The Young, Breakout Cast Is the Highlight of Netflix's "Grand Army"

McKenzie Jean-Philippe
·8 mins read
Photo credit: JASPER SAVAGE/NETFLIX
Photo credit: JASPER SAVAGE/NETFLIX

From Oprah Magazine

  • Netflix's new teen drama, Grand Army, premieres on October 16.

  • The young, up-and-coming cast is the standout of the series. Below, we've found fun facts about each of the stars and their Instagram accounts.

Will we ever get tired of angsty teen dramas? The answer is definitely not, and Netflix's Grand Army is a testament to that.

The new series adapted from showrunner Katie Cappiello's 2013 play Slut was immediately met with controversy following the September trailer premiere, when a former writer tweeted that Cappiello was a "Karen" and that she and two other writers "quit due to racist exploitation and abuse." Her claims have since gone unanswered by Netflix (and as of publish time of this story, Netflix hadn't responded to our request for comment). If the tweets have you reluctant to give Grand Army a try, that's understandable. However, in my opinion, there's one reason to consider the compelling show: the cast.

Though the show centers around five teens at the fictional Grand Army High School in Brooklyn, the breakout ensemble cast brings the show together. It's not as fantastical and stylish as Euphoria, or as melodramatic as 13 Reasons Why, but Grand Army tackles issues of race, sexuality, and anxiety in a way that actually seems realistic. And the diverse cast is full of Gen-Zers and millennial up-and-comers who offer raw, authentic portrayals of the 2020 teenage experience.

The cast also has a great deal of chemistry. If you take one look at their Instagram accounts—which are listed below—you'll see that's likely, because it seems they are actually close in real life.

"We really did become like a small family, which is amazing," Ashley Ganger, who plays Meera, told Hollywood Life. "We all still talk all the time. We have a group chat. The vibe on set, honestly, just felt so open, and it felt like a very safe space. You had a collection of people who haven’t worked as much, such as myself, and some people who have worked a lot, and everybody came together, gave good advice, and supported each other. It was just really amazing."

Below, we did our best sleuthing and found a few fun facts about the actors.

Odley Jean as Dominique

Instagram: @odley.jean

The 24-year-old Haitian American's role as Dominique is one of Grand Army's standouts, as Jean portrays a passionate teen who attempts to fight for her future, while also tasked with providing for her family and balancing life as a high school student—academically and romantically.

Before Jean made her small screen debut on Grand Army, she was a student at Cappiello's GoodCapp Arts theater program in New York City.

Odessa A'zion as Joey

Instagram: @odessaazion

A'zion gives another powerful and raw performance as the outspoken Joey, the school's popular girl who is incredibly loyal and devoted to her friends...until a tragic night turns her world upside down.

A'zion, 19, last starred in CBS' Fam, which was cancelled after one season. Her mother is actress Pamela Adlon (Better Things, King of the Hill) and her sister Gideon Adlon is also an actress. She starred in Netflix's Society and the 2018 comedy Blockers.

Amalia Yoo as Leila

Instagram: @amaliayoo

Yoo plays Leila, the 14-year-old high school freshman we all knew (or were) at some point in our lives. She's desperate to be cool—but not too cool—boy crazy, talkative, a little self-centered, and deeply insecure about her roots.

The 18-year-old is a Korean and Puerto Rican American, and Grand Army is her first TV show, but she starred in Cappielo's original production of Slut. Yoo also attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, whose alumni include Jennifer Aniston, Timothée Chalamet, and Ansel Elgort.

Maliq Johnson as Jason

Instagram: @maliqjohnson

Johnson is Jason, a carefree teen who is faced with the realities of his life as Black man when he and his best friend get into trouble that leads them on two vastly different paths. Like many of his cast mates, Grand Army is Johnson's first major role, but he did make an appearance is Ava DuVernay's When They See Us in 2019.

Amir Bageria as Siddhartha

Photo credit: JASPER SAVAGE/NETFLIX
Photo credit: JASPER SAVAGE/NETFLIX

Sorry guys, but we could not track down an Insta for Bageria, who plays Sid, a high school senior and champion swimmer who's applying to Harvard while also coming to terms with his sexuality.

You may recognize Bageria from another angsty teen show. He played Baaz Nahir for four seasons on Degrassi: Next Class.

Alphonso Romero Jones II as John Ellis

View this post on Instagram

Beautiful madness ✨

A post shared by Alphonso Romero Jones II (@alphonsoromero_) on Sep 23, 2020 at 11:33am PDT

Instagram: @alphonsoromero_

Jones II is John Ellis, Grand Army's star basketball player, the leader of the school's Black Student Union, and Dom's crush.

The actor got his start on Broadway as Young Simba in The Lion King from 2009-2011. He also acted in Cappiello's play Now That We're Men, and wrote an essay on toxic masculinity for Cappiello's book of the same name.

Jaden Jordan as Owen

Instagram: @realjadenjordan

Like Jones II, Jordan–who plays Jason's best friend Owen—was also Young Simba on Broadway in 2013. He also starred as Young Lola in Kinky Boots from 2013-2014.

Anthony Ippolito as George

View this post on Instagram

@thelonius much love brother❤️

A post shared by Anthony Ippolito (@anthonyippolito_) on Dec 13, 2019 at 4:12pm PST

Instagram: @anthonyippolito_

George is the epitome of an over-sexed, popular teenage boy who happens to be a best friend to Joey—until a drunken night results in betrayal.

Fun fact? Ippolito appeared in ABC's primetime What Would You Do? for nine years. He was also on the Baruch College baseball team as a freshman in 2019.

Thelonius Serrell-Freed as Tim

View this post on Instagram

by @zariyaallen 💘💘

A post shared by Monk Serrell-Freed (@thelonius) on Aug 21, 2019 at 4:24pm PDT

Instagram: @thelonius

Joey's bff's brother/crush/maybe boyfriend/adversary is played by Serrell-Freed, whose been in a handful of independent films leading up to Grand Army. And if you're wondering, his Insta feed is full of moody pics of the actor with his poet girlfriend, which we think are worth a scroll or two.

Brian Altemus as Luke

View this post on Instagram

This is the face of a happy camper

A post shared by Brian Altemus (@brianaltemus) on Sep 23, 2020 at 4:49am PDT

Instagram: @brianaltemus

Another member of Joey's crew and George's right hand man, Luke is played by Altemus who's an up-and-coming actor and model. Oh, and pre-Grand Army he was a Soul Cycle instructor.

Sydney Meyer as Anna

View this post on Instagram

2 days until Grand Army.... Waiting patiently

A post shared by Sydney Meyer (@sydneymeyer48) on Oct 14, 2020 at 2:10pm PDT

Instagram: @sydneymeyer48

Meyer plays Anna, who after tragedy, finds herself caught in the middle of her bestie Joey and brother Tim. You may have seen the 25-year-old in recurring roles on Netflix's V-Wars, Departure, and Shadowhunters.

Marcela Avelina as Flora

Instagram: @marcelaavelina

Sid's girlfriend Flora is played Avelina in her first major role. She's also an aspiring musician and you can find her SoundCloud here.

Ashley Ganger as Meera

View this post on Instagram

Don’t fake it baby (David Bowie voice)

A post shared by Ashley Ganger (@ashleyganger) on Sep 14, 2020 at 11:28am PDT

Instagram: @ashleyganger

In her first-ever acting role, Ganger (a former competitive swimmer) is Meera, Siddhartha's younger sister and director of the school play.

Crystal Nelson as Tor

Instagram: @thecrystalnelson

Tor, one of Dom's basketball teammates and best friends, is Nelson's first-ever TV role. She also recently started a YouTube channel. ("Yeo Its Crystal", if you want to check it out).

Keara Graves as Grace

Instagram: @kearagraves

We give Graves all of the props for pulling off that opening scene of the series. (If you know, you know). The Toronto native has a YouTube channel with over 400,000 subscribers.

Brittany Adebumola as Tamika

Instagram: @_lolabritt

Dominique's best friend Tamika is played by Adebumola, who graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor's in acting this past spring.

Naiya Ortiz as Sonia

Instagram: @naiyaortiz

Sonia, another member of Dom's clique, was played by Ortiz. And according to IMDB, the young actress appeared in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2017.

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