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J.K. Simmons Teases James Cromwell on ‘Counterpart,’ ‘Howards End’ Team Talks #MeToo at FYC Event

If “Counterpart” fans were excited about the news of James Cromwell joining the cast of Starz’s sci-fi espionage drama, it’s nothing compared to how series lead J.K. Simmons felt when he heard the news.

“I was so excited. As they were talking about casting, I was hoping it would be [Cromwell],” Simmons told Variety on the red carpet at the Starz FYC event on Wednesday at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “I just finished shooting the first half of the season, basically all of my scenes with him. It was a great for a number of reasons because James is great, but also because he carried about 90 percent of the dialogue, so I was kind of just sitting there being a fan.”

Starz announced Cromwell’s addition to the “Counterpart” cast Wednesday before the panel that was moderated by Variety’s executive editor, television Debra Birnbaum. The Emmy Award-winning actor will play a recurring role as Yanek, the warden at underground facility Echo, throughout the second season. Simmons kept tight lips about specifics about the character, but revealed an overview based on his observations.

“It’s a great complex, very intellectual character,” he said. “He’s an imposing presence. For the work we were doing together, that fit perfectly together.”

Other cast members spoke to their excitement about the show’s upcoming second season, praising the work series creator, writer and executive producer Justin Marks put into developing the scripts. Marks said during the panel that part of the success of the shows and lessons he’s learned during the course of producing “Counterpart” came from finding trust in the cast.

“It’s really helpful to have everyone know the emotional pulse of these characters,” he said.

A premiere date for “Counterpart” season two has not been set yet.

Also at the Emmy event were “Howards End” stars Hayley Atwell and Philippa Coulthard and executive producer Colin Callender, who shared how revisiting the Oscar-winning story resonated in present times.

Callender admitted it to be coincidental that the show premiered in the midst of the #MeToo movement. He said he was attracted to the show after rereading the classic E.M. Forester novel and connecting with it on a more personal level.

“As a father of two daughters, I felt that the story of these two sisters, these smart, independent women trying to make their way in a man’s world was really relevant to today,” Callender said. “We started way before the #MeToo movement, and the whole question of women’s role in society was becoming more of the moment than when we first started it.”

Atwell said the timing of “Howards End’s” release was “particularly apt,” and the narrative of the show brings a balance to the conversation at large.

“This happens to be a female-led narrative where the central relationship is about two sisters, two women who are not pitted against each other, two women that are very different, but that their love for each other navigates this very rocky territory with the men in their lives,” Atwell said.

She added, “That has never been more at the front of the conversation in the arts as it is now.”

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