Decades after Russell Crowe’s Maximus screamed “Are you not entertained?” Ridley Scott and the cast of Gladiator 2 are back for a follow-up to the 2000 historical epic with both new and returning characters. A direct sequel set after the events of the Best Picture-winning original, Gladiator 2 was a long-gestating project until a cast finally started to assemble in 2023. As Crowe revealed on the Fitzy & Wippa podcast, Maximus will not return in Gladiator 2 and the plot instead focuses on Lucius, the young prince from the first movie. With Lucius now being at the forefront, Gladiator 2 will highlight his journey of becoming emperor in ancient Rome.
Playing an adult Lucius, Paul Mescal leads the Gladiator 2 cast, which also features such high-profile actors as Pedro Pascal and Denzel Washington and rising stars like Joseph Quinn and Fred Hechinger. While Russell Crowe has confirmed that he has no plans of returning, a few actors from the original are reprising their roles, most notably Connie Nielsen as Lucilla. Crowe passing the lead character baton to an acclaimed actor like Mescal is enough to build interest in the project, but the entire cast of Gladiator 2 adds up to an exciting ensemble.
Paul Mescal As Lucius
Lucius Verus, played by Spencer Treat Clark in the original Gladiator, was introduced as the son of Lucilla and the former Roman emperor after whom he is named. Lucius was shown to have held a deep fascination for the gladiator Maximus and his heroic victories in the arena. As an adult in Gladiator 2, Lucius harbors ambitions to ascend to Rome’s throne as he steps out of the shadow of his disgraced uncle and former emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator). As Lucius actor Paul Mescal revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he would naturally be involved in a physical transformation to play the part.
But Lucius is much more than brute force. Mescal stated that he is not interested in talking about his transformation for the role, but he did describe Lucius as a man who has “to fight and got to be a beast.” The Irish actor first gained notice for starring in the romantic drama miniseries Normal People as the soft-spoken and kind-hearted student Connell Waldron. Starting a romance with Daisy Edgar-Jones’s Marianne, Mescal’s character goes through some teary-eyed character transitions. After earning Emmy and BAFTA nominations for Normal People, Mescal showcased his dramatic capabilities on another level with his Oscar-nominated performance in the coming-of-age drama Aftersun.
Mescal’s Aftersun character, Calum, is a 30-year-old father who wishes to reconnect with his estranged daughter on a vacation to Istanbul. With enough patience and finesse, Mescal reveals the depression that Calum has been trying to hide underneath his smiling persona. Mescal is also known for playing mild-mannered beach bartender Will in The Lost Daughter and the romantic guitar-playing ex-Marine Aidan in Carmen. With the emotional range that he has shown in Normal People and Aftersun, Gladiator 2’s Paul Mescal casting is perfect, as the original was also an introspective action film, one that focused on a tragic hero plagued by his violent life.
Connie Nielsen As Lucilla
In Gladiator 2, Connie Nielsen returns to the franchise cast as Lucilla, a Roman aristocrat who mentors her son as he plans to rise through the ranks. The granddaughter of emperor Marcus Aurelius and Maximus’s former lover, Lucilla is a wise and strategic player within Roman power politics. Nielsen is also known for playing the valiant warrior queen Hippolyta in Wonder Woman (and other DC Extended Universe properties) and the cold-hearted mother Katherine in Nymphomaniac. On TV, Nielsen enjoyed a stint on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as the stern yet ultimately caring Detective Danielle Beck and starred as the ambitious politician and power-broker Meredith Kane on Boss.
Joseph Quinn As Emperor Caracalla
The known storyline of Gladiator 2 points to the fact that it will feature many real-life Roman personalities, such as the emperor Caracalla. A hot-headed ruler, Caracalla harbors a liking for violence. In fact, the actual Caracalla was notorious for ordering massacres in his territories. Caracalla actor Joseph Quinn is beloved among Stranger Things fans as Eddie Munson, the energetic high-school outcast who literally plays the guitar to save the world. Quinn is also no stranger to period roles, as he appeared in Catherine the Great as the titular Russian monarch’s son Paul Petrovich and starred in the BBC adaptation of Les Misérables as the charismatic revolutionary Enjolras.
Fred Hechinger As Emperor Geta
Geta is Caracalla’s brother with whom he reigns over Rome jointly. The primary antagonist of Gladiator 2, he harbors the same short temper as his co-ruler and serves as a brutish leader. While Barry Keoghan initially joined the Gladiator 2 cast as Geta, he had to exit for scheduling conflicts, and Fred Hechinger replaced him. He is best recognized from the first season of The White Lotus where he played the socially awkward tech-addicted teenager Quinn. His other previous roles include the condescending high-schooler Trevor in Eighth Grade, outlaw John Calley in News of the World, and ominous murderer Ethan in The Woman in the Window.
Denzel Washington In Unknown Role
Denzel Washington is also attached to Gladiator 2 as part of its ensemble cast. His role is unknown, but the two-time Oscar winner already showcased his dramatic prowess in a period setting as the titular tyrant in The Tragedy of Macbeth. Gladiator 2 reunites Washington with Ridley Scott, who directed the actor’s portrayal of mobster Frank Lucas in American Gangster. Regardless of his Gladiator 2 role being heroic or villainous, Washington’s filmography proves he’s efficient at capturing all sides of humanity. His range is evidenced by his Oscar-winning stint as the corrupt cop Alonzo Harris in Training Day and his tear-jerking performance as the middle-aged father Troy Maxon in Fences.
His most iconic performances include the alcoholic pilot Captain Whitaker in Flight, the morally righteous lawyer Joe Miller in Philadelphia, the heroic Union soldier Private Silas Trip in Glory, and the legendary civil rights activist Malcolm X in the eponymous biopic from Spike Lee. Washington was also a regular collaborator of Ridley Scott’s brother Tony Scott, acting in five of his movies. These include his roles as the vengeance-seeking ex-CIA operative John Creasy in Man on Fire and rebellious naval officer Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter in Crimson Tide. Washington has also proven his capabilities as a director with Fences, Antwone Fisher, A Journal for Jordan, and The Great Debaters.
Pedro Pascal In Unknown Role
Pedro Pascal’s inclusion in the Gladiator 2 cast remains a mystery. As Geta and Caracalla’s father, Septimius Severus, hasn’t been cast yet, it can be speculated that Pascal will play him. If this is indeed true, then Pascal’s Gladiator 2 role can continue his trend of playing father figures such as the fearless and strategic Mandalorian warrior Din Djarin in The Mandalorian and the morally complex survivalist Joel Miller in The Last of Us. After several small roles in films and TV, Pascal attained his initial global popularity as the flamboyant Dornish prince Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones and assertive DEA agent Javier Peña in Narcos.
Derek Jacobi As Gracchus
Derek Jacobi reprises his role in Gladiator 2 as the Roman Senator Gracchus, a dutiful ally of Lucilla’s. As he opposed Commodus’s dictatorial rule in Gladiator, an aged Gracchus is highly likely to back Lucius and criticize Geta and Caracalla’s joint reign. A mainstay in many Shakespearean theater adaptations, Jacobi is a Tony-winning stage veteran. He has also appeared in such ensemble movies as Gosford Park, in which he played the loyal valet Probert, and The King’s Speech where which he portrayed high-ranking priest Cosmo Gordon Lang. Among the many real-life personalities he has played, he also starred in The Crown season 3 as the abdicated British monarch Edward VIII.
Djimon Hounsou Is Rumored To Return As Juba
Among the original movie’s stars who are expected to join the Gladiator 2 cast, Oscar-nominee Djimon Hounsou hopes for a comeback for his character Juba. Maximus’s fellow gladiator and loyal sidekick, Juba is a skilled fighter and is also empathetic towards his peers. While Hounsou has expressed his interest in reprising Juba’s role, it hasn’t been confirmed if he is in talks with Ridley Scott. Hounsou is otherwise a gifted character actor, earning two Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations, one for portraying reclusive photographer and artist Mateo Kuamey in In America and the other as the kind and loyal fisherman Solomon Vandy in Blood Diamond.
Before playing Juba in Gladiator, the model and actor had earned rave reviews for his empathetic act as Joseph Cinqué in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad. Cinqué was a real-life Mende tribesman who was abducted for the slave trade, later led a mutiny, and then presented himself at an American court for his own freedom. That role definitely seems to have had an impact on Hounsou’s Gladiator character. Even though he has been attached to major franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe —as Korath the Pursuer — and the DC Extended Universe, in multiple roles, since then, a return as Juba would yet again bring Hounsou’s emotion-driven acting into play.
The Gladiator 2 Supporting Cast & Characters
May Calamawy as Unknown – Egyptian actress May Calamawy is mostly known for playing the rebellious and inquisitive Dena Hassan, one of the main characters from the comedy-drama Ramy. She also joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the adventurer-archaeologist Layla El-Faouly in Moon Knight.
Peter Mensah as Unknown – Ghanaian actor Peter Mensah being part of the Gladiator 2 cast adds to his many run-ins with the swords-and-sandals genre, having previously appeared in 300 as the infamous Persian messenger who gets kicked into a well by Leonidas. Mensah also starred in numerous seasons of Spartacus as the Gallic gladiator and rebel slave Oenomaus.
Lior Raz as Unknown – Lior Raz is popular for playing the brooding counter-terrorism unit commander Doron Kavillio in Fauda, an Israeli political thriller series that the actor-screenwriter also created.
Matt Lucas as Unknown – Before joining the Gladiator 2 cast, British actor and TV presenter Matt Lucas was best known for his involvement in the sketch comedy series Little Britain and for playing the Twelfth Doctor’s companion Nardole in Doctor Who. He was also one of the co-hosts of The Great British Baking Show from 2020 to 2023.