Masters of the Air Cast and Character Guide

From Austin Butler to Barry Keoghan, Apple TV+'s Masters of the Air features familiar actors playing real life WWII figures.

Episode 1. Barry Keoghan and Austin Butler in "Masters of the Air," premiering January 26, 2024 on Apple TV+.
Photo: Apple TV+

Following in the footsteps of Band of Brothers and The Pacific, Masters of the Air is the third entry into a collection of epic World War II limited series from producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Like its “Brothers” before it, Masters of the Air also features a massive cast. And we mean like … massive.

Masters of the Air‘s Wikipedia page reveals that more than 60 actors are credited in this nine-episode Apple TV+ series. Employing that many speaking roles makes sense, of course, as the Allies’ efforts to defeat Hitler and the Axis in WWII required quite a bit of manpower. It’s only nature that any miniseries telling that story would try to capture the scale of it all.

Series producer Gary Goetzman credits casting director Lucy Bevan with getting the impressive cadre of actors together.

“[Casting] had to be done on Zoom basically because it was during COVID. It was a very difficult process,” Goetzman told Den of Geek during the show’s junket. “And yet I’m just so thrilled that it came out so well and we got such great people. They had to shoot for 10 months, under impossible conditions and being in those cockpits that we built for them.”

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For audiences, the sheer size of the cast means it can become challenging to keep track of every Major, Lieutenant, Sergeant, Colonel, Captain, and beyond that the show throws out there. With that in mind we’ve decided to put together a helpful rundown of the Masters of the Air cast, where you’ve seen them before, and what to know about the real life figures they play.

We’ll begin with the obviously big ones like Elvis star Austin Butler and current Doctor Who Ncuti Gatwa. But even after those major characters are out of the way, we’ll try to give you at least some small details of the rest of the cast so you can reference back as the series progresses.

Austin Butler as Major Gale “Buck” Cleven

Major Gale “Buck” Cleven and his best friend Major John “Bucky” Egan are the unquestioned leaders of their squadron. Gale unwillingly received the “Buck” nickname from Bucky as he reminded Bucky of his old friend Buck from Manitowoc, Wisconsin though Gale is from Wyoming. Cleven is uninterested is activities like sports and drinking, much to his friend’s chagrin.

Playing Cleven is Austin Butler, a young actor now on the superstar track thanks to his award winning performance as Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. As a young actor, Butler appeared in many tween shows like Hannah Montana, iCarly, and Zoey 101. Next up he’ll have a major role in Dune: Part Two as Feyd-Rautha.

Callum Turner as Major John “Bucky” Egan

The drunken yin to Buck Cleven’s yang, Major John Egan is a major force for the 100th Bomb Group. He’s a very personable lad who likes to party and kiss girls.

Callum Turner is a British actor who starred in 2019 BBC One series The Capture and who played Newt Scamander’s handsome brother Theseus in the Fantastic Beasts series.

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Anthony Boyle as Major Harry Crosby

Serving as the occasional narrator of Masters of the Air, Major Harry Crosby begins his career as a navigator for the 100th. He and his best friend “Bubbles” like to keep track of where everyone comes from in the United States.

Joining the aforementioned Callum Turner, Anthony Boyle is another MOTA cast member with some Harry Potter ties, having portrayed Scorpius Malfoy during the West End run of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The Irish actor has also appeared in Derry Girls, The Plot Against America, and Tetris. Next up he’s set to play Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth in the Apple TV+ series Manhunt.

“Growing up, Band of Brothers was the Holy Grail of television,” Boyle told Den of Geek. “When I first went to acting school, Band of Brothers was on our reading list. That’s the pinnacle of acting and The Pacific is such a phenomenal show as well. So when the opportunity to be involved in this came around, I took it with both arms.”

Nate Mann as Major Robert Rosenthal

If you don’t spot Major Robert Rosenthal in the early-goings of Masters of the Air, do not panic. You’re still watching the right show, it’s just that Major “Rosie” doesn’t make his debut until the 100th receives a fresh influx of replacements mid-season. Once Rosie arrives, however, he proves to be quite the character. Worthy of being on the poster even!

American actor Nate Mann is a recent Juilliard grad just getting his start in the industry. He’s been seen previously in Licorice Pizza, Ray Donovan, and Evil. Mann originally trained with his Masters of the Air castmates at their actors “bootcamp” before leaving then joining filming a month in, due to his character’s replacement status. He described his character’s experience to Den of Geek thusly:

“When Rosie joined the 100th, there were men coming and going from these spaces all the time. But he had just been in the States training gunners and had tons of experience up in the cockpit. So when he gets started, he’s comfortable behind the yoke, but he doesn’t know what he’s in for.”

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Barry Keoghan as Lt. Curtis “Curt” Biddick

Lt. Curtis Biddick is a highly capable pilot in the 100th’s stable. Viewers won’t get a sense of just how capable until a couple episodes in.

Playing Biddick is the also highly capable Irish actor Barry Keoghan. Always a fan favorite due to his shrewd acting choices, distinctive appearance, and indecipherable Irish accent, Keoghan is now finally having his mainstream moment thanks to big roles in movies like The Batman, The Banshees of Inisherin, and Saltburn. Though Keoghan already got a taste of WWII storytelling when he appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, piloting one of Masters of the Air‘s B-17s took some more physicality.

“It is [claustrophobic] up there. I think they got that across,” Keoghan said. “[The B-17 set] restricts you from doing a lot of stuff so you have to convey everything through the eyes. It was quite compact.”

Raff Law as Sgt. Ken Lemmons

Just as Band of Brothers sought the viewpoint of a medic in the form of “Doc” Eugene Roe, so too does Masters of the Air depict the perspective of someone not heavily involved in the fighting in the form of mechanic Sgt. Ken Lemmons. After all, what is a plane mechanic if not a plane doctor?

Raff Law is the son of actors Jude Law and Sadie Frost. His first major role was in 2021 crime drama Twist in which he played Oliver Twist.

Branden Cook as 2nd Lt. Alexander Jefferson

Late in its run, Masters of the Air introduces the Tuskegee Airmen. Though segregated into their own unit, this group of Black pilots and crewmen proved to be one of the military’s most effective fighting forces. Leading this portion of the story is 2nd Lt. Alexander Jefferson.

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Playing Jefferson is Branden Cook, who has previously popped up for small roles in Industry and Chicago P.D.

Ncuti Gatwa as 2nd Lt. Robert Daniels

Safely considered the second lead of the Tuskegee Airmen arc of Masters of the Air, Lt. Robert Daniels plays an important role in the series’ final episodes.

Ncuti Gatwa is, of course, Doctor Who – the 15th Doctor, in fact. The Rwandan-Scottish actor has also appeared in Sex Education and Barbie.

Sawyer Spielberg as Lt. Roy Frank Claytor

As seen in the image above, Lt. Roy Frank Clayton of Montgomery, Alabama occasionally serves as Buck Cleven’s co-pilot. While the roster and roles of the 100th change quite frequently , you should usually be able to recognize Claytor by his distinctive mustache (until Rosie and his identical mustache enters the series at least).

As you probably may have already guessed, Sawyer Spielberg is the son of legendary director and Masters of the Air producer Steven Spielberg. While Sawyer has poked around at acting previously, this marks his first major role.

Kai Alexander as Sgt. William Quinn

The extremely youthful-looking Sgt. William Quinn is worth keeping an eye on in the early-goings as the radio operator from Washington gets into some interesting stuff a little later on.

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Kai Alexander previously appeared in Catastrophe, The Stranger, and Pistol (in which he played a young Richard Branson).

Other Characters of Note

– Isabel May (Elsa Dutton in 1883) as Marge – Buck’s girl back home.
– Bel Powley (Miep Gies in A Small Light) as Alexandra “Sandra” Wingate – A mysterious woman at Oxford.
– David Shields (Michael Smart in Black Mirror “Demon 79”) as Major Everett “Ev” Blakely – A pilot from Seattle.
– Adam Long (Lewis Whippy in Happy Valley) as Captain Bernard “Bennie” DeMarco – A pilot from Philadelphia.
– Elliot Warren (“Train Gang Leader” in The Batman) as Lt. James Douglass – A bombardier from the Midwest.
– Jordan Coulson (Lukasz in Informer) as Lt. Howard Hamilton – A bombardier from the Midwest.
– James Murray (Prince Andrew in The Crown) as Major Neil “Chic” Harding – Commander of the 100th.
– Nikolai Kinski (Emperor Romanos in Vikings: Valhalla) as Colonel Harold Huglin – Operations officer of the Third Bomb Wing, Eighth Air Force.
– Louis Greatorex (Henry Mason in Safe) as Capt. Joseph “Bubbles” Payne – A navigator and Major Crosby’s best friend.
– Josiah Cross (TD in King Richard) as 2nd Lt. Richard D. Macon – A Tuskegee airman who undergoes a harrowing ordeal.
– Laurie Davidson (Mr. Mistoffelees in Cats) as Lt. Herbert Nash – A replacement of note.
– Matt Gavan (Jord Hasp in Foundation) as Capt. Charles Bean Cruikshank – A pilot of note.
– Ben Radcliffe (Giselher in The Witcher) as Capt. John D. Brady – A pilot whose plane Crosby navigates for initially.
– Bailey Brook as Sgt. Charles K. Bailey – Has a plot line of note midseason.

The first two episodes of Masters of the Air are available to stream now on Apple TV+. New episodes premiere Fridays.