Some drama series make waves with their ensembles of well-known celebrities, while others boost the career profiles of relatively unknown casts. Yet others take a middle ground, combining established names with promising newcomers to engage audiences old and new. We've seen it all here at WGBH's Drama Club, but the casting approach used for Last Tango in Halifax really stood out to us: mixing veteran theater actors with sketch comedy queens and soap opera stars to create a fully-formed, if dysfunctional, family.

If you haven't heard of Last Tango in Halifax, we're delighted to introduce you! The series opens with two teenage sweethearts, Alan and Celia, meeting up for the first time in decades. Romance is rekindled, and the two set off on the road to happily ever after... a road that might just have a few speed bumps along the way. From the lives of their grown daughters, to their grandsons, to their siblings and beyond, Alan and Celia's romance challenges their relationships and rocks the boat — in ways both poignant and entertaining.

The second season of Last Tango in Halifax begins on WGBH this Sunday at 7pm. If you missed the first season, it's available for streaming on WGBH Passport. And now, a look at the show's dynamic cast:

Derek Jacobi as Alan
You might know Jacobi’s face from the myriad of iconic films he’s been in: Probert in Gosford Park, Claudius in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, Stuart in Vicious, and Metatron in Good Omens. But Jacobi’s work outside of the large and small screens is really what makes his career remarkable. Discovered by Laurence Olivier, he moved to London at the behest of the actor, going on to make a name for himself with the National Theatre, as Laertes opposite Peter O’Toole in Hamlet, and as Andrei opposite Olivier in Three Sisters. Most recently he’s played Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Lear in King Lear, and Malvolio in Twelfth Night. He's been appointed a Commander of the British Empire in honor of his work.

Anne Reid as Celia
Not to be out-shined by her co-star, Reid also has an Order of the British Empire (Member). While her background is not quite as Shakespearian as Jacobi’s, it’s still impressive. From 10 years on Britain’s longest running soap, Coronation Street, to cavorting with two different Doctor Who’s — the Seventh in the “Curse of the Fenric” arc, and the Thirteenth in “Smith and Jones”— to taking on Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Hot Fuzz. She’s even appeared in two different versions of Bleak House: in 1985, she portrayed Mrs. Bagnet, and in 2005, she took on the role of Mrs. Rouncewell. More recently, you would have recognized her as Lady Denham in Sanditon.

Nicola Walker as Gillian
For Masterpiece fans, Nicola Walker will be a familiar face: you’ll recognize her as DCI Cassie Stuart, one of the two amazing leads of Unforgotten. Or, perhaps you’ll recognize her from Scott and Bailey (frequently airing on WGBX 44) or guest starring in an episode of Luther, New Tricks, or Dalziel and Pascoe. But perhaps her most iconic role is that of Ruth Evershed in the series Spooks. If BBC shows aren’t your cup of tea, you might even recognize her voice from the beloved Witcher video games, where she plays Síle de Tansarville.

Sarah Lancashire as Caroline
Like her more senior co-stars in the cast, Lancashire joins Last Tango in Halfax with an Order of the British Empire (Officer), a few years on Coronation Street, and time on the stage. But you might recognize her from her work in more recent years, leading Happy Valley as Catherine Cawood (another WGBX 44 favorite), and narrating Lark Rise to Candleford as the adult Laura. Or, if you've been lucky enough to get to London's West End to catch a show, you may have seen her as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, or even as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls.

Nina Sosanya as Kate
While Sosanya might be a supporting actress in Last Tango, her star has only continued to grow. While her resume includes a turn in Silk, as Kate Brockman, and guest spots on Inspector Lewis, Vera, and Shetland, the last few years have seen a boom in her work. She’s played Jess in Killing Eve, Sister Mary Loquacious in Good Omens, Elaine Parry in His Dark Materials, and is taking on the role of Mustafa Mond in the upcoming Brave New World.

An older couple stands near the camera, embracing and smiling at the viewer. Behind them, two adult women, their daughters, stand together, but apart, giving smaller smiles to the viewer.
L-R Celia (ANNE REID) Alan (DEREK JACOBI), Gillian (NICOLA WALKER) and Caroline (SARAH LANCASHIRE, at Far Slack Farm

Josh Bolt as Raff
Last Tango in Halifax might be the most recent thing on Josh Bolt’s resume, but it’s hardly the only credit on there. He took on portraying Pete Shotton in 2009’s Nowhere Boy, had a short arc on Shameless as Frasier Kane, and Inspector Lewis as Adam Tibitt. He’s also had brief guest star roles on Grantchester, Scott and Bailey, and 2019’s Catch-22. Finally, you may have heard him in the Doctor Who animated series voicing a variety of characters.

Louis Greatorex as Lawrence
He might not be a household name — yet! — but we see big things on the horizon for Greatorex. Aside from Last Tango, he’s taken on roles in The Last Post as Paul Stoneham, Safe as Henry Mason, and The Bay as Sam Hesketh. But it’s his work on Shepherd’s Delight that impressed us; like his character on Last Tango, Greatorex works as creator and co-star of this upcoming YouTube series, along with Harpal Hayer and Charles Evans.

Edward Ashley as William
Last Tango appears to be Ashley’s first role on the screen, but it’s certainly not his last. While he left the show after its second season, it was for a good cause. He’s gone on to some interesting and impressive roles, including Arthur Manley in The Lost City of Z, Barzillai Ray in In The Heart of the Sea, William Gibson in AMC’s The Terror, and Cambridge in this past winter’s The King.

Tony Gardner as John
There’s a little something that Tony Gardner has that his co-stars in Last Tango in Halifax just don’t — and that’s qualification as a physician and general practitioner. But it wasn’t long after completing his education that Gardner decided medicine just wasn’t for him and moved on to acting, taking on guest spots in New Tricks, Death in Paradise, Unforgotten and Doctor Who.

Ronni Ancona as Judith
While Last Tango in Halifax is often called a dark comedy, the only dyed-in-the-wool comedienne in the cast is Ronni Ancona. Her resume is filled with sketch shows (The Big Impression, Monkey Trousers) comedy films (Penelope, The Trip to Italy) and even some of the funnier episodes of classic BBC mysteries like Father Brown or Miss Marple. This background makes her the perfect balance for the rest of Last Tango's drama-heavy cast.

Dean Andrews as Robbie
Rounding out our list is Dean Andrews, a man best known for his roles in British crime and legal dramas. Taking brief turns in shows like Vera, Midsomer Murders, New Tricks, Father Brown, Silent Witness, he’s perhaps best known as DS Ray Carling in the time-traveling copper show Life on Mars. With a background like this, it should come as no surprise that his role on Last Tango is that of a policeman.

Last Tango in Halifax is available for streaming today.