Young performers showing signs of the next big thing

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Emily Osment
DATE OF BIRTH: March 12, 1992; Los Angeles AT A GLANCE: The sister of actor Haley Joel Osment, Emily broke out as Gerti Giggles in the second and third films in Robert Rodriguez's "Spy Kids" trilogy, ultimately landing a co-starring role as Miley Cyrus' best friend on Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana." A singer as well, Osment has lent her voice to animated projects, including 2002's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame II," 2003's "Jungle Book 2" and 2005's "Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch." "I love singing, so I hope there's more of that down the line," she says, "and I also really love the voice work. You have a chance to play so many different characters, and you can go to work in your pajamas!" EARLY START: Osment began booking commercials when she was 5, landing her first role in the 1999 independent film "The Secret Life of Girls," starring Eugene Levy and Linda Hamilton.  YEAR IN REVIEW: In addition to her regular gig on "Hannah Montana," Osment starred in Universal Studios Home Entertainment's family thriller "The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It," playing a girl battling a mythical monster come to life; she also sings the film's theme song. Additionally, the actress lent her voice to two Disney cartoon pilots, "Mascot Prep" and "Smart Animals." KEY TO SUCCESS: "I know a lot of girls and guys who are in the business for the money and publicity and all the good stuff that comes with the business, and that's a bonus," she says, "but I just love the acting, and that's what I focus on." UP NEXT: Osment has another season of "Hannah Montana" lined up and a starring role in the Disney Channel movie "Dadnapped."

Kay Panabaker

DATE OF BIRTH: May 2, 1990; Orange, Texas
 AT A GLANCE: Panabaker's strategy to avoid typecasting is reflected in a career that has included the WB's 2004-05 drama "Summerland" and Disney Channel's 2004-06 sci-fi series "Phil of the Future," guest stints on CBS' "CSI" and "Two and a Half Men," and Disney's "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody," as well as a starring role in the 2006 Disney Channel movie "Read It and Weep." "I'm about 5 feet and 90 pounds, and most people think I'm about 12," laughs the 17-year-old, who began college at 13 and is now a senior history major at UCLA. "But it doesn't matter to me if I keep playing kids' roles. I simply enjoy the business."  EARLY START: Panabaker was 10 when she was cast in 2002's "Dead Heat," co-starring Kiefer Sutherland and Anthony LaPaglia. YEAR IN REVIEW: The actress co-starred in Warner Bros.' "Nancy Drew," appeared beside Cole and Dylan Sprouse in Sony's DVD "A Modern Twain Story: The Prince and the Pauper" and filmed the Lifetime movie "Custody," co-starring Rob Morrow and James Denton. "'Custody' was the first time I've really been treated as an adult on set," she says of the experience. KEY TO SUCCESS: "Being happy with yourself. You could be perfect acting-wise, but if you're not the look they want, it doesn't matter. And having an education." UP NEXT: Working on CBS' "Ghost Whisperer" and the ensemble ABC Family pilot "Happy Campers." She's also honing a backup plan. "I could be out of work tomorrow," she explains. "I turned to my mother the other day and said, 'You know, I think I'll be president of the United States. I still have 18 years before I'm 35.'"

Dakota Blue Richards
DATE OF BIRTH: April 11, 1994; Brighton, England AT A GLANCE: In the stuff that is generally Hollywood legend rather than reality, Richards' first audition -- an open casting call that attracted more than 10,000 people -- resulted in a starring role. The part: playing Lyra Belacqua, the heroine of Chris Weitz's adaptation of "The Golden Compass" (New Line), the first of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. EARLY START: Not only had Richards never acted before attending the audition in England, she'd never entertained it as a possibility. "I'd always loved it, but I'd never considered doing it professionally," she says. "I just thought I might as well go to the audition for the fun of it." YEAR IN REVIEW: The first day Richards appeared for work on the film, which co-stars Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, "I thought, 'Oh, I'm going to do something terrible -- I'm going to muck it up.' I had no idea what I was doing. And I didn't even have any lines that day. But by the time I finished the film," she continues, "I felt mostly at ease." KEY TO SUCCESS: "I try to think of what I would feel like if what's happening to my character happened to me," she says, "which can be quite hard. A lot of things that happened to Lyra are nothing like anything that's ever happened to me." UP NEXT: Richards is currently shooting Gabor Csupo's "Secret of Moonacre," a fantasy period piece in which she plays an orphan who moves to the country and discovers a magical world. She's also awaiting word about the next two installments of "His Dark Materials." "It requires a lot of preproduction, and if we do it, we don't want to do it too late," she explains, "since then I and the other children will look nothing like ourselves."


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