On Sunday, April 5, PBS is debuting a new drama series titled World on Fire, a World War II drama that aired in the United Kingdom on the BBC in fall 2019. It has a star-studded, expansive cast, so here’s a guide to all the major players, plus some light spoilers from the premiere. But if you don’t want to be spoiled at all, only read what’s under the cast header and skip the second one.
World on Fire Cast
For the U.S. audience, the two biggest names in the World on Fire cast are Helen Hunt and Sean Bean. Hunt is best known for playing Jamie Buckman on the sitcom Mad About You from 1992 to 1999 on NBC, for which she won three Golden Globes and four Emmys. She also won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1997 for As Good as It Gets. In World on Fire, she plays Nancy Campbell, an American journalist struggling to report the truth from Berlin and Warsaw.
Bean recently headlined the TNT crime drama Legends, but he is best known for portraying Eddard “Ned” Stark in the first season of HBO drama Game of Thrones. On World on Fire, he plays a World War I veteran turned pacifist who is trying to cope with shellshock.
The other major players include Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) as a British fascist sympathizer who finds herself sheltering a young refugee, Jonah Hauer-King (Little Women on Masterpiece) as a British translator and army officer, Blake Harrison (A Very English Scandal) as a stalwart English sergeant, Julia Brown (Shetland) as a feisty armed services entertainer, Zofia Wichłacz (The Romanoffs) as a Polish resistance fighter, Brian J. Smith (Sense8) as an American doctor in occupied Paris, and Parker Sawyers (Southside with You) as a Parisian jazz musician.
According to Masterpiece’s press release, World on Fire is an “adrenalized, emotionally gripping and resonant World War II drama that follows the intertwining fates of ordinary people in five countries as they grapple with the effects of the war on their everyday lives. Set in Britain, Poland, France, Germany, and the United States, the events of the seven-hour series take place during the first year of the war” and “traces the interweaved fates of several families in 1939 and 1940, from the Nazi invasion of Poland, to the near debacle at Dunkirk, to the fall of Paris and beyond.”
The premiere episode starts in 1939, with the threat of the Nazi regime looming large over all of Europe. In Poland, Harry Chase (Hauer-King) vows to help his Polish girlfriend Kasia Tomaszeski (Wichłacz) flee Warsaw, but he also has his British sweetheart Lois (Brown) waiting for him back in Manchester, England.
Meanwhile, journalist Nancy Campbell (Hunt) finds herself inadvertently stumbling onto the German invasion of Poland in the Polish countryside. And in Paris, surgeon Webster O’Connor (Smith) finds himself falling for French-African jazz musician Albert Fallou (Sawyers), who has been beaten up by the Action Francaise mob.
It has already been commissioned for a second season on the BBC, so if you enjoy the first season, there’s no worry that it is going to be canceled.
World on Fire airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS.