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Nick Frost, Olivia Williams to lead cast of goofily-named characters in Joss Whedon's HBO sci-fi series

Photo: Ann Skelly (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images); Nick Frost (Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images); Olivia Williams (JB Lacroix/Getty Images

In April, Laura Donnelly was announced as the “reckless, impulsive, emotionally damaged hero” of The Nevers, Joss Whedon’s new series about a mystical “gang” of strong female characters in the Victorian era and, presumably, the sweet, disarming nerds who pine over them. Today, Variety revealed the full cast, as well as breakdowns of the very dramatic characters they’re playing.

Ann Skelly (Vikings), Amy Manson (Torchwood), Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark), and Rochelle Neil (Episodes) will play magical fighters with names like “Bonfire” and “Maladie,” while Olivia Williams (Rushmore) will star as Lavinia Bidlow, the “wealthy spinster” who bankrolls our heroes—called the Touched—from their headquarters, the Orphanage. Nick Frost will also star, playing an Al Swearengen type called “The Beggar King.” And, because you knew it was coming, Tom Riley (Dark Heart) will play a “sweet, disarming nerd” infatuated with Skelly’s Penance Adair (these names!). Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line), Zackary Momoh (Seven Seconds), James Norton (Happy Valley), and the great Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story) round out the cast

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Below, see the amusingly overwrought character breakdowns, as provided by Variety.

- Williams will play Lavinia Bidlow, a wealthy spinster and champion of the “Touched.” Lavinia funds the Orphanage (where Amalia and many of the Touched live) through her vast family fortune. She is stern and old-fashioned, but as strong-willed and clever as anyone she confronts.

- Norton will appear as as Hugo Swann, described as a pansexual posh boy whose charm has about five years left on its lease. He runs a secret club and a side trade in blackmail. He’s devoted to fulfilling everyone’s worst impression of him and is fascinated by the Touched.

- Skelly will play Penance Adair, Amalia’s dearest friend and one of the first women to join her cause. A devout – yet heretically progressive – Irish girl, Penance has genius for invention. She is delighted by her power, and her default is love and acceptance. But she’s firm in her moral sense, and will be guided by what’s right over what’s expedient every time.

- Riley will play Augustus “Augie” Bidlow, described as a sweet, disarming nerd and Lavinia’s younger brother. A keen ornithologist, Augie is happy to let his older sister take the reins of the family fortune. He finds the Touched unnerving, but is drawn to them by his increasing infatuation with Miss Adair, and by the schemes of his nefarious best friend, Hugo.

- Chaplin will play Detective Frank Mundi. Described as big, gruff, and deeply moral, Detective Mundi trusts no one, least of all himself. His reputation for sudden violence and excessive drink is not unwarranted. Frank finds himself caught between the powerful, who ignore the the laws of the land, and newly empowered, who ignore the laws of physics.

- Torrents will play Lord Massen, described as a staunch, unflappable and merciless in his defense of the British Empire. This former General, now Peer, may be the only man who sees clearly what havoc these few strange people can wreak upon the established order. Which he will protect, one way or another.

- Frost will play Declan Orrun, a.k.a. The Beggar King. Described as charismatic and brutal, Declan runs or has a piece of most of the low-level criminal activity in the city. He’s perfectly happy to help Amalia and her cause and equally happy to sell them out. He backs winners, and the Touched are long odds.

- Momoh will play Doctor Horatio Cousens. One of the few successful West Indian physicians in London and married with a young son, Horatio’s fortunes took a dark turn when he met Amalia and discovered his own ability. Now he works with her, and with the Beggar King, those who don’t care who is or isn’t “different.”

- Manson will star as Maladie. Committed by her husband and genuinely unstable, she’s been warped by a power she can’t understand, and tortured by doctors intent on finding its source. She now lives underground, runs a gang and is on an infamous murder spree. She affects a theatrical parody of a bedlam waif, but mad as she is, she’s a woman with a purpose.

- Neil will play Annie Carbey, a.k.a Bonfire. Annie is a career criminal who landed the ability to control fire and is happy to hire it out. Came up rough, stayed that way, but she’s neither impulsive nor cruel – just looking out for herself. No matter who she works with or for, Annie trusts only Annie, and the fire.

- Tomlinson will play Mary Brighton. Described as gentle but surprisingly resilient, Mary pursued her dream of singing on stage. A disappointing career and a broken engagement haven’t diminished her spirit. She’s going to be great. She’s going to be very surprised how.

- O’Hare will play Dr. Edmund Hague. A gifted American surgeon, he uses his skills in the coldest, most brutal way possible. But it’s all in the name of progress.

The Nevers, which was ordered straight-to-series by the network, will probably debut sometime next year, though a premiere date is still forthcoming. 

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Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.