves said of the couple. “There’s no affair. It’s very subtle and that’s what I think makes it very unique.”
“[Connie] took refuge in [Douglas’] absolute undying love for her and I think over the years, she’s completely settled for a life that she never ultimately wanted,” Reeves explained. “Connie gave up her art and became more of a teacher. She ended up doing other things besides being the creative person she had set out to be.”
Filming Around the World: “The landscape of the story is so fantastic; we go from London and all around Europe. It was wonderful to film in these extraordinary locations. I’m excited to watch it as it will be fantastic to see these beautiful cities that we filmed in. I know Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona very well. It’s so lovely to film on location; you can really immerse yourself in the whole story and don’t have to work very hard in terms of imagination.”
Where You’ve Seen Her Before: Reeves is known for her roles in television series such as Luther, alongside Idris Elba; Belgravia; Death in Paradise; and MASTERPIECE series Wolf Hall and Roadkill. Fans may also recognize her from a number of films including Dune and A Christmas Carol (alongside Patrick Stewart and Richard E. Grant).
Tom Taylor as Albie
About the Character: Taylor plays Albie, the rebellious teenage son of Connie and Douglas who is trying to find himself while dealing with his disintegrating family. “[Albie] goes on a huge journey for himself,” Taylor explained. “He doesn’t particularly want to go on holiday with his parents and feels he has been dragged into it – so tries to ditch them. Douglas tries so hard with the family, going on this grand tour to reunite them all. Albie’s very sensitive but doesn’t show it a lot.”
Fun Fact: To prep for the role of the creative teen, Taylor had to learn how to actually play guitar — not just fake it. “I’d never played guitar before,” he said. “I actually really love it and my brother was in Amsterdam with me when I was there so alongside Thaddea [Graham] they both helped me learn how to play. I really got into it. I was really nervous at first but I’ve got a new discovery – I can play guitar and sing ‘Smile’ by Lily Allen!”
Where You’ve Seen Him Before: Fans may recognize Taylor from The Dark Tower as Jake, from The Last Kingdom as Young Uhtred, or from the TV series Doctor Foster: A Woman Scorned. Coming up next for Taylor: a starring role in the TV mini-series Close to Me.
Sofie Gråbøl as Freja
About the Character: Gråbøl plays Freja, another traveler who is on a journey to do some soul searching, much like the Petersen family. “I play a Danish tourist who meets Douglas in Venice,” said Gråbøl. “She’s a divorced dentist who is traveling alone in a sentimental way to find herself…I think they understand each other – they are both shipwrecked in different ways. I think one of the wonderful things about the story is that you identify on so many levels. I identify with the story about having children that are coming of age and the feeling of that chapter ending.”
Filming Around the World: Of course, the cherry on top of working on a project like Us were the locations. “It’s amazing – how lucky were we? Barcelona and Venice are such a treat but also London!” said the Danish actress. “I know for a lot of people that means nothing but for me it’s very exotic. I love London so much so it was a dream. Apart from being able to visit these spectacular places, it was so luxurious to have good dialogue and long scenes.”
Where You’ve Seen Her Before: Gråbøl has appeared in a number of films and TV series throughout her career, including an episode of the hit series Gentleman Jack, in the mini series The Undoing (alongside Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant), and in the series The Killing.
Thaddea Graham as Kat
About the Character: Northern Irish actress Thaddea Graham plays the cool and creative Kat.“I play Kat and she’s someone who has been travelling for a while. She meets Albie busking on a bridge in her spot and sets him straight. Kat becomes part of the Petersens’ journey.”
Graham was drawn to the role because of the uniqueness of fun-loving Kat. “I just love Kat’s energy, she’s so big and full of life and I love the fact she is a musician. I created a bit of a backstory with our producer that Kat had gone on a journey with some people from home in Northern Ireland and started a little band by going on a tour in Europe – however it fell apart because Kat has a very big personality. She’s very confident and I think that could cause a bit of trouble within a group so she split off! She’s so much fun to play as she’s so different to me. I’d never be brave enough to get all these tattoos and do my hair in the way that Kat does.”
Filming Around the World: “It’s really exciting shooting away from home. I’d never been to Amsterdam before so it was cool to explore a city in that way and it’s a different way to see it. It was nice to have a wander in the evening after shooting – there were so many bicycles! I was almost been hit by one a few times but that’s my own stupidity, I forget to look!”
Where You’ve Seen Her Before: Graham has appeared in a number of roles before Us, including the TV series Curfew, the TV series The Letter for the King and, most recently, in The Irregulars, alongside other MASTERPIECE stars such as Nell Hudson (Victoria) and Henry Lloyrd-Hughes (Les Misérables, Indian Summers).
Iain De Caestecker as Young Douglas
About the Character: Scottish actor Iain De Caestecker plays the younger version of Tom Hollander’s Douglas in flashbacks to his early years with Connie. “Whereas Douglas and Connie in present day are struggling with the idea of the end of their marriage, the flashbacks into the younger Douglas and Connie show how they first met and the origins and context of their relationship,” he explained. “I think one of the interesting things about Young Douglas is that on the surface, and perhaps unlike Connie, he hasn’t changed so much from then until now. But, the more we learn, we see that Douglas has actually changed more than he realizes.”
Prepping for the Role: Before he’d even learned of the project, De Caestecker was already a fan of the David Nicholls’ story. “Funnily enough my mum and I sometimes share books that we’ve enjoyed and she had given me Us. I was maybe two or three chapters in when I got an email from my agent with the scripts.”
And how was it preparing for a role that’s also being played by another actor in the same series? “We [he and Tom Hollander] met a few times before we started shooting. Partly to work out make-up and costume decisions but also to discuss the character too,” he explained. “Tom was incredibly kind with his advice and sharing his thoughts for the character which were invaluable and that continued throughout filming as well. I even remember one day we were filming our wedding scenes and both Gina [Bramhill] and I were feeling nervous. Tom had finished filming for the day but he went home, picked up a bottle of champagne for us and gave us a little glass to calm our nerves. Then he stuck around while we filmed the scene and gave us some really helpful notes and ideas.”
Where You’ve Seen Him Before: De Caestecker is best known for starring as Leo Fitz in the television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and also appeared in Coronation Street. MASTERPIECE fans may also remember De Caestecker from his role in Roadkill, alongside Hugh Laurie and Helen McCrory.
Gina Bramhill as Young Connie
About the Character: Bramhill plays the younger, flashback version of Saskia Reeves’ character Connie Petersen, back when Connie was a young wife, soon-to-be mother, and still an artist with big dreams for her future. Bramhill believes being able to see those early moments between Connie and Douglas was essential to the overall story. “Without the flashbacks we wouldn’t have the empathy we do towards them in the present. I think everyone can relate to not quite feeling the way they did when they were younger.”
Preparing for the Role: How does one, exactly, prepare for a role that they’re sharing with another co-star? For Bramhill, part of the challenge was nailing the look. “We had such an incredible make-up team led by the brilliant Lucy Cain. She and I talked a lot about Young Connie’s look for the 90s and played around with different wigs and styles,” she explained. “Saskia and I have obvious similarities, but some of the structure of my face was altered very cleverly using make-up. The time gap between us also allowed us to show how much Connie had changed as well. Even within Young Connie’s arc we played with her evolving and growing older through hair, make-up and costume.”
Plus, like her Young Douglas co-star Iain De Caestecker, Bramhill was already a fan of David Nicholls’ work. “I am a huge David Nicholls fan! One Day has to be one of my all-time favorites. Somehow I had missed this one, so it was an absolute delight to read it after I got the part. I did manage to listen to the fantastic audiobook by Justin Salinger before my recall audition though. The book was such an incredible resource to use alongside the script to build the character. I felt extremely lucky to be working with such strong source material.”
Where You’ve Seen Her Before: Before her performance in Us, Bramhill was best known for her appearances in a number of TV series including MASTERPIECE hits like Endeavour, Mr.Selfridge, and Sherlock, as well as in Black Mirror, Coronation Street, and Being Human (alongside fellow MASTERPIECE stars Aidan Turner from Poldark and Russell Tovey from Flesh and Blood).