The 2009 cast of Burn Notice (l-r): Sharon Gless, Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan, and Gabrielle Anwar
Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen: A former US Army Special Forces soldier and a current CIA contractor, he has been burned (identified as an unreliable or dangerous agent) and now finds himself in his hometown of Miami, unable to leave. With his assets frozen, he is forced to live off his wits and any small investigative jobs he can find while he searches for answers about who has burned him and why. Highly skilled and extremely clever, he can think on his feet, often improvising electronic devices and using ordinary items ranging from duct tape to cake frosting in highly unorthodox ways to complete a job. He has two black belts, or as he puts it in one episode, "30 years of karate" and is "rated with anything that fires a bullet or holds an edge". He has an uncanny ability to assume cover identities, working in numerous regional dialects and international accents; however, he cannot speak Spanish fluently. He believes that his unhappy childhood, largely at the hands of an abusive father, has helped to make him into a natural covert operative while also making close relationships difficult for him. He has a younger brother, Nate (Seth Peterson), who appeared in several episodes before being killed by a sniper in season six. Michael presents himself as a cynic hardened by experience, but occasionally reveals a soft, and sometimes vulnerable, side. His favorite food is yogurt, which is featured or eaten by at least one of the characters in each episode. He has a romantic relationship with Fiona. In the series finale, Fiona and he are living in Ireland raising Charlie (Nate's son) as their own child.
Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne: A former IRA operative, she is Westen's ex-girlfriend. Fiona re-enters Michael's life when he is dumped in Miami, and she decides to stay, quickly making herself valuable to him. Aside from serving as his firearms and explosives expert, she provides support to him on his investigations, and at times, assists him in missions to find out who burned him. In the pilot episode, she speaks with an Irish accent. In the second episode, she changes to an American accent, along with a change in her style of dress, in an effort to distance herself from her past and blend in, showing her own ability to adapt. She is both a complement to Michael and his match in many ways, both intellectually and tactically. Series creator Matt Nix has said about Michael and Fiona's relationship:
The thing about the relationship with Fiona is...They are two people who really don't have anybody else they can be with. Anybody else is going to be afraid of what Michael does, and it sort of turns her on, and anybody else for Michael is going to be uninteresting. He is attracted to her, but part of what we explore over the first season is they really are attracted with each other, and yet there is a reason they broke up. She is an incredibly chaotic person who just thrives on disorder... Violence is foreplay for her.
— Matt Nix
Where Michael is concerned, Fiona is not entirely willing to let go of their past relationship, which continues to simmer. In the latter half of season three, the two of them are shown to be close to reigniting their relationship. As season five starts, the two move in together, but tension in their romantic relationship remains. However, she is accused of the British Consulate bombings as the antagonist Anson Fullerton tricks her into confessing to a crime she did not commit. Anson uses this leverage over Michael and forces him to do work for himself. To remove this leverage, Fiona eventually surrenders and is arrested by the FBI as Michael watches in vain.
Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe: An aging, semiretired covert operative and former Navy SEAL with a low amount of cash-on-hand to his name, Sam spends most of his time sleeping with rich, older Miami women in exchange for food and shelter. Westen and he are old buddies; Sam is also Westen's last, tenuous contact in the official spy community. He presents himself as "the guy who knows a guy", and Michael frequently relies on Sam's seemingly inexhaustible list of contacts. Sam also uses the alias "Charles (or 'Chuck') Finley" frequently during jobs. In the pilot, he is also an FBI informant, reporting on Westen under duress. Knowing this, Westen is able to pass false information to the FBI through Sam, who is glad to become his double agent. At some point in the past, Sam foiled Fiona's attempt to sell a large shipment of weapons to a Libyan arms dealer, costing her a good deal of money. As a result, Fiona initially is very hostile towards him, but the two eventually become very antagonistic friends. Sam occasionally asks her for advice concerning his relationships with women, and Michael has said that the two of them make a good team.
Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen: Michael's mother, "Maddie", is a chain-smoking retiree. Although attempting to keep a sense of gravitas and self-importance, she is family-oriented and fully supports both of her sons in times of need, as well as helping Michael with his clients. In the midseason finale of the third season, she considers leaving Miami, but realizes her significance to his business. Until the events that start the series, she had only infrequent communication with Michael, noting in the pilot that Michael has missed his father's funeral "by eight years". During the first few seasons, Michael does not relish her company, but he gradually grows to appreciate her strength and love. Despite this, her appeals for help are Michael's one great weakness, and she has the ability to persuade him to do as she wishes.
Coby Bell as Jesse Porter (seasons four to seven): A counterintelligence expert, Michael unwittingly burns him when Michael went looking for some classified files on a terrorist about whom Jesse had information. He comes to Michael for help, hoping to find and kill the people responsible for burning him, and gradually becomes part of Michael's team. He briefly considers killing Michael after discovering Michael was who burned him, but instead grudgingly continues to work with the team, as Michael and he slowly reconcile. He is eventually reinstated, but soon finds he can no longer tolerate the "red tape" to do government work, and takes a job with a private security firm while remaining a vital component of Michael's team.
Main article: Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe is a prequel movie focusing on Sam Axe and is set before the events of Burn Notice. It was first broadcast on USA on April 17, 2011. It tells the story of Sam's last days in the Navy SEALs, leading up to his retiring to Miami, and serves as a lead-in to the fifth season of Burn Notice. Jeffrey Donovan directed the film and has a cameo appearance.
Since 2008, Signet Books has published a series of Burn Notice tie-in novels under their Obsidian brand:
The series has received generally positive reviews. Critics praised the show's brisk and witty nature, succinct dialogue, and riveting combination of espionage and crime drama presented in a charmingly irreverent tone. Donovan's performance as the lead character also received praise for his likeably lighthearted, smart-mouthed, and vengeful spirit. Burn Notice has also been praised for its strong supporting cast members, slick production values, intriguing narrative, and dry comedic humor.