Casting: Russell, Bates, Dafoe, Matteo

A Message From the King
Keri Russell (“The Americans”) and Mahershala Ali (“House of Cards”) have scored key roles in Gary Ross’ historical drama “The Free State of Jones”. Pre-production is currently underway in Louisiana.

Matthew McConaughey plays a soldier for the Confederacy during the Civil War who became disillusioned with the South’s cause, fled the battlefield, rallied supporters and declared a safe haven in an area of southeastern Mississippi. Russell will play his first wife, Ali will play a runaway slave. [Source: THR]

Michelle Darnell
Kathy Bates is set to join Melissa McCarthy in Ben Falcone’s upcoming comedy “Michelle Darnell” at Universal Pictures. Bates will play the tough, wealthy and eccentric mentor of McCarthy’s character. Filming begins in March.

The story centers on a titan of industry (McCarthy) who is sent to prison after she’s caught insider trading. When she emerges ready to re-brand herself as America’s latest sweetheart, not everyone she screwed over is so quick to forgive and forget. [Source: THR]

The Great Wall
Willem Dafoe has signed on to join Matt Damon in Zhang Yimou’s “The Great Wall” at Legendary Pictures. Dafoe’s character role is being kept under wraps. Filming begins in April in China.

Damon stars as a soldier who is part of a group of mercenaries traveling to China in order to bring back gunpowder to Europe. When the group is attacked by mystical beasts, the man finds himself in a war between a secret warrior clan and the beasts. [Source: Heat Vision]

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Drea de Matteo (“Sons of Anarchy,” “The Sopranos”) has scored the role of a new villain in the latter half of the second season of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”.

Matteo will play Karla Faye Gideon, a gifted woman with a grudge who joins forces with Skye’s father Cal (Kyle MacLachlan). “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” returns on Tuesday March 3rd. [Source: TV Line]