Special Ops Lioness cast: All actors & characters

Daisy Phillipson
The cast of Special Ops: LionessParamount

Here’s your guide to the cast and characters in Special Ops: Lioness, the new spy thriller from the creator of Yellowstone.

If you’re hoping Taylor Sheridan’s latest project will fill that Yellowstone-shaped hole in your life, think again – far from the patriarchal ranch of Montana, Special Ops: Lioness sets its focus on an all-women undercover unit battling the war on terror. 

But where the Paramount Plus show does bear similarities is with its character-driven story, led by complex personalities, their relationships, and their questionable morals in the face of threat. 

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With the first two episodes now available for streaming, we’ve broken down all of the main cast members of Special Ops: Lioness, including the actors and the characters they play. 


Special Ops Lioness cast and characters

There are plenty of big names in the cast, but before we get into it, here’s the official synopsis for the series: “Special Ops: Lioness, inspired by an actual US Military program, follows the life of Joe while she attempts to balance her personal and professional life as the tip of the CIA’s spear in the war on terror. 

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“The Lioness Program, overseen by Kaitlyn Meade and Byron Westfield, enlists an aggressive Marine Raider named Cruz to operate undercover alongside Joe among the power brokers of State terrorism in the CIA’s efforts to thwart the next 9/11.”

Joe: Zoe Saldaña

Zoe Saldaña in Special Opps: LionessParamount

Zoe Saldaña plays Joe, the strong-willed, no nonsense chief of the CIA’s Lioness program. She takes a tough approach to her work, and it’s not surprising given she’s tasked with training and leading her female undercover operatives into assassinating the world’s most dangerous terrorists. 

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But she struggles not to bring her work home with her, with Joe keeping an emotional distance from her husband and kids. 

As one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood, Saldaña is best known for her blockbuster hits, having appeared in the Avatar movies, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy film series, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Cruz Manuelos: Laysla De Oliveira

Laysla De Oliveira in Special Ops: LionessParamount

Laysla De Oliveira plays Cruz Manuelos, described as a “rough-around-the-edges but passionate young Marine recruited to join the CIA’s Lioness Engagement Team to help bring down a terrorist organization from within.” 

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Oliveira has appeared in Locke & Key, In the Tall Grass, Guest of Honour, and Needle in a Timestack. 

Kaitlyn Meade: Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman in Special Ops: LionessParamount

Nicole Kidman plays Kaitlyn Meade, the CIA’s senior supervisor and one who is tasked with overseeing the Lioness program. 

Like the other characters in the show, Kaitlyn is spinning plates in her life, including “the trappings of being a woman in the high-ranking intelligence community, a wife who longs for the attention she herself can’t even give, and a mentor to someone veering suspiciously close to the same rocky road she’s found herself on.”

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Kidman is another huge Hollywood name in the cast, with a long and illustrious history both in front of and behind the camera. A number of her acting accolades include Eyes Wide Shut, Moulin Rouge, Aquaman, and Big Little Lies.

Donald Westfield: Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly in Special Ops: LionessParamount

Michael Kelly plays Donald Westfield in the Special Ops Lioness cast. As a CIA deputy director, he is also responsible for helping to oversee the Lioness program.

This isn’t Kelly’s first time at the spy thriller rodeo, having appeared in Jack Ryan. Other roles include Man of Steel, House of Cards, and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. 

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Edwin Mullins: Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman in Special Ops: LionessParamount

Morgan Freeman plays Edwin Mullins, the US Secretary of State who will be kept informed about the actions of the special operatives as they embark on their dangerous mission. 

Much like Saldaña, does Freeman even need an introduction? An Oscar-winning star and one of the biggest names in the world of film, he has appeared in the likes of The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, and The Dark Knight, to name a few. 

Neil: Dave Annable

Dave Annable in Special Ops: LionessParamount

Dave Annable plays Neil, Joe’s husband who works as a pediatrician – not an easy job when he’s also got to look after his kids when Joe’s not around. 

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Annable is best known for his role as Lee Dutton in Yellowstone. He’s also appeared in Brothers & Sisters, Red Band Society, and What/If. 

Aaliyah: Stephanie Nur 

Stephanie Nur in Special Ops: LionessParamount

Stephanie Nur joins the Special Ops: Lioness cast as Aaliyah, the daughter of a high-value target who Cruz must befriend for intel. 

Nur took on a role in Sheridan’s Yellowstone spinoff 1883, as well as in Cracks In Concrete and Four Women and a Funeral. 

Kate: Hannah Love Lanier

Hannah Love Lanier in Special Ops: LionessParamount

Hannah Love Lanier plays Kate, Joe and Neil’s eldest daughter who has all of the angst you’d expect from a teenager, especially given her mom’s emotional distance. 

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Alongside her role in the Special Ops: Lioness cast, Lanier has appeared in The Tiny Mighty Club and A Black Lady Sketch Show.

Charlie: Celestina Harris

Celestina Harris in Special Ops: LionessParamount

Celestina Harris plays Charlie, Joe and Neil’s youngest daughter. 

Despite her young age, Harris has lent her voice to L.O.L. Surprise! House of Surprises and appeared in Chicago P.D., Angelina, and Vid Chronicles. 

The first two episodes of Special Ops: Lioness are available to stream on Paramount+ now, with Episode 3 airing on July 30. In the meantime, you can check out some of our other TV and Movie coverage below:

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Physical 100 Season 2 | Invincible Season 2 | The Boys Season 4 | Stranger Things Season 5 | Severance Season 2 | The Witcher Season 3 | Harry Potter TV show | House of the Dragon Season 2 | Indiana Jones 5 | Blue Beetle | The Night Agent Season 2

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About The Author

Daisy is a Senior TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's a lover of all things macabre, whether that be horror, crime, psychological thrillers or all of the above. After graduating with a Masters in Magazine Journalism, she's gone on to write for Digital Spy, LADbible and Little White Lies. You can contact her on daisy.phillipson@dexerto.com