The tension is thick when Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell's late best friend's son, Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, played by Teller, shows up among the Navy's latest crop of Top Gun pilots.
Even sporting a mustache like his dad, Anthony Edward's Nick "Goose" Bradshaw, count Rooster among the long list of people who don't think much of Maverick's rogue ways.
"That was all me, I showed up with it at the camera test," Teller, who previously worked with Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski on the harrowing firefighter drama Only the Brave, told USA Today of the facial hair. "Tom was like, 'This is perfect; you look so much like him.'"
Powell does Iceman-dipped-in-honey as the cocky but charming Lt. Jake "Hangman" Seresin, a character he collaborated on with Tom Cruise in order to get the notes right.
"I can't top what Val did in the first one," Powell told USA Today. "I tried to make Hangman stand on his own. That just comes with growing up in Texas."
Having previously played astronaut John Glenn in Hidden Figures and after zooming through the skies in real F-18s, the actor decided to lean into this whole pilot thing, getting his certification with Cruise's help.
"So I get my pilot's license, I get to sign the whole thing and they're like, 'You're a private pilot'—Tom had a thing waiting for me," Powell told E! News. "It was a note that said, 'Welcome to the skies,' and it was a certificate for stunt driving lessons."
In case his need for speed had yet to be fulfilled.
The Top Gun program has come a long way(ish) since 1986.
Barbaro plays mission candidate Lt. Natasha "Phoenix" Trace, Rooster's love interest but first and foremost a hell of an F/A-18F pilot.
"Of course, part of this role is about being a woman," the actress told USA Today. "But she also represents a pilot who is just very capable."
Lt. Robert "Bob" Floyd may look bookish, but any weapon systems officer played by Bill Pullman's son obviously belongs in the air!
"There was a guy with a sign saying 'I Love Bob' outside my first TV interview," the younger Pullman told USA Today. "He said to me, 'I keep thinking, what would Bob do?'"
He likes that "audiences can see that soft-spoken people can become pilots. And they can be absolute road dogs in the sky." But as for his instantly iconic call sign…
"I like that it doesn't have an explanation," Pullman said. "There's great mystery behind Bob."
Playing Air Force Lt. Joaquin Torres in the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier didn't turn Ramirez onto flying—but portraying the very sure-of-himself Lt. Mickey "Fanboy" Garcia did, despite the occasional bout with air sickness.
"I didn't love it before this, but I love flying now," he told USA Today. "I was having so much fun. I can be cocky in the air."
Playing a weapons systems officer, the guy in the plane who's directing his attention this way and that, could be a little nauseating, he admitted. "It's like texting in the back seat of a car, but you're moving at 500 knots," he explained. "So I tossed my cookies quite a bit."
Playing mission candidate Lieutenant Reuben "Payback" Fitch, Ellis—whose dad, two grandfathers and step-grandfather served in the Air Force—is proud to represent his lineage onscreen, even if it is as a Navy man.
"I grew up around aviation, and I think about the sacrifice that so many men and women take—they give, rather—just for us to be safe," the actor told NBC News. "I think we all wrap our arms around this community and we protect it so much. And we understand the responsibility to be amazing on-screen for these folks."
Ellis also found another use for his air sickness bag after realizing early on that once you're up, you're not coming down for awhile. "Every flight from there on, I peed and I got it down to a science," he told USA Today. "It just became a thing."
"When I saw the first Top Gun, obviously there was one Black character, Sundown [played by Clarence Gilyard], but I don't think he was represented as fully as he could have been," Davis, who suits up as Lt. Javy "Coyote" Machado, told NBC News. "So I think that it's really cool that we have the representation, not just of Black characters, but of many different men and women."
Newer to being a working actor when he was cast in Top Gun: Maverick ages ago but having since amassed credits including The Call of the Wild and Grey's Anatomy, he'll will make his mark yet again with Cruise in the also-years-in-the-making Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning, due out in 2023.
"Four of my six years of acting have been with Tom Cruise," the Davis remarked to USA Today. "I cannot complain about life."
New to the franchise but not to the lore, Connelly's Penny Benjamin is the "one admiral's daughter" referred to in the Top Gun bar scene, when Maverick's said to have "a history of high-speed passes over five air control towers and one admiral's daughter."
Goose's wife Carole (Meg Ryan, seen in flashback in Top Gun: Maverick) mentions her by name when she tells her husband's best friend that Goose "told me all about the time you went ballistic with Penny Benjamin."
Penny is now a bar owner and single mom who's cautiously willing to give Maverick another shot.
Someone's got to be serious and in charge. Hamm joins the fleet as Vice Admiral Beau "Cyclone" Simpson, commander of Naval Air Forces.
"He's the adult in the room," the Emmy winner told The Hollywood Reporter. "He's not the petulant angry chief, and he's not the cigar-chomping guy [James Tolkan's Stinger] in [Top Gun], whose ego is writing checks his body can't cash. Cyclone is way more in the Tom Skerritt vein, who I really looked to for inspiration. First of all, I love Tom as an actor, but I loved him in the film, too. He's got that tough-love sensibility, but he also has that great line at the end, 'I'll fly with you.' It's a begrudging mutual respect, and my character has a lot of that, too."
Four-time Oscar nominee Harris has a brief turn as Rear Admiral Chester "Hammer" Cain, head of the Darkstar program, aka the mission involving the SR-72 Son of Blackbird aircraft, and another officer who Maverick manages to cross in a short period of time.
"I had a good time on it. Just worked a few days, but it was fun," the actor told NBC News' Willie Geist. "I'm sure it'll be spectacular." But, he added, "I'm just really in the first three minutes of it."
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