Meet the 'Sweet Magnolias' Cast: From Their Season 3 Characters to Their Off-Screen Relationships

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Season 3 of 'Sweet Magnolias' is now streaming on Netflix starring JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Heather Headley, Brooke Elliott and more

<p>Courtesy of Netflix</p>

Courtesy of Netflix

It’s time to head back to Serenity, South Carolina, for season 3 of the hit Netflix series Sweet Magnolias.

Based on the romance novels by Sherryl Woods, the show follows best friends Maddie Townsend (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), Dana Sue Sullivan (Brooke Elliott) and Helen Decatur (Heather Headley), affectionately known as the “Sweet Magnolias,” as they navigate romantic relationships, family life and careers in the small town of Serenity.

The 10-episode first season, directed by Norman Buckley, premiered on Netflix in May 2020 and earned the No. 1 position in Netflix’s top 10 shows in the U.S.

In June 2023, the streaming service released its trailer for season 3. It featured Maddie — whose husband left her for his mistress — teasing, "New challenges and new relationships are good for the soul.”

The trailer also showed Dana Sue attempting to move forward with her formerly estranged husband, Helen struggling with indecision between two great men and Maddie treading carefully in her relationship with her son’s baseball coach, Cal (Justin Bruening).

From their previous roles to their lives outside of Serenity, here's everything to know about the cast of Sweet Magnolias.

JoAnna Garcia Swisher as Maddie Townsend

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Paul Archuleta/Getty</p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Paul Archuleta/Getty

JoAnna Garcia Swisher, 43, plays the show’s protagonist, Maddie Townsend, a recent divorcée and single mother to three children. She runs the Corner Spa with her best friends, Helen and Dana Sue.

"I think I love being a part of a show about women that absolutely wholeheartedly support each other," she previously told PEOPLE. "They don't always agree, but they are each other's biggest advocate and they're never alone in life because they have each other. And that's a really beautiful testament to what friendship can be."

Nickelodeon discovered Garcia Swisher during one of her high school theater performances in Tampa, Florida — which is how she landed her role in the TV show, Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1994-1996). Following her TV debut, she starred in several prominent small-screen shows, including playing the role of Cheyenne on the hit series Reba (2001-2007). She then starred in the CW’s Privileged (2008-2009) and The Astronaut Wives Club (2015).

Garcia Swisher garnered additional TV credits with recurring roles on Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000), Gossip Girl (2009), Royal Pains (2012) and The Mindy Project (2014).

She also has experience on the big screen, and her list of credits includes American Pie 2 (2001), Revenge of the Bridesmaids (2010), The Internship (2013) and As Luck Would Have It (2021).

Most recently, Garcia Swisher hosted the Netflix series The Ultimatum: Queer Love (2023), which follows couples made up of women and non-binary people who are at a crossroads in their relationship (one partner is ready to settle down and get married while the other isn’t).

As for her personal life, she and her husband, former MLB player Nick Swisher, share two daughters: Emerson and Sailor.

Brooke Elliott as Dana Sue Sullivan

<p>Steve Swisher/Netflix ; Mike Pont/WireImage</p>

Steve Swisher/Netflix ; Mike Pont/WireImage

Brooke Elliott, 48, plays single mother Dana Sue Sullivan, co-owner of the Corner Spa and owner of Sullivan’s Restaurant.

The Minnesota native gained widespread recognition for her role as Jane Bingum — a shy lawyer who was accidentally killed but came back to life as a model — on Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva (2009-2014).

Before joining the Lifetime series, she worked with Mel Gibson on What Women Want (2000) and guest-starred on Law & Order: Trial by Jury (2005) and Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings (2019).

Elliott, who had voice training for 18 years and majored in musical theater performance at Western Michigan University, starred in several Broadway productions, including Taboo (2003), the Boy George musical produced by Rosie O’Donnell, and The Pirate Queen (2007). She has also toured nationally as an ensemble member of Beauty and the Beast and Wicked.

Heather Headley as Helen Decatur

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Bruce Glikas/WireImage</p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Bruce Glikas/WireImage

Heather Headley, 48, plays the role of Helen Decatur, a no-nonsense lawyer and aunt extraordinaire to Maddie and Dana Sue’s children. Additionally, she co-owns the Corner Spa.

Headley’s career started when she was only 2 years old, singing in a children's talent show on the radio in her home country, Trinidad. She loved performing from a young age and sang in her church choir for most of her childhood. Upon graduating from high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana, she enrolled at Northwestern University to study communications and musical theater.

As a junior, she caught the eye of casting agents and dropped out of school to join the cast of Ragtime (1996) in Toronto. Just six months after ending her university studies, Disney offered Headley the opportunity to play Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King (1997). She starred in another Disney musical, Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, playing the title role and earning a Tony Award. She continued her Broadway career with performances in The Bodyguard (2012) and The Color Purple (2016).

In addition to performing live, she has also taken to the big screen in films such as Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004), Breakin’ All the Rules (2004) and the Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect (2021), in addition to appearing in Spike Lee’s TV series, She's Gotta Have It (2017-2019).

Outside of work, she is married to former New York Jets player Brian Musso, and they have three children.

Chris Klein as Dr. Bill Townsend

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage</p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage

Chris Klein, 44, plays Dr. Bill Townsend, a pediatrician and Maddie’s ex-husband.

Director Alexander Payne discovered Klein at his high school in Omaha, Nebraska. Payne, an Omaha native, was scouting Millard West High School as a potential location to shoot the 1999 film Election.

The school principal introduced Payne to Klein, who was a senior and resident actor at the time, having played Tony in the school’s production of West Side Story. Payne encouraged Klein to audition for his upcoming film, leading to Klein’s first role in a feature film, starring opposite Reese Witherspoon.

Following Election, he earned additional TV and film credits, including American Pie (1999), American Pie 2 (2001), We Were Soldiers (2002), Rollerball (2002), Welcome to the Captain (2008), American Reunion (2012) and The Flash (2014) before booking Sweet Magnolias (2020).

He is married to Laina Rose Thyfault and has two children: son Frederick Easton and daughter Isla Rose.

Carson Rowland as Tyler Townsend

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Gilbert Flores/Variety/Penske Media/Getty</p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Gilbert Flores/Variety/Penske Media/Getty

Carson Rowland, 25, portrays Tyler Townsend, Maddie and Bill’s oldest son and a star baseball player.

Rowland told PureWow that he relates to his character, who is navigating his family’s new dynamic after his parents' divorce.

“Ty, underneath, is one of the sweetest individuals. However, with his family in shambles and baseball heading down a similar road, he genuinely doesn’t know how to process everything,” he said. "I feel like so many people, including myself, can relate to that. I push issues and stressors to the forefront of my mind and sometimes let that control me. But if I would just take a step back and decompress, things would definitely turn out better.”

Hailing from Boca Raton, Florida, he got his start playing Cole Reyes on the Nickelodeon series I Am Frankie (2017-2018). Some of his most notable projects include Sinister Seduction (2019), American Housewife (2020), Ghost Tape (2020), Sweet Magnolias (2020) and Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin (2022).

He married Maris Rowland (née Kenny) in October 2021, and the couple are expecting their first child together.

Justin Bruening as Cal Maddox

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Paul Archuleta/Getty </p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Paul Archuleta/Getty

Justin Bruening, 43, plays Cal Maddox, Tyler’s baseball coach and Maddie’s love interest on the show.

“My character just is sort of dealing with the aftermath of what he did last year and how that ended — that whole punching someone thing,” Bruening told PEOPLE in November 2022, ahead of the third season.

Bruening — who grew up in the small town of St. Helena, Nebraska — moved to San Diego after graduating from high school. A talent scout approached him at a nearby McDonald’s, helping him land his first modeling gig with Abercrombie & Fitch.

He pursued acting and landed the role of Jamie Martin on the daytime soap opera, All My Children. He also had recurring roles on Ringer (2012), Switched at Birth (2012-2013) and Grey’s Anatomy (2013-2018), in addition to starring as Michael Knight's son in NBC's 2008 remake of Knight Rider.

He is married to actress Alexa Havins, whom he proposed to on set when they costarred in All My Children, and they have three kids.

Logan Allen as Kyle Townsend

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Cindy Ord/Getty</p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Cindy Ord/Getty

Logan Allen, 19, plays Maddie and Bill’s youngest son, Kyle Townsend. Kyle is passionate about musicals, making it difficult to bond with his sports-loving father and brother.

“Kyle goes through so much, it’s almost to the point where he’s not likable,” Allen told AfterBuzz TV. “It was really fun to dive into a darker side of this character because I don’t get that many opportunities to dive into that type of emotion.”

Raised in Central Florida, Allen grew up wanting to be an actor. He starred in commercials for TruMoo, Universal Orlando and Volcano Bay as a child and played the role of Vinnie as a series regular on the Nickelodeon show Talia in the Kitchen (2015). He portrayed Kevin Ryan in the film Bernie the Dolphin (2018) and played the supporting role of Jake in the fourth season of Stranger Things (2022).

He joined the cast of Sweet Magnolias while still in high school, telling Livingston County News in 2022, “I can see the finish line!” regarding his graduation.

Anneliese Judge as Annie Sullivan

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Ella Hovsepian/Getty</p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Ella Hovsepian/Getty

Anneliese Judge, 21, plays Annie Sullivan, Dana Sue’s daughter and school photographer.

"We get to follow some of her struggles throughout the season as there's quite a few, and she learns some hard lessons along the way," she told ABC11 of her character in 2020.

Hailing from Pinehurst, North Carolina, Judge credited her hometown acting studio with her newfound success.

"I trained with all of them, and I owe everything I've learned from them," she said.

Following her breakout role in Sweet Magnolias, she starred as Jessica Waters in Where’s Rose (2021).

Jamie Lynn Spears as Noreen Fitzgibbons

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Emma McIntyre/Getty</p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Emma McIntyre/Getty

Jamie Lynn Spears, 32, plays Noreen Fitzgibbons, a nurse with whom Dr. Townsend had an affair, leading to her unexpectedly becoming pregnant with their child.

Spears discussed her return to acting after taking time off to raise her children — she touched on the parallels between her and her character.

“I remember being 16 years old, being pregnant in a small town. And then on top of it, the whole world was watching,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t view myself as a victim. And with Noreen, it was important to not play the victim either. She put herself in a compromising situation. She’s a young girl who made some adult decisions, and she’s trying to take some responsibility for that.”

Spears rose to fame on the Disney Channel playing Zoey Brooks on Zoey 101 (2005-2008). Before her breakout role, she starred in Nickelodeon’s All That (2002) with Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell.

Her additional TV credits include starring in Crossroads (2002) alongside her famous older sister Britney Spears and appearing in her music video for “Ooh La La” (2013).

In January 2023, Spears and her Zoey 101 costars announced that they were reuniting for an upcoming Paramount+ film, Zoey 102, set to premiere on July 27. The first trailer was released that June and showed several of the original cast members reprising their roles.

Spears is married to businessman Jamie Watson. She has two daughters: Maddie, whom she shares with her ex Casey Aldridge, and Ivey, whom she welcomed with Watson.

Chris Medlin as Isaac Downey

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty</p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Chris Medlin, 33, plays Isaac Downey, the young newcomer to Serenity who works at Sullivan’s Restaurant. He happens upon the small town in search of his birth parents.

“I think Isaac’s story is unfortunately very common and a relatable story. Not the specifics of it but there are so many variations of his story as a lot of people come from non-traditional homes and families,” Medlin told The Nerd Daily.

The Sweet Magnolias character is Medlin’s breakout TV role. Prior to landing it, he made his Broadway debut in Tina Fey’s Mean Girls the Musical (2018) and also starred in the original cast of Broadway’s Diana: The Musical (2021).

A multi-hyphenate in the entertainment industry, Medlin has also hit the stage dancing alongside some of the biggest names in the business, including Missy Elliott, Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk.

Brandon Quinn as Ronnie Sullivan

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Prince Williams/WireImage</p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Prince Williams/WireImage

Brandon Quinn, 45, plays the role of Ronnie Sullivan, Dana Sue’s ex-husband and Annie’s father.

Quinn, originally from Aurora, Colorado, began acting after a car accident in his junior year of high school kept him from playing sports. Over the years, he has starred in several TV shows, including What I Like About You (2003), Charmed (2005), The O.C. (2006-2007), Grimm (2014-2015), The Fosters (2016-2018), Grey’s Anatomy (2017), Kevin (Probably) Saves the World (2017), Die Hart (the series and the movie) and MacGyver (2021).

Some of his most notable film credits include starring in Greenland (2020) alongside Gerard Butler and On a Wing and a Prayer (2023) with Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham.

Brandon and his wife, Rachel Catudal, have three children.

Dion Johnstone as Erik Whitley

<p>Courtesy of Netflix ; Dion Johnstone Instagram</p>

Courtesy of Netflix ; Dion Johnstone Instagram

Dion Johnstone, 47, portrays Erik Whitley, the sous chef at Sullivan’s Restaurant and Helen’s boyfriend.

“Each scene that they got together, it just felt more and more like this could be a fit. This feels really good," he told Glamour in 2022 about Erik and Helen's relationship. "I like who I am with her. By the time he starts hearing about Ryan, that's when he starts realizing, ‘I've got to do something. I have something here.’ ”

The Canadian actor is best known for his roles in The Core (2003), The Tempest (2010), Ties That Bind (2015) and Star Falls (2018).

He is married to actress and creative life coach Lisa Berry, and the pair share a son.

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