What a Great Cast

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today musing about something both books and movies have in common. When a new movie’s promo starts up, it produces various reactions, but the one that I have most often (besides “Who would pay good money to see that?) is “What a great cast!”

In books, especially novels in a series, a continuing cast of interesting characters is one of the most important elements of the whole. When relationships click, they keep readers coming back. The characters make the stories more memorable. Readers have even been known to complain if a favorite secondary character doesn’t appear in the newest entry in the series. The residents of my fictional towns of Moosetookalook and Lenape Hollow are “real” to a lot of Kaitlyn Dunnett fans.

Some writers “cast” the parts in their novels by imagining real life actors in them. I rarely do this. In fact, I can only think of two occasions. The first was when I created the character of Sir Robert Appleton, my heroine’s dastardly husband in the Face Down mysteries I wrote as Kathy Lynn Emerson. I’d recently seen Shakespeare in Love and Colin Firth’s villainous earl was exactly what I had in mind for Robert. So was making Robert the victim in the fourth book in the series.

In The Scottie Barked at Midnight, one of the Liss MacCrimmon mysteries written as Kaitlyn Dunnett, I was faced with having to create a whole flock of one-off characters to compete in a fictional television show being filmed at an equally fictional Maine ski resort. To make things easier on myself, I printed photos of the contestants and judges from a recent season of Dancing with the Stars and used those for inspiration.

Turning back to movies and that “what a great cast!” reaction, I have to confess that although I’m not a moviegoer in the sense of seeing current films in theaters, I do stream a lot of movies, some of them recent and some not. I pick what to watch as much because of a good ensemble cast as for the plot. Sometimes the plot turns out to be pretty thin but watching seasoned actors work together makes up for a lot. When both the actors and the writing are good, watching is pure pleasure.

Most recently I had the “what a great cast” reaction to the promos for 80 for Brady and will stream it as soon as it is available. What’s not to like about Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno? Aside from the casting, I have admit to having been a Tom Brady fan . . . until he turned traitor and left the Patriots. Fortunately the film takes place during the time he was still playing for the Pats.

What other movies have grabbed my attention on the basis of a great cast? There are too many to name them all, but here, in no particular order, is a sampling:

First Wives Club: Goldie Hawn, Bette Milder, Diane Keaton

Calendar Girls: Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Annette Crosbie, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Celie Imrie, Penelope Wilton

Ocean’s 8: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham-Carter, Sarah Paulson

Tea with Mussolini: Judi Dench, Cher, Maggie Smith, Lily Tomlin, Joan Plowright

Love, Actually: Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman, Chjwetel Ejiofor, and more

Book Club: Jane Fonda, Candace Bergen, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen

These Old Broads: Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins (written by Carrie Fisher)

Great plots? Great writing? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Great casts? Definitely.

So, readers—what movies have provoked the “what a great cast” reaction from you. Please share.




Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others, including several children’s books. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her most recent publications are The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries (a collection of three short stories and a novella, written as Kaitlyn) and I Kill People for a Living: A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Cozy Mysteries (written as Kathy). She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com.


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12 Responses to What a Great Cast

  1. Cathy L Counts says:

    I really got a happy kick out of this “What a great cast” article!

  2. John Clark says:

    Great post. You’ve given readers plenty of imagination ammunition.

  3. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    What a great post! You’ve named some of my favorites. Poor Colin Firth, LOL. Slow Horses on Apple TV has a fab ensemble cast with Gary Oldman in the lead.

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      Thanks, Maggie. Ordinarily I’d use Colin Firth as a hero, but that part in Shakespeare in Love is just too deliciously evil.

  4. Sandra Neily says:

    I did adore your “Dancing With The Stars” device. Seems ideal for one-off folks. This was great! Sometimes I think about how Meryl Streep would play my middle-aged narrator, out in the woods, beset both by middle age stuff and a murder plot. She was amazing in River Wild, (rafting guide and mother threatened with bad guys). Not your expected Streep role.

  5. kaitcarson says:

    You’ve included most of my favs, but I’d like to add A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. So much beefcake in one place – drool worthy! And REDS (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) – I’ve never heard of These Old Broads. Must look that one up.

  6. I blogged here a few years back about who should play Joe Burgess in the movie. It is a question I often get asked. I like the idea of choosing casts from movies we enjoy. How about Nine to Five, with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton?


    • kaitlynkathy says:

      Another good one. And another is Mamma Mia, with Streep, Firth, and Pierce Brosnan plus Julie Walters and Christine Baranski.

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