Every generation gets the teen dramas it deserves, and Netflix’s Grand Army cast is here to lead the show into its place in the canon.
From the painfully painted dreamscapes of HBO's Euphoria to the dark absurdity of the CW's Riverdale, these shows exist in heightened realities that define today's teenage experience as distorted, even dangerous. It's youth, interrupted. By ongoing trauma, civil unrest, and uncertainty. But if you look beyond the haze of glitter and fog, you'll find the true spirit of Gen Z: young people who reject labels, solve problems, and search for answers amidst endless noise. Enter Grand Army, the latest young adult drama to grace our screens and give us a defining portrait of modern high school life.
Created by playwright Katie Cappiello as a partial adaptation of her 2013 play Slut, Netflix’s Grand Army follows a group of New York City high school students as they navigate the complicated euphoria of adolescence. The series is grounded in real issues like racial inequality, sexual assault, poverty, and queer identity, but don't worry: It manages to stay sincere without veering into cynical, afterschool special territory.
Adding to its authenticity is a cast full of fresh faces (most of them theater kids) ready to leave their marks on the teen drama genre — and break your heart in the process. Here's a thorough look at who's who in the Grand Army cast.
Odessa A'zion as Joey Del Marco
If a teenager is a ball of fire, a searing storm of emotions and feelings, then Joey Del Marco is an explosion. The same can be said for the feisty young actor who portrays her. Odessa A'zion is no stranger to being on camera, having starred in the CBS sitcom Fam and a handful of coming-of-age indie projects, but Grand Army is a proper introduction to the well of this 20-year-old's talents.
Joey is Grand Army High's unfiltered alpha girl, equally caring and callous in her actions. She is the epitome of modern, white wokeness: a smart, liberated young woman who stands defiantly in the face of her own oppression, while also lacking the awareness to fully examine her own privilege. She orchestrates a "Free the Nipple" protest at school after a teacher body shames her; she loudly rejects The Great Gatsby's misogynist rhetoric in a class discussion; and she takes a knee in solidarity with her black classmates during the national anthem. She's confident, unyielding in her convictions. She's seemingly indestructible. Until everything crumbles following a harrowing sexual assault.
It's a role that showcases Odessa's vulnerability, something that she has "super mixed feelings about," telling NYLON, "I'm excited and I'm nervous and all the things in between because I've never been this vulnerable in front of the camera before." When she's not pouring her heart out on screen, she's pouring it into her music. She performs in and around Los Angeles with her band Dessa.
Odley Jean as Dominique "Dom" Pierre
Theater actor Odley Jean makes her television debut in Grand Army, but she's been one of Cappiello's muses for years. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Odley joined the playwright's theater troupe when she was just 16, and some of her stage credits include Cappiello's A Day in the Life and Slut. Now 24, she's ready to bask in her breakout onscreen moment.
As for her character, she plays Dom Pierre, a bright basketball star who struggles to balance maintaining her 4.0 GPA while financially providing for her family and crushing on the school's most eligible bachelor. She dreams of going to a university outside of the city and becoming a licensed therapist, not only to escape poverty but also to provide mental health services to Black women. She's driven and compassionate, and she does not suffer fools. Through the hardships, she finds unconditional support in her group of friends. (Odley shines alongside the trio of actors who portray her best friends — Crystal Sha're Nelson, Brittany Adebumola, and Naiya Ortiz — and together they deliver some of the show's most transcendent work.) But as Dom's obligation to her Haitian family becomes increasingly difficult for her to bear, she's forced to evaluate what she really wants.
Perhaps a case of art imitating life — after all, her "second mom" Cappiello is the main writer of the series — there's a lot of Odley in Dom, too. The Haitian-American actor graduated college with a degree in Human Services and says she wants to be "hands on with helping women, helping people, helping the youth." Her breakthrough performance in Grand Army is a solid start.
Amir Bageria as Siddhartha "Sid" Pakam
Best known for playing gamer nerd Baaz in Netflix's Degrassi: Next Class, Toronto actor Amir Bageria steps into the shoes of another high school archetype in Grand Army: the jock. But like the rest of the students who walk the halls of Grand Army High School, there's a lot more to Sid Pakam than meets the eye. (Though, fitness buff Amir did work hard for those swimmer's abs.)
On the surface, he's an ace swimmer who's bound for an Ivy League future and a picture-perfect romance with his high school sweetheart Flora (Marcela Avelina). But there's a lot of angst bubbling underneath Sid's cool bravado. He's questioning his sexuality and struggling to define himself as an Indian-American man while simultaneously buckling under the weight of his parent's high expectations. Will his parents be disappointed if he doesn't get into Harvard? Will they accept anything less than perfect? Will they still love him even if he's gay? Sid's journey to self-discovery is a relatable one, and Grand Army is hardly the first teen show to tackle themes of identity and queerness; but it's never didactic in its approach.
Instead, it's the messiness that makes it so refreshing. It's the idea that Sid can be hurt and is also capable of inflicting pain onto others, unintentionally or not.
Maliq Johnson as Jayson Jackson
Don't question Maliq Johnson's dedication to his craft. The 20-year-old actor learned to play the saxophone while on set of the series to help develop his character Jayson Jackson. And, yes, he brings that can-do energy to everything he does.
Maliq's small screen credits include supporting roles in When They See Us and Power, and he's currently part of the cast of Cappiello's play, Now That We're Men. (Jaden Jordan, who plays his best friend Owen in the Netflix series, also stars alongside him on the stage.) And he's kinda, sorta TikTok famous — or, more accurately, TikTok famous adjacent.
Grand Army is a major passion project for the young Brooklyn actor. He plays Jayson, a charismatic young musician who has to reckon with his own privilege in the aftermath of a harmless prank that gets his best friend Owen expelled. He ultimately finds himself caught between keeping his head down and fighting for what's right.
Amalia Yoo as Leila Kwan Zimmer
Like so many of her castmates, newcomer Amalia Yoo's journey to Grand Army begins on the stage. The 18-year-old LaGuardia High School graduate has a personal connection to the material, having starred as Joey in a 2018 production of Slut. In the Netflix series, however, she's portraying a different character, and perhaps the show's most complex figure: Leila Kwan Zimmer.
Leila is a freshman who longs to be accepted by the "in" crowd, or by any crowd, and her infatuation with popular f*ckboy George puts her at odds with Joey (or so she thinks). Born in China but adopted and raised by white Jewish parents, the teen grapples with her identities while also dealing with her volatile hormones, which are depicted through a series of apocalyptic animated vignettes that allow her to express her inner rage and burgeoning sexuality. To Amalia's credit, Leila is both easy to root for and against; she's woefully naive and infuriatingly narcissistic, and in her worst moments, purposefully vengeful — yet, that's what makes her such a compelling mirror to our own destructive qualities.
Alphonso Romero Jones II as John Ellis
Alphonso Romero Jones II has the aura of a leading man. As high school heartthrob John Ellis, his charm is so palpable that one can only hope that if there's any justice in this world he'll star in his own Netflix YA rom-com and receive the kind of attention (and social media following) that comes along with it. After making his Broadway debut as The Lion King's "Young Simba" in 2009, Alphonso has landed a handful of commercial work and stage credits, including originating the role of Evan in Cappiello's Now That We're Men. But Grand Army marks his TV debut.
John Ellis may be a supporting role, but he leaves a lasting impression. So much so that a minor plot point in the first episode is his sudden disappearance; he leaves a vacuum in his wake. So between his magnetism and passion for helping others, it's easy to see why Dom is so enamored by him. He's also just a fun-loving, cool Nice Guy (they do exist), proving that earnestness is always in style.
Anthony Ippolito as George Wright
Part of Joey's inner circle, George is seemingly the Timothée Chalamet-next-door. (It's the particularly deadly combination of that jawline and those curls.) A teenage heartbreaker from Lower Manhattan, George is popular and funny, and he's the kind of kid that doesn't take things too seriously, least of all feelings. And while there should be consequences for that kind of behavior, Grand Army makes it painfully clear that rich white boys who behave badly rarely ever have to apologize for their actions.
The actor who portrays him, however, seems perfectly lovely. Actor Anthony Ippolito's social media presence is sparse, but he uses it to amplify the voices of his friends and castmates, share his moody artwork, and to promote the show. His previous credits include the TV series What Would You Do? and the 2015 Adam Sandler flick Pixels.
Sydney Meyer as Anna Delaney
Anna is Joey's best friend. Her ride or die. So it's only natural that during the filming of the series in her native Toronto, actor Sydney Meyer became close with her main screen partner Odessa. (The evidence of which is documented through many of Odessa’s colorful, chaotic Instagram Stories.) A queen of genre television with roles in Shadowhunters, The Expanse, and V-Wars, 24-year-old Sydney actually landed the part of Anna after initially being hired as a reader during table reads. She's also a dancer and has appeared in numerous stage productions.
As for her character, Anna is fiercely loyal and will do anything to protect her friends and her twin brother Tim. Her closeness with Joey depicts the intimacy of women's friendships in scenes spent lying shoulder to shoulder on twin-sized beds and daydreaming about their intertwined futures. But Joey's assault forces her to question everything. "It’s really hard for her when there starts to be friction within her own group," she said in a recent interview with Geek Girl Authority. "I think it’s difficult for her to make peace with, and who she’s going to be loyal to. Where does she stand? What does she really believe?"
Thelonius Serrell-Freed as Tim Delaney
Joey and Tim have a will-they-won't-they kind of relationship defined by years of friendship, flirting, and some light kissing. But Joey cares too much about Anna to actually date her twin brother; plus, she's a liberated young woman who's got neither the time nor the patience to be tied down. That doesn't stop Tim from hopelessly pining after her anyway, even when she makes it clear she's not into it. He's played by Thelonius Serrell-Freed, a young actor who also appeared in Casey Affleck's Light of My Life and starred in Amir Naderi's Magic Lantern.
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