Happiness for Beginners: Meet the Cast of Netflix’s New Romantic Comedy Set in the Wilderness

Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates from Your Next Shoes. This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure for more details.

Embark on a heartwarming journey of self-discovery and romance with Netflix’s newest romantic comedy, Happiness for Beginners, which graced our screens on July 27, 2023.

In this delightful adaptation of Katherine Center’s 2015 novel, Helen (played by Ellie Kemper) bravely steps out of her comfort zone to heal her post-divorce wounds by enrolling in a backcountry survival course on the Appalachian Trail.

Ellie Kemper as Helen and Luke Grimes as Jake in the 2023 American romantic comedy Happiness for BeginnersEllie Kemper as Helen and Luke Grimes as Jake in the 2023 American romantic comedy Happiness for Beginners (Credit: Netflix)

Under the direction of Vicky Wight and filmed in Stamford, Connecticut, with captivating city shots from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the film captures the spirit of camaraderie and growth among a diverse group of hikers bound together by the shared challenge of nature’s elements.

Amidst the rugged wilderness, a surprising twist arrives in the form of the charming newcomer, Jake (played by Luke Grimes), making Helen’s journey of rediscovery even more enchanting.

Here’s everything you need to know about the talented cast who brought this heartfelt romantic comedy to life, including their previous work and heights ranked from tallest to shortest.

1. Alexander Koch as Duncan – 6ft 1 in. (185.4 cm)

Alexander Koch gives life to the character of Duncan, Jake’s best friend and Helen’s younger brother, who encouraged her to embark on the wilderness survival course. Duncan may be a bit absentminded at times, but he possesses a heart full of warmth and compassion.

The 35-year-old actor is known for his regular role in the CBS drama series Under the Dome, where he portrayed James “Junior” Rennie, and his appearances in several episodes of Lucifer season 5.

Alexander Koch plays Duncan and towers over his cast members at six feet and one inch tallAlexander Koch plays Duncan and towers over his cast members at six feet and one inch tall (Credit: Tony DiMaio / Startraksphoto)

Alexander’s talent shone through on the big screen when he took the role of Mike in the dark comedy-drama thriller Black Bear, where he shared the screen with Aubrey Plaza and Sarah Gadon.

Netflix viewers may also recognize him for his performances in the psychological thriller films Always Shine in 2016 and Sightless in 2020.

2. Luke Grimes as Jake – 5ft 11 ¼ in. (181 cm)

Luke Grimes portrays Jake, a childhood best friend of Helen’s younger brother. Despite Helen initially dismissing him as irresponsible, their time together on the camping trip reveals a different side of Jake that sparks a newfound connection between them.

With a profession as a doctor, Jake is not limited to the boundaries of his career. He harbors aspirations of world travel and a love for wildlife watching.

Luke Grimes plays Helen’s romantic interest named Jake, and is taller than Yellowstone co-star Kelsey Asbille at five feet and 11 ¼ inchesLuke Grimes plays Helen’s romantic interest named Jake and is taller than Yellowstone co-star Kelsey Asbille at five feet and 11 ¼ inches (Credit: Media Punch / INSTARimages)

Luke Grimes’ talent extends far beyond Happiness for Beginners. You might remember him from his unforgettable performances as real-life Navy SEAL Marc Alan Lee in American Sniper and Elliot Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey films.

Television viewers might be familiar with the 39-year-old as Kayce Dutton in the critically acclaimed series Yellowstone, set in the Wild West. His performances in Brothers and Sisters, The Magnificent Seven, True Blood, and Taken 2 also left a lasting impact on viewers.

3. Nico Santos as Hugh – 5ft 10 in. (178 cm)

In Happiness for Beginners, the aspiring actor and hilarious Hugh is portrayed by Nico Santos. As another hiker on the survival course, Hugh adds a unique flair to the journey, often bonding with Helen through their shared humorous observations of their fellow course participants.

Nico Santos’ impressive acting resume includes memorable roles in notable films and TV series. You might have seen the 44-year-old Filipino-American actor from the beloved sitcom Superstore as Mateo Liwanag.

Nico Santos provides comic relief as Hugh and stands at five feet and ten inchesNico Santos provides comic relief as Hugh and stands at five feet and ten inches (Credit: Faye’s Vision / Cover Images)

In the 2018 hit film Crazy Rich Asians, Nico portrayed Oliver T’sien, showcasing his versatility as an actor and further establishing himself as a talent to watch.

Moreover, he recently joined the stellar cast of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, adding his flair to the epic Marvel universe as Recorder Theel.

4. Ben Cook as Beckett –  5ft 7 in. (170 cm)

Beckett is the knowledgeable and sometimes overbearing leader of the survival course that Helen embarks on. Portrayed by Ben Cook, Beckett plays a pivotal role in guiding the hikers through their journey, ensuring they navigate the wilderness successfully.

Fans might recognize the 25-year-old stage actor from his role as Adam Fisher in HBO’s Paterno, where he shared the screen with the legendary Al Pacino.

Ben Cook stands tall at five feet and seven inches, and he plays the leader of the survival course in Happiness for BeginnersBen Cook stands tall at five feet and seven inches, and he plays the leader of the survival course in Happiness for Beginners (Credit: Xavier Collin / ABACA / INSTARimages / Cover Images)

His talent extends to the small screen, where he has appeared in various popular TV shows, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Veep, 30 Rock, House of Cards, The First Lady, and Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin.

On the grand stage of Broadway, Ben Cook was featured in impressive productions such as Billy Elliott, Mean Girls, and West Side Story.

5. Blythe Danner as Gigi –  5ft 7 in. (170.2 cm)

In the role of Gigi, Blythe Danner portrays a grandmother who always provides much-needed wisdom and advice. With her comforting presence, Gigi becomes a pillar of support for Helen, offering guidance as she navigates life’s twists and turns.

Blythe Danner’s illustrious acting career spans various renowned projects including her roles in beloved TV shows like Will & Grace and Huff and captivating films like We Were the Mulvaneys, Back When We Were Grownups, and the iconic Meet the Parents films.

At five feet and seven inches, Blythe Danner is shorter than John Lithgow, who towers over her at six feet and four inchesAt five feet and seven inches, Blythe Danner is shorter than John Lithgow, who towers over her at six feet and four inches (Credit: Kristin Callahan / ACE PICTURES / INSTARimages)

Throughout her professional journey, the 80-year-old has collaborated with esteemed directors like Woody Allen, featuring in three of his films: Another Woman, Alice, and Husbands and Wives.

Her diverse filmography includes unforgettable performances in movies such as The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

6. Ellie Kemper as Helen – 5ft 5 in. (165.1 cm)

Taking on the titular role of Helen, Ellie Kemper breathes life into a character who finds herself a little lost after her divorce.

Eager to break free from her comfort zone, Helen signs up for an adventure of a lifetime through a backcountry survival course hiking the Appalachian Trail. Little does she know that this journey will lead her to a group of eccentric strangers who will forever change her life.

The star of the show, Ellie Kemper, is also the shortest among the main cast members at five feet and five inchesThe star of the show, Ellie Kemper, is also the shortest among the main cast members at five feet and five inches (Credit: Netflix)

Ellie Kemper’s impressive acting credits include iconic roles like Erin Hannon in the US sitcom The Office and the titular character in the Netflix comedy The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Beyond the small screen, the 43-year-old has showcased her talent in notable films like Bridesmaids, 21 Jump Street, Get Him to the Greek, and Home Sweet Home Alone, proving her versatility as an actress.

The Supporting Cast of Happiness for Beginners

Aaron Roman Weiner is 5 feet and 9 inches (175 cm) tall and portrays Mike, Helen’s ex-husband, who cheated on her. His character brings complexity and conflict to the story, adding an emotional depth that will resonate with audiences.

He has portrayed notable roles, including Beau Kovac in The Big Door Prize, Agent Brooks in The Americans, and Ben Reynolds in Chicago P.D.

Aaron Roman Weiner stands at a height of five feet and nine inches, which is considered slightly above the average height for an American maleAaron Roman Weiner stands at a height of five feet and nine inches, which is considered slightly above the average height for an American male (Credit: ACE PICTURES / INSTARimages)

Gus Birney has an impressive height of 5 feet and 9 inches (175 cm), and she brings Kaylee to life, an aloof yet sensible camper who adds an intriguing dynamic to the group.

The 24-year-old actress is known for appearing in notable endeavors like Shining Vale, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, and A Rainy Day in New York.

Towering over the female cast members of Happiness for Beginners is Gus Birney, who has a height of five feet and nine inchesTowering over the female cast members of Happiness for Beginners is Gus Birney, who has a height of five feet and nine inches (Credit: Udo Salters / Startraksphoto)

Esteban Benito stands tall at 5 feet and 7 inches (170 cm), and he takes on the role of Mason, a hiker who believes he knows everything there is to know about hiking. However, his adventure on the trail is a paradigm shift, challenging his perceptions.

The 28-year-old displayed his talent through engaging performances in films like Isn’t It Romantic, Big Time Adolescence, One Life to Live, and Brittany Runs a Marathon.

Julia Shiplett, who stands at 5 feet and 6 inches (176.6 cm), portrays Sue, a camper with an ambitious plan to vow silence during the hike. Though her vow doesn’t go as planned, Sue embraces the experience with an open heart and a sense of wonder.

The emerging actress made memorable performances in projects like A Tourist’s Guide to Love, Love Life, and will display her versatility in the upcoming dystopian romance film Turn Me On.

Esteban Benito as Mason, Ellie Kemper as Helen, Gus Birney as Kaylee, and Julia Shiplett as Sue in the 2023 American romantic comedy Happiness for BeginnersEsteban Benito as Mason, Ellie Kemper as Helen, Gus Birney as Kaylee, and Julia Shiplett as Sue in the 2023 American romantic comedy Happiness for Beginners (Credit: Netflix)

Shayvawn Webster takes on the role of Windy, another hiker in the group who develops a crush on Jake. With her background in psychology, Windy’s mindset is always healthy, and she effortlessly fits right into the camping trip.

The 5 feet and 5 inches (165.1 cm) tall actress is famous for portraying Detective Dani Vertiz in Law & Order and her minor appearances in popular shows such as Blue Bloods, Devs, FBI, and Instinct.

Filed Under: Celebrities