Confession: I Can't Tell the Actors Apart on HBO's The Pacific

Do the three pictures above look sort of similar? Perhaps you're thinking that they're all snapshots of one actor, or maybe a set of brothers? Now, imagine these guys with identical one-week blond beard growth and helmets slung over half their face and try to tell them apart. This is my problem with whoever cast HBO's The Pacific.

From left to right, the three actors in that lead picture are Jacob Pitts, Brendan Fletcher, and Ashton Holmes, and they are just a few of the many, many dopplegangers that HBO's megabudget miniseries can boast. I'd like to think I'm pretty savvy at picking out young actors and I'm already familiar enough with Holmes (A History of Violence, Smart People) to recognize him on sight, but when he's added to the roster of blond, thin-lipped, snub-nosed young men this show has in abundance, I'm positively lost. Five times I thought Holmes had been killed off, only to see him (or someone just like him!) in the next scene.

The show's casting problem isn't just limited to the fair-haired set, either. Most of the show's dark-haired, square-jawed soldiers are cut from the exact same cloth, and I find myself having to wait for the scant visual clue to tell them apart: "OK, that one's a little taller. That one's chest is a little hairier." Still, even those hints stump me sometimes. In the first few installments of the miniseries, I liked the outgoing personality of Josh Helman, a dark-haired Australian actor who played PFC Lew 'Chuckler' Juergens. When he stripped off all his clothes and committed suicide in a recent episode, I thought to myself, "Wow, what a character arc!" Only it wasn't him: it was Rohan Nicol, another dark-haired Australian actor playing American who had only turned up in that episode.

When it comes to the three leads, I'm golden: Badge Dale has a distinctive nose, Jon Seda is a different physical type than anyone else in the cast, and though I initially found Joseph Mazello's weirdly magenta hair a little too reminiscent of Jem and the Holograms, it's become a godsend for telling him apart from others. When it comes to the supporting cast, though, it all falls apart, and it didn't help matters that unlike its predecessor Band of Brothers, character development in The Pacific was scant in the early going. HBO obviously spent a bundle on this series, and the production value is top-notch. Why, then, does the casting director hate me so much?


  • adam orth says:

    Unfortunately, the problem with "The Pacific" isn't it's casting (but that doesn't help either): it's the story. It's the terrible writing of the characters that make them impossible to distinguish from one another.

  • stoiv says:

    I had the same problem with HBO's Tell Me You Love Me. The two blonde women looked exactly the same.

  • Darren Smith says:

    I have to agree with the above, no character development, samey actors, and terrible writing. Where are the backstories? All we get here is SKY bombarding us with ads about it being in HD. And how many ads are there, it is like the whole show has been cut up. Does this sound familiar?
    The smell of my wife's hair, the angle of the church porch, the screaming shits we had in the jungle. For this reason we fought....
    Blah, blah, blah. Only watching it because there is little else on.

  • CM says:

    I am really enjoying this series but couldn't agree more regarding the casting. I am constantly rewinding/pausing for clarification.

  • Patrick says:

    Thank you! I was wondering if I was alone in this problem. At one time, it literally was "Tall curly haired guy", "short curly haired guy" and "curly haired guy". Wasn't until part three that I started being able to tell Lechey apart, and I assumed Basilone was the guy with the bare hands on the machine gun. Combined with the atrocious editing on part one, as well as Adam's point, and I'm amazed I made it to part four.

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  • elle says:

    All I can say about this show is perfection, I can have a pacific marathon and then have it again like a month later without being bored to death. The actors did a perfect job with portraying the characters from Leckies book. I could go and think "That is SO him!". The writing was good!