I could not be more excited that all five seasons of Alias are coming to Prime on May 11. As a kid, I loved watching Sydney Bristow, played fabulously by Jennifer Garner, and I wanted to be a kick-ass spy just like her when I grew up. I will certainly be re-watching all five seasons when they become available.
But while Sydney is certainly the most important and compelling character in the show, she is certainly not the only interesting character. Let’s have a quick reminder about 15 cool character from Alias, who played them, and what other movies and shows you might have unexpectedly seen them in.
Be warned if you haven’t seen the show, there are spoilers!
Michael Vaughn is Sydney’s CIA handler and love interest played by Michael Vartan, who was Jennifer Garner’s real-life partner for a while before she got together with Ben Affleck. A few people may know him from before Alias when he played Drew Barrymore’s love interest in Never Been Kissed, but he has mostly made a name for himself on television playing Dr Tom Wakefield on Hawthorne and Terence Anderson in The Arrangement. If you want to see a very good thriller in which he plays an integral role, check out One Hour Photo, in which Robin Williams plays a psychotic photo developer (much better than it sounds).
Sydney’s distant and deceitful father played by Victor Garber managed to be aloof and irritating while still being likable, like so many dads. We could understand Sydney’s frustration with him, while still holding a soft spot. Garber has had a long and successful career playing compelling supporting roles, though he also starred as Jesus Christ himself in the 1973 film Godspell. He also shows just how versatile he is in the musical Auntie (1999). Though perhaps my favorite role of his in recent years is as Martin Stein in the DC Legends of Tomorrow series.
Ron Rifkin did an amazing job as the villainous leader of the organization where Sydney worked that was pretending to be the good guys while really being the bad guys. He was utterly detestable, but occasionally showed signs of being a real human being. Enough to garner a bit of sympathy, but never enough to break out of being the bad guy. Rifkin has an extensive filmography both before and after Alias, but he is probably most well-known for his role in Brothers and Sisters (2006-2011).
Sydney’s estranged mother and a Russian agent that used Sydney’s father to learn CIA secrets, Lena Olin was highly charismatic, and I thought thoroughly unlikeable even when they managed to humanize her a little. The actress is in fact Swedish not Russian, and won a Golden Globe for her role in The Unbearable Lightness of Being and an Academy Award for her role in Enemies, A Love Story, before appearing in Alias. Two other films featuring the actress also star Johnny Depp, the thriller The Ninth Gate (1999) and Chocolat, which also starred Juliette Binoche, who also made an appearance on Alias.
Sometimes when TV shows introduce characters similar to their main lead that threaten their place in the center of our hearts, we hate them. There was a reason we loved to hate Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She was such a good character, and portrayed so well by Eliza Dushku, that she threatened the world order. So, props to Alias for introducing Nadia, Sydney’s younger sister who is also an Argentinian secret agent, who we loved but didn’t threaten our heroine. She was played by the Argentine actress and singer Mia Maestro. She has a strong career in both South America and Hollywood. She pops up in the Twilight saga playing a vampire, but for something a bit more interesting check out The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and Savages (2012)
Marcus Dixon was Sydney’s partner at the fake CIA, and was understandably upset when he found out that Sydney knew what was going on and never told him. He eventually moved to the real CIA with Sydney, and unbelievably became director, considering his past, but whatever, we don’t need to meet lots of new characters. He is played by Carl Lumby, who made a name for himself as Detective Marcus Petrie in Cagney & Lacey in the 1980s. Since Alias, he has made memorable in the show Supergirl and the Netflix program Altered Carbon.
Marshall Flinkman was a computer whizz working for the bad guys in the fake CIA that was also taken into the real CIA once they took down Arvin Sloane. A little bit stereotype in terms of the neurotic geek, he was nevertheless endearing. He was played by Kevin Glen Weisman, who since Alias has mostly had recurring support roles. His most well-known is probably as Dr Jeffrey Maynard on The Blacklist, though we also enjoyed him as the Hobbit lover in Clerks II.
Eric Weiss was one of the few characters that started out on the “good side” inside the CIA and was a friend and confidant to Michael Vaughn. He was often the character who gave us the “normal person’s” perspective on things, though he showed himself to have the heart of a hero repeatedly. Played by Greg Grunberg, he is the guy that you see popping up everywhere, even in the latest Star Wars films as one of the rebel fighters. Before Alias, he appeared in J.J. Abrams’ Felicity, and afterward made a name for himself as Matt Parkman in the NBC show Heroes. Also keep an eye out for him in the Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga flick A Star is Born.
Francie is Sydney’s unsuspecting roommate and best friend for the first two seasons of the show, who is then killed by someone who undergoes surgery to steal her identity and spy on Sydney (and mess with Will). She is played by Merrin Dungey, who has since had a strong career playing guest roles in popular TV series such as Castle, Grey’s Anatomy, and Once Upon a Time. She also has a small role in the new Star Trek: Picard series – which is good, watch it.
Our evil nemesis, who of course has an English accent because for some reason Americans think they sound evil, was plated by David Anders. Like Glen Grunberg, he also played the memorable character Adam Monroe on Heroes, and audiences may also recognize him as John Gilbert from The Vampire Diaries. Just to confirm, he is actually American, and just does a nice English accent (like James Masterson, Spoke from Buffy – many people think his English accent sounds more authentic than his American one).
Sydney’s love-sick best friend who discovers her secret and then finds himself in protective custody was played by the extremely charismatic Bradley Cooper before he made a big name for himself in the movie industry. There is probably no need to tell you what Bradley Cooper has done with himself, as he has been a household name since his appearance in The Hangover. He is also memorable for his role in the mind-expanding Limitless and his recent flick with Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born.
When Sydney disappeared for a few years, presumed dead, we couldn’t believe that Michale Vaughn didn’t wait and was married to Lauren Reed. Even when we found out that she was an evil agent who had infiltrated the CIA and was using him, it was still hard to forgive him. But we sure did love to hate her. She is played by the amazing Melissa George, who Australians will know from Home & Away (and Brits as well, since let’s admit it, more Brits watch that show than Aussies). Since then, she has mostly chosen roles in independent films, many of which have been excellent. You can catch her in Mulholland Drive (2001), The Amityville Horror (2005), and the underrated Triangle (2009).
Kelly Peyton is part of the group that acts as the bad guys in the final season of Alias, and while we may not see that much of her, she is memorable, probably largely because she is played expertly by the amazing Amy Acker, who most of us met when she played Fred in Angel, and has since been a favorite of Whedon, and many other showrunners. She has a nice role in Whedon’s Dollhouse and a great cameo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, look out for her in Suits and the 2017-19 series The Gifted.
In the early season of Alias, Anna Espinosa was Sydney’s main rival, and as the episodes pass, their lives become strangely intertwined. She is Cuban born and works for Russian secret intelligence, and later undergoes surgery to look and sound exactly like Sydney. But before that happens, she was played by Gina Torres, one of the few actresses that could hold her own against Garner. She has had a very successful career since with a memorable guest role on Angel, and leading roles in Firefly and Suits. When she was younger, she also played Cleopatra in Xena: Warrior Princess.
Rachel Gibson is another character that only shows up in season five, when a lot of new characters were introduced, as kind of a Sydney 2.0 who was also recruited into a fake CIA. Sydney recruits her to foil the agency from the inside, just like she did (you can see why this was the last season). She is played by Rachel Nichols, who has had a strong if unexceptional career She is best known for her role as Kiera in the sci-fi series Continuum.