10 Rising TV Stars Poised for a Breakout in 2018

6:30 AM 12/22/2017

by THR staff

From 'Sharp Objects' newcomer Eliza Scanlen to seasoned pros like Cress Williams stepping into a leading role, these actors are gearing up for a big year ahead.

Jacob Lattimore, Eliza Scanlen and Cress Williams - Split - Publicity - H 2017
From left to right: Courtesy of Showtime, Velocity Entertainment Partners and The CW

As it is every year, 2017 introduced a handful of standout actors on the TV screen. From SMILF's Frankie Shaw to Star Trek: Discovery's Sonequa Martin-Green to 13 Reason Why's Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette, the era of "Peak TV" has ushered in a slew of newcomers that have quickly turned to bona fide stars, not to mention revitalized the careers of a number of established talent (Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies, Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale). With a packed schedule of prestige shows in the queue, 2018 is sure to churn out equally impressive performances throughout. Ahead of the new year, here are 10 actors — some are fresh faces, others seasoned vets — who are poised to make their mark on the small screen in the coming year.

  • Eliza Scanlen

    In March, Scanlen — known for her roles in Grace and on Australian TV show Home and Away nabbed the lead role opposite Amy Adams in HBO's eight-episode drama series from Marti Noxon (Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce) and Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl). Sharp Objects, which is being directed by Big Little Lies' Jean-Marc Vallee, centers on reporter Camille Preaker (Adams). Scanlen will portray Amma, Camille’s 13-year-old half-sister. Having grown up in the small town of Wind Gap, Missouri, Amma lives a double life: She’s a restrained and girlish daughter when at home with her parents and as a brash, impetuous teenager when she’s out with friends. Alongside vets like Adams and Patricia Clarkson, Scanlen is poised to shine on the series, though viewers will have to wait until the drama’s June debut to catch a glimpse of the newcomer.

  • Jacob Latimore

    Hot off parts opposite Will Smith in Collateral Beauty and William H. Macy in Krystal, the 20-year-old musician-turned-actor booked a key role in Showtime’s upcoming drama The Chi. From Emmy-winning Master of None writer-actor Lena Waithe, the series is a coming-of-age story that follows a half-dozen interrelated characters on the South Side of Chicago. In it, Latimore plays Emmett, an entrepreneurial ladies’ man that gets stuck solo parenting his toddler-age son. Forced to have to care for someone else, he struggles with his newfound responsibilities. "It's really cool to investigate other worlds, jumping in other people's shoes, seeing things from their perspective," Latimore, who was also in J.D. Dillard's Sundance breakout Sleight and Kathryn Bigelow's crime drama Detroit, told THR in April. 

  • Cress Williams

    The CW's hotly anticipated DC Comics drama from power showrunners Salim and Mara Brock Akil marks Williams' first leading role. Afters stints on Hart of Dixie, Friday Night Lights, Code Black and ER, among several other TV series, the veteran actor is stepping in to play the show's titular Black Lightning, a retired superhero named Jefferson Pierce who has the power to harness electricity. The series, which will premiere midseason, picks up a decade after Jefferson has hung up his suit to focus on family life — but he’s, of course, reluctantly pulled back into the game when his daughters, dealing with their own fledgling powers, get caught up with the local gang The One Hundred. "Being No. 1 on a call sheet, people look to you and almost expect you to exercise this power for good or bad," Williams told THR earlier this year of Black Lightning, which is set to premiere Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

  • Jaina Lee Ortiz

    As the leading lady on ABC's Grey's Anatomy spinoff, the Rosewood actress could easily be on her way to becoming the next Ellen Pompeo or Kerry Washington. The new drama from Shonda Rhimes centers on a group of heroic firefighters, from the captain on down the ranks, and their personal and professional lives. It is said to feature an entirely new cast since none of the Grey's Anatomy regulars have been identified as candidates to move over. While details of Ortiz's role are being kept under wraps, she is expected to appear on an upcoming Grey's Anatomy episode. In addition to Rosewood, her credits include USA Network's Shooter opposite Ryan Phillippe, Amazon's scrapped Chris Carter drama The After and the summer box-office success Girls Trip.

  • Joy Nash

    When Nash booked the lead role on AMC's straight-to-series dramedy from writer-creator Marti Noxon about society’s crazy beauty standards, she’d only had minor parts on shows such as The Mindy Project, Twin Peaks and Casual. The 10-episode dark comedy, based on Sarai Walker’s 2015 novel of the same name, had been the subject of a multiple-network bidding war before it landed at the basic cable network, and has since added Good Wife alum Julianna Margulies to its roster. So it’s safe to say that Nash has secured the role of a lifetime playing Plum Kettle, a woman who has been obese all her life and is preparing for lap-band surgery when her world is upturned by two rival feminist factions. Caught between old ideas and radical new extremes, Plum has to decide for herself what it means to be a revolutionary as the “war of the sexes” take a very literal turn. The subject is one Nash has been passionate about for some time. In fact, she first garnered attention in 2007 with her viral YouTube video "A Fat Rant," in which she urged plus-size women to stop obsessing over their weight and start accepting their appearance. 

  • Andre Holland

    After parts on The Knick and American Horror Story and in Selma, Holland really caught Hollywood’s attention in Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning film Moonlight. On the heels of the indie drama’s success, he booked a starring role on Hulu’s buzzy anthology series Castle Rock from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King. He'll play Henry, a death row attorney with a unique and complicated history in Castle Rock, Maine, on the 10-episode project, which is described as a psychological-horror series that weaves together characters and themes from King's various novels featuring the mysterious town of Castle Rock. With a co-starring role in Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time, as well, Holland has quite a year lined up.

  • Elizabeth Lail

    The 25-year-old actress, whose credits include Once Upon a Time and Dead of Summer, will achieve leading lady status in Lifetime's You, opposite Gossip Girl heartthrob Penn Badgley and Pretty Little Liars grad Shay Mitchell. Based on Caroline Kepnes' novel, the 10-episode psychological thriller hails from uber producer Greg Berlanti and The Magicians' Sera Gambel. Lail plays Beck, a kind and intelligent aspiring writer who meets Joe (Badgley) at the bookstore where he works and finds common ground with him as a fellow book lover. But she has no idea about the surveillance that Joe has mounted, obsessively peering into every facet of her life. He uses the internet and social media to gather the most intimate of details of her life, resulting in a charming and awkward crush quickly becoming obsession as he quietly and strategically removes every obstacle — and person — in his way.

  • Cameron Cuffe

    Newcomer Cuffe, a graduate of Ireland’s National Academy of Dramatic Art, is toplining David S. Goyer's Syfy drama Krypton as Superman's grandfather. While it might seem strange that a twentysomething is portraying a grandpa, the project is actually set two generations before the destruction of the Man of Steel's home planet, so the show centers on Superman's grandfather, Seg-El. Destined to be the ancestor of Jor-El (the future father of Superman) and Kal-El (Superman), Seg-El is the scion of the once-prosperous El family and is blessed with an intuitive brilliance for all things technical. His House of El was ostracized and shamed as he fights to redeem his family's honor and save his beloved world from chaos, now living in Krypton’s lowest caste after his family was stripped of its rank. Cuffe, who also had a recurring role on ITV's The Halcyon, will make his debut in Krypton in March.

  • Yara Shahidi

    There’s no question the Black-ish star has already had a breakout year — she has countless magazine covers to prove it — but the fact that the 17-year-old actress stood out enough on the ABC comedy to land her very own spinoff, Freeform’s Grown-ish, means that she could become an even bigger star in the coming year. News broke earlier this year that a Black-ish spinoff, centered on Shahidi’s character Zoey Johnson in college, was in the works. Shahidi, featured as one of THR’s Next Gen talent honorees in 2017, said that the series was “so much fun and so much work,” noting that being No. 1 on the call sheet is “definitely a change of pace." The actress doesn’t show any signs of slowing down either: Shahidi says her next goal is to star in a Marvel movie. But first, catch her on Grown-ish, premiering Wednesday, Jan. 3, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

  • Tim Blake Nelson

    Though Nelson has been acting for nearly 30 years, taking on the titular character in the Coen brothers' first TV project, Netflix's The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, in the age of Peak TV could easily catapult the seasoned vet to a new level of stardom. Apart from the fact that it’s a Western anthology that will feature six tales about the American frontier, little is known about Buster Scruggs, which hails from Annapurna Television, and Nelson’s starring role on it. The actor, who was recently seen in Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and the Anne Hathaway indie drama Colossal, is also set to star in films including Anthony Mandler's Monster, James Franco's The Long Home and The True Don Quixote, a modern-day reimagining of Miguel de Cervantes' classic story.