James Cole | Aaron Stanford
James Cole, known as Cole to his friends and occasionally as James by Dr. Jones, is the primary time traveler for most of season one. His time traveling mission to stop the viral outbreak from wiping out over 97% of the world’s population has been his fate since he was a young boy.
Cole’s mother feared that the Army of the 12 Monkeys might someday find him and for this reason she left Cole with his father and hasn’t been seen since. Cole’s father dedicated his existence to taking care of young Cole. In the season one episode “Paradox” Cole’s father died fighting the Monkey Army and gave his own life so that Cole might live. On the same night Cole 1.0 also died and was reborn from a paradox triggered by injecting himself with the blood from his younger self. Boy Cole witnessed his father’s murder and since then, he became a child of the apocalypse. After the global outbreak, young Cole and his best friend Ramse became scavengers, or scavs. They wandered and pillaged their way through the wastelands. Cole’s years spent as a scav, helped to mold, prepare, and train him for what was to come.
Through his many battles with the Army of the 12 Monkeys, Cole could have been shot, stabbed and killed on many occasions, by instead, shots were never fired and knives were never drawn. The Witness had spoken, Cole and Cassie were important. At the end of season 2, we find out that Cassie is the mother of the Witness and Cole is his father. Conceived outside of causality in a house of cedar and pine, Athan is their son and the man believed to be the Witness. For his entire life Cole yearned for something more, he wanted a better life and someone to love.
Cole found happiness and love with Cassie and their time together in the little white house in 1958 would be the best days of Cole’s life. Unfortunate for him, Cassie and Athan, he had to undo everything so that he could stop the final Messenger from killing a Primary and causing the total collapse of time and space. Cole thought that his undoing would entirely erase his relationship with Cassie and even his unborn child. However, it seems that time, Jones’s injections, and fate had other plans. Thankfully Cassie remained pregnant and even remembered her love for Cole, even after their home was taken away from the causality of their reality.
Thankfully James Cole isn’t a stereotypical action hero and Aaron Stanford is not a run of the mill action star. This statement is meant as high praise. Aaron Stanford is our primary lifeline to the story of 12 Monkeys. Time travel stories can be complicated and through the eyes of a down to earth and relatable character like Cole, we see the world. As Jones explains the complex science behind Godel’s continuum hypothesis and metric closed timelike curves to Cole, she’s explaining it to us. As Cole receives and understands another piece to the puzzle, so do we.
Dr. Cassandra Railly | Amanda Schull
Dr. Cassandra Railly, or Cassie, is an infectious disease specialist working for the CDC in the year 2015. Cassie had a normal life before Cole took her hostage in 2013. But when Cassie saw Cole splintered away and then return again two years later, her life would be forever changed. Cassie remains in 2015 for the entire first season of 12 Monkeys. From this time she assists Cole with his mission, working tirelessly to piece together clues and leads to help him as he comes and goes, to and from the future. Cassie finally becomes a time traveler in the final moments of the first season, when Cole sends her to the future and Dr. Jones, in order to save her life.
Amanda Schull pulls off the perfect balancing act between super intelligent and super tough. It’s no wonder, she was a professional ballet performer before she pursued a career in acting, balance comes easily to Amanda. Before the pilot episode, Cassie did not know that time travel was possible and by the end of the season, she became a time traveler. Cassie changed the most and had to adapt to changes and challenges personally, professionally and scientifically, Schull made us believe in Cassie and we all had a blast along the way.
Cassie continued to change and fundamentally so in season 2. In Year 2043 Cassie had to adapt to a collapsed world and learn to survive like never before. Bur for all of the changes along the way, the one thing that remained constant is the one thing that she always had from the very beginning, her strength. As Cole’s partner in Time, Cassie’s resolve and inner strength would continue to be tested like never before. Cassie became a mother who dealt with the possibility that her son could be the very enemy she swore to kill in season 2.
In every season Cassie must contend with a sole, haunting possibility, a frightening probability, which awaits her at the end of the story. Since early on, Cassie has known about where she died in 2017, at the CDC where Cole finds her watch before his first mission. Whether or not this comes to pass, or if it is possible to change events and still maintain the catalyst that sent Cole back in the first place will be revealed soon.
Dr. Katarina Jones | Barbara Sukowa
Dr. Katarina Jones is the woman who perfected the science of time travel. In the year 2043, Jones oversees the facility, a team of dedicated scientists and the time machine. Brash, brilliant and outspoken, Jones will do anything to reset time and make it so the plague never happened. While she sucks down cigarettes, Jones will tell you that in a thousand generations we will never regain the art, music, literature and people lost when the world fell. Secretly one needs only to see the white baby blanket with the name “Hannah” crocheted by her father, to know her true motivation.
Barbara Sukowa brings her strength and gravitas to the world of 12 Monkeys. She’ll bravely face down anyone who gets in her way and then makes us cry at the sight of her softly shedding tears over Hannah’s baby blanket. Each and every time, the ending of the season 2 episode “Lullaby” makes us cry. When Sukowa softly touches her daughter’s face, as if she’s not real, or easily breakable, a title wave of emotion is projected by her gentle performance. Words could only harm a moment like this, but her actions say everything needed in this special moment. Perfectly cast, beautifully acted.
Jose Ramse | Kirk Acevedo
Ramse is Cole’s best friend and fellow scav. Like Cole, Ramse is a child of the post-plague world. His friendship with Cole has motivated him to keep surviving and to keep fighting for just one more day. While he wasn’t destined like Cole, to become the man who might save the world, Ramse always had another path waiting him. After finding and then losing his son, Ramse was devastated and lost. Always the first to snap and make hasty, emotional and dangerous decisions, Ramse became trapped in the past. Since the year 1987, Ramse spent time in prison, received love letters from Olivia and soaked up ancient teachings, like The Art of War. During this transformative time, Ramse became the storied “Traveler” to the Army of the 12 Monkeys and earned his place as part of The Word of the Witness. Helped by Jones’s time travel injections, Ramse lived for many years, barely aging and was able to help steer the Monkeys with his memories of tomorrow. His funding helped to build the time machine that would someday send him and Cole back in time to 1987.
Seasoned actor, Kirk Acevedo effortlessly portrays the wounded, angry and icy persona of Ramse. We see so much of the 12 Monkey’s world through Cole’s otter eyes and because of this we tend to trust Ramse, or at least we want to trust him. This knife’s edge between trust and total mistrust, between love and hate is explored and portrayed beautifully by Acevedo. Even in the good times, when he’s a team player and acting trustworthy, there’s an edge to his performance. A darkness hiding under a thinly veiled facade. When Cole says that he WANTS to trust Ramse, but over and over he lets him down, this perfectly defines Ramse. “You need time travel to invent time travel.”
Jennifer Goines | Emily Hampshire
Jennifer Goines, everyone calls her Jennifer. Unfortunately Jennifer’s character is not one of the main cast in season one. This is corrected in season two and beyond, which is a much welcome and needed change. Jennifer is so much more than the crazy person the world sees on the outside. In fact, her ability to know and see more than everyone else in the room is developed and played with exponentially through the rest of the series. Being Primary is beautiful, although we don’t officially know she’s primary in season one, we do know that there’s much more under the mask of insanity that she initially shows the world. Jennifer is easily one of the most fun characters on 12 Monkeys.
Emily Hampshire’s scene-stealing portrayal is dense with layers, simple and complex at the same time. Throughout the series, Jennifer’s part in the mythology, her place in time’s great story and a greater destiny than even a primary can imagine, has come to use like a vision from a third eye. By the end, Jennifer may well be the MVP of the entire series, taking her rightful place next to Cole, Cassie and Katerina. Athan said it, Jennifer, “you may well be the best of us”
Deacon | Todd Stashwick
Deacon is the leader of the West 7, which is a formidable group of survivors / scavengers that roam the wasteland preying on the weak to make themselves stronger. Deacon, and the West 7 as a whole, are the classic bully types. We find out in season 2 and even more in 3, why Deacon is the way he is. Bullied himself as a boy, witnessing the abuse of his mother at the hand of his father and then living through world’s end, had a negative and formative affect on Deacon as a man. He fronts strength and fearlessness to hide other layers hidden deep behind his bombastic persona. Only from an example set by Cassie, Jennifer, Katerina and the mission to save the world, can Deacon have a chance at becoming something more than a sociopathic murderer.
Yet from the very beginning, Deacon is brilliantly written and given enough nuance by Todd Stashwick to let us cheer for his eventual redemption. Few actors can do what Todd Stashwick does with ease, commit on screen murder and mayhem with a wink and a smile. Underneath the layers of pain and suffering that crafted Deacon’s character since childhood, there’s a candy center and spark of wiseass. Stashwick’s comedy background helps him accomplish this balancing act between bad guy and guy we want to love. Killing old Jennifer in season 2 was a major turning point for Deacon. From that moment he began to care about others and for the first in a long time felt remorse. In the exemplary season 3 episode “Causality” Stashwick’s Deacon shines and we see his comedy background pay off in real laughs. The entire cast is on their comedy A game in this episode, easily one of the best. “And, here, we, go!”
Olivia | Alisen Down
Oliva, or as she’s known at first, the striking woman, is one of the leaders of the meta-cult, The Army of the 12 Monkeys. Her passion for red tea and brass bowls is all we see, at first. Skulking behind the scenes in the early days of 12 Monkeys, Olivia speaks softly and has a passion for guided time tea head trips. However, when stuff needs to get done around Monkey mansion, you can count on Olivia being front and square. As the series progresses, her presence grows along with the overall growth of the story. Olivia has a fascination with baths. Her bathing goes along with her brainwashing of both Jennifer and Cassie. Olivia is there with Ramse during his years as the Traveler, guiding him, molding him as she molds the future of the Army of the 12 Monkeys.
Olivia is the secret weapon that stares us in the face, taunting us to guess and make assumptions through seasons 1 and 2. But finally in season three the mask comes off and once again Jennifer is the sole person who sees past Oliva’s BS while others go as far as trusting her. The way Oliva’s story arch is crafted throughout 12 Monkeys is nothing short of brilliant. That nagging second guessing in the back of our minds, which made us hope and pray Athan wasn’t the true Witness after all, was based on the success of Oliva’s treachery.
Watching Alisen Down’s portrayal of her character Oliva over the entirety of the 12 Monkey’s series is like listening to a world class orchestra play the final crescendo of Mozart’s Requiem! (Can any better praise be given to all involved? No.)
Athan Cole | James Callis
All 12 Monkeys fans shouted “YES!” when it was announced that James Callis would be our Witness. And then some of us paused and really thought about what that meant. The Witness is a dreaded character, the bringer of doom, the breaker of time and the harbinger of The Red Forest. We loved James in Battlestar Galactica. For all of his flaws, in spite of his mistakes and indigressions, we wanted Gaius Baltar to succeed in the end, and he did.
James Callis entered the world of 12 Monkeys and left almost as quickly. Athan, the man who witnessed, but was not the evil monster at the end of time. The role of Athan was extremely demanding, requiring an immediate command of the screen, of every scene, and loads of gravitas. James brought all of this and more to 12 Monkeys. He entered an established show with a grand mythology and high expectations from the fan base. James Callis did what he does best, he brought his own take to the character of Athan, helping to create a character that fit into the world of 12 Monkeys and was fresh and new at the same time. Athan’s future was wrapped in mystery and kept us guessing if he would become the Witness of the 12 Monkeys, or something else entirely.
Not to be overlooked, who helped to establish Athan, who molded him and made him a real to us, was the love affair Eliza. The strong and beautiful Claire Cooper breathed life and magic into Eliza and life and magic into Athan. Their instant on screen chemistry gave us one of the best 12 Monkeys episodes so far, “Thief”.
Ever since Athan’s death at the hand of Olivia, an essential plot point, but nonetheless a very painful one, we’ve held out hope to see James Callis in Season 4 of 12 Monkeys. Because in this world, anything is possible with time travel!
Hannah Jones – “Zeit” | Brooke Williams
From the beginning of season 2 of 12 Monkeys, a new daughter was seen as part of old Jennifer’s group of nomads. Unlike the others, the identity of this young woman remained a mystery, since she was always masked by scarfs wrapped around her head and face. In the 12 Monkeys season two, episode 8 “Lullaby”, easily one of the best time loop episodes ever made, we learn that this young woman is Hannah Jones.
A distraught Dr. Katerina Jones sent Cassie on a mission to end her life before she finishes the time machine and begins her mission. But when Cassie shows up to kill Katerina on the day that Hannah dies as a young girl, her mission fails because Jones must lose Hannah in order to create time travel. Inspired by a hilarious Jennifer, Cole and Cassie make it so Dr. Jones believes she “loses” Hannah, but at the same time Cassie saves her life and since that day she’s lived with Jennifer.
By nature, Hannah is strong willed and spirited like her mother. But she’s also a tough as nails fighter and a warrior by nurture, having lived in a post apocalypse world, among the other daughters. After some adjustment to the idea, Hannah accepts Dr. Jones as her mother and then we witness other layers of her personality. Her soft spoken and compassionate demeanour probably comes from Jennifer caring for her when Katerina wasn’t able.
Perhaps Hannah’s biggest contribution to 12 Monkeys comes in the form of how it affects Dr. Jones. No longer motivated by loss, she begins to think more like a mother, which is a prevalent theme in season 3 of 12 Monkeys. The concept of mother, of motherhood dominates the ongoing motivations of several of the female characters. Cassandra becomes a mother to Athan. Katerina to Hannah. Magdalena thinks of herself a mother. And in a different way, Olivia becomes a mother of another sort, taking her place as the Witness to the Army of the 12 Monkeys.
Pallid Man – Tall Man | Tom Noonan
The Pallid Man, or The Tall Man, depending on who you ask is another faithful Lieutenant of the Monkey Army. He’s a major advisory of Cole, Cassie, and Jennifer in 2015. He kills Cassie’s family friend Jeremy, who was instrumental in finding Leland Goines. He loves lavender and jasmine, whistling, dressing in black and wearing his mark of the Witness pendant. He also shows up at the right place and the wrong time to kidnap or kill some poor soul, just after he shows off his latest facial scar, usually from an injury Cole gave him in his past, but Cole’s future. Time travel can be confusing.
Tom Noonan has a smile to kill for. It’s one thing to look fierce and angry as you go about your evil ways, but the Pallid Man smiles. While Noonan stands over Jeremy’s pedal-covered corpse and threatens the same fate to a frightened Cassie, he continuously grins, smiling as he wipes the blood from his knife. His menacing smile, his whistle while you kill sing-along tune, and generally peppy demeanour, are all more scary than their upside down counterparts