Canada's Rising Stars 2018: 15 Breakouts Making an Impact in Hollywood

5:30 AM 9/6/2018

by Etan Vlessing

Up-and-comers from up north open up about hitting it big, their role models and their favorite Canadian named Ryan (Gosling or Reynolds).

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Given the sheer number of American movies and TV series shooting in Canada year-round, there is perhaps no better training ground outside of L.A. for emerging talents.

And in the era of prestige TV — much of which shoots north of the border — Canadian acting talents have the opportunity to land plum gigs on high-profile shows like Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan on Amazon and Netflix's GLOW, meaning they can work alongside such stars as John Krasinski and Alison Brie without having to venture far from home.

Given access like this, the talent pool is seemingly limitless, and that's good news according to the casting agents and industry insiders THR consulted for this year's list of Canadian up-and-comers (some of whom will be making an impression at TIFF this year).

"Toronto has consistently been the hub for the most highly trained and most diverse talent pool in Canada," says local casting agent John Buchan. "So when American productions shoot in Toronto, or on location elsewhere in Canada, they know that this is where the talent hotbed in Canada lies."

  • Emilija Baranac

    Actress, 23

    Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

    Vancouver native Baranac, who began her career as a model, recurs as Midge Klump on The CW's Riverdale and generated buzz in the Netflix rom-com To All the Boys I've Loved Before.

    Ten years ago I was … Probably trying to hack into the family computer to update my blog, even though I was grounded.

    Actor or director I'd most like to work with: Denis Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049 and Prisoners absolutely blew me away. I really love his vision. I'm intrigued to see what he does with Dune.

    Biggest 2017 accomplishment: Booking Riverdale and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

    In 10 years I’d like to be: Directing a movie.

    Big Break: Riverdale.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about (besides me!): Nathan Fielder. He is hilarious and very intelligent.

    The Canadian show Americans are missing out on is: Orphan Black. It is beyond me how Tatiana Maslany managed to play so many different characters, at times playing two or three characters in one scene. She’s an inspiration to me.

  • Emily Coutts

    Actress-Producer, 29

    Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

    Born in Southern Ontario, Coutts can be seen as a series regular on CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery. She added "producer" to her résumé with the 2015 indie comedy Barn Wedding, in which she also starred.

    Ten years ago, I was … Rolling around, crying on the floor every day at theater school, listening to intense electro bangers with my friends and falling in love with Toronto for the first time.

    Actor or director I'd most like to work with: Greta Gerwig. Getting to dig into a script and character alongside her would be a dream come true. I would cry.

    The best thing about being Canadian is: That we came up with Anne of Green Gables. No one can take that from us.

    When I'm not working, I'm: Taking photos, styling, eating and traveling.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about (besides me!): Writer and director Molly McGlynn. She'll be the Canadian Jill Soloway someday ... soon.

    The Canadian show Americans are missing out on is: The Neddeaus of Duqesne Island. It's hilarious. You won't get it, but just roll with it.

    Biggest 2017 accomplishment: I shot my first series and wrote my first film script — it was an overwhelmingly amazing year full of self discovery, facing anxieties, filling my days with personal creative projects and practicing gratitude every day.

  • Laysla De Oliveira

    Actress, 26

    George Pimentel/WireImage

    Originally from Toronto and of Brazilian descent, De Oliveira co-starred in Fox's Gone Baby Gone pilot and has a supporting role in the upcoming feature Needle in a Timestack, directed by Oscar winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave).

    The best thing about being Canadian: Poutine! And also growing up somewhere that is extremely multicultural.

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? Gosling. The Notebook. 365 letters. That is all.

    Actor or director you’d most like to work with: Emily Blunt. If you’re seeing this, hi!

    When I'm not working, I'm: working on getting work. But preferably I’m somewhere warm with my friends, drinking a yummy beverage, by a pool, eating chips and then going to a movie.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about (besides me!): Tatiana Maslany

    The Canadian show Americans are missing out on is: Orphan Black

    Biggest 2017 accomplishment: In the Tall Grass

  • Jadiel Dowlin

    Actor, 19

    Leon Bennett/WireImage

    Now starring in Nickelodeon's new culture-clash comedy Star Falls, Dowlin had a 2013 breakout role in Amazon's Annedroids that earned him a Daytime Emmy nomination.

    The best thing about being Canadian: How we are a tossed salad! Canada is great because it's made up of communities that foster cultural diversity.

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? Got to be Reynolds, because I'm an avid DC/Marvel fanatic, and admire the grueling creative process he underwent to get Deadpool greenlighted.

    Actor or director you’d most like to work with: Tyler Perry. Considering how we have both diversified from acting through writing, we'd have a blast collaborating to create and act in a project together.

    When I'm not working, I'm: Doing something athletic. I love playing soccer, hiking, paintball, rock climbing and a slew of other fun activities.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about (besides me!): Keanu Reeves. I admire how he picks his roles very carefully; ones which carry interesting stories and characters that have something to say.

    The Canadian show Americans are missing out on is: Mary Kills People. It is a thrilling drama series that is not only entertaining, but humanizes the controversial topic of euthanasia.

  • Mary Galloway

    Actress-writer-director, 24

    Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

    Following a stint on The CW's Supernatural, Galloway, who was born in Comox, British Columbia, has transitioned into multihyphenate territory, producing shorts from local filmmakers via her shingle Bright Shadow Productions as well as directing her own short film, Unintentional Mother, last year.

    Actor or director I'd most like to work with: I'm in the middle of rewatching Grey's Anatomy, so Sandra Oh, another Canadian.

    Tim Hortons or Starbucks? Of course Timmy's! I've been spending a lot of time in L.A., and whenever I'm craving Timbits [bite- sized doughnuts] they are nowhere to be found. It's very sad.

    The best thing about being Canadian is: My mother is from the Cowichan Tribes of the Coast Salish peoples and it feels so great to know that, for as far back as we can trace that side of my family, they have been here and that we were blessed to be living on this chunk of land we now call Canada.

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? Why? What is this? Sophie’s Choice? There’s more than enough love to go around.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about (besides me!): A married couple — Kyra Zagorsky and Patrick Sabongui. They are seriously the ultimate power couple.

    The Canadian show Americans are missing out on is: Burden of Truth. A great new Canadian show that films in Winnipeg with a lot of really incredible people involved.

  • Kristen Gutoskie

    Actress, 32

    Amy Graves/Getty Images

    After appearances on Fox's Lethal Weapon, The CW's Vampire Diaries and Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, Toronto native Gutoskie recently landed a recurring role on NBC's Chicago Fire.

    Actor or director I'd most like to work with: Sarah Polley. She is a fierce female filmmaker who strives to tell honest stories, and I would love the opportunity to pick her brain and learn from her.

    Big break: My first play in elementary school. I played a turtle. Close second: a lead role in Containment on The CW.

    The best thing about being Canadian is: Our creativity and diversity. We as Canadians strive to be inclusive and expressive and leave no man or woman voiceless. Honorable mentions: ketchup chips, poutine, caesars and a long weekend up at the cottage.

    When I'm not working, I’m: a hike-aholic, I love being in nature. Hiking, rollerblading, playing softball.

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? Ryan Gosling. I followed him since Breaker High. It was my afterschool jam.

    Timmy's or Starbucks? Timmy’s all day, every day.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about (besides me!): Ellen Wong. She is such a talent and so passionate about what she does.

    The Canadian show Americans are missing out on is: Workin' Moms. A hilarious, smart, female-driven show with a cast of incredible actors and brilliant writers.

  • Stephan James

    Actor, 24

    Ryan West

    James, a Toronto native, will walk the red carpet at his hometown film fest thanks to a lead role in Barry Jenkins' Moonlight follow-up If Beale Street Could Talk, which premieres at TIFF on Sept. 9.

    Actor or director I'd most like to work with: Don Cheadle or Leonardo DiCaprio. They're two of the best. The director I'd most like to work with is Paul Thomas Anderson or Quentin Tarantino.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about: Lamar Johnson. He's a Scarborough native and a rare talent, starring next in The Hate U Give and X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

    The best thing about being Canadian is: Being from Toronto, you're born in a place that is so diverse and it is probably one of the most multicultural cities in the world. It's an incredible thing to be exposed to so much diversity and it’s a luxury very few cities are afforded.

    Actor or director you’d most like to work with: Don Cheadle or Leonardo DiCaprio. They’re two of the best.

    The director I’d most like to work with is: P.T. Anderson or Quentin Tarantino.

    When I'm not working, I'm: Probably watching sports, painting or playing NBA 2K.

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? Gosling. Nothing against Reynolds, but Gosling is a bit more my speed.

  • Sherren Lee

    Director, 30

    David Crotty/Getty Images

    Born in Taiwan and raised in Montreal, Lee won a Grand Jury Prize at Outfest last year for her short film The Things You Think I'm Thinking.

    The best thing about being Canadian: Being well liked by all. And the free health care.

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? This is the hardest question. Gosling because he was my number-one star for years. Reynolds because he stars in my favorite rom-com, Definitely, Maybe.

    Actor or director you’d most like to work with: Charlize Theron. It would be an absolute dream to make something badass with her.

    When I'm not working, I'm: Being a gourmand with friends. Soaking up the sun. Singing in the shower.

    Timmy's or Starbucks? Timmy’s. The honey cruller takes it home.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about (besides me!): Prince Amponsah is a Toronto actor who got his start in theater. He’s a burn-survivor and amputee who came back to acting after his accident. Since then, he has starred in various TV shows including Killjoys and Frankie Drake Mysteries.

  • Eileen Li

    Actress, 30

    David Leyes

    Currently starring opposite John Krasinski in Amazon's Jack Ryan, Toronto-based Li's long list of TV credits includes BBC America's Orphan Black, Syfy's Alphas and Nickelodeon's Degrassi: The Next Generation.

    Actor or director I'd most like to work with: Wong Kar Wai. I watch In the Mood for Love at least twice a year.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about: I love Ellen Wong. I look up to her a lot and I love her work on GLOW.

    The best thing about being Canadian is: traveling outside of Canada. Everyone loves Canadians. As soon as you say you're from Canada, people light up. It's because we are the best.

    When I'm not working, I'm: Practicing Muay Thai. It's a great stress reliever and makes me feel super badass.

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? Ryan Gosling hands down. I've been a fan of his since Breaker High.

    Timmy's or Starbucks? I lived at Tim Horton's during university. And who doesn't love the "Roll-up the Rim to Win" season?

    Biggest 2017 accomplishment: Watching an episode of 21 Thunder with my mom. Let's just say, my mom wasn't ecstatic about my career choices at first. So landing my first series regular role and getting to show her my work afterward was very rewarding.

  • Curtis Lum

    Actor, 30

    Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

    Lum has a recurring role on the Freeform drama Siren and can also be seen on two CW series: Supergirl and the dramedy Life Sentence.

    Ten years ago, I was … Hustling around the clock and juggling 10 jobs while trying to break into the scene as an Asian actor.

    In 10 years I'd like to be … Still hustling, but now very well rounded, in career and in my personal life.

    The best thing about being Canadian is: Definitely our beauty. We have some of the most beautiful cities, landscapes and people in the world.

    Actor or director you’d most like to work with? Actor: Denzel Washington. Director: Spike Lee.

    When I'm not working, I'm: trying to keep in decent shape with boxing and a bit of Muay Thai kickboxing. There's just something about being in a ring and getting punched in the head. It teaches you things that ordinary life can't.

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? I relate to Ryan Gosling more in terms of the characters he has played.

    Timmy's or Starbucks? I've had both the fortune and misfortune of living either right above or right around the corner from a Starbucks my whole life. So Starbucks by default.

  • Fanny-Laure Malo

    Actress-producer, 31

    Chad Hurst/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

    The daughter of veteran Quebec film producer Rene Malo, Montreal native Fanny-Laure made an impression as a producer with the 2013 drama Sarah Prefers to Run, which premiered in Cannes' Un Certain Regard section.

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? The Place Beyond the PinesLa La Land and Drive versus DeadpoolTed and Green Lantern. Come on: Gosling, of course.

    Tim Hortons or Starbucks? I prefer local coffee shops, or smaller chains. When in Toronto, I love to go to Quantum Coffee.

    The best thing about being Canadian is: Montreal born and raised, the best thing about being Canadian is growing up with two languages, and so many different cultures.

    When I’m not working, I'm: Most probably watching a movie, or catching up on some reading, or doing yoga. And then going back to work.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about: Theodore Pellerin

    The Canadian show Americans are missing out on is: Sophie Dupuis’ Chien de Garde!

  • Daniel Maslany

    Actor, 29

    Michael Kovac/Getty Images for YouTube

    The younger brother of Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany, he stars on two hit CBC series: the drama Murdoch Mysteries and the popular dramedy Four in the Morning.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about: There's this really inspiring person named Tatiana (think that's how you spell it).

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? I am required by Canadian law to say "Both, equally." Those two Ryans perfectly balance out our CRD (Canadian Ryan Dynamic), a system that we've been working to perfect over many years.

    Actor or director you’d most like to work with? David Wain has been an inspiration to me for a long time. The Stella series with Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter was absolutely formative to my sense of humor.

    When I'm not working, I'm: Well, usually utterly panicked about not working, trying to remind myself that I will work again, and slowly tearing apart every choice I made the last time I worked.

    The Canadian show Americans are missing out on is: Four in the Morning

    Biggest 2017 accomplishment: I got married!

  • Theodore Pellerin

    Actor, 21

    Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

    Quebec's Pellerin broke through in the French-language TV drama 30 Vies in 2014. He'll next be seen in season two of Netflix's The OA and opposite Lucas Hedges in Joel Edgerton's TIFF entry Boy Erased.

    Ten years ago, I was … I was 11 years old — and I hadn't started doing theater yet, which came at 12. I was very shy. I think I felt like I didn't belong to anything.

    Big break: Never Steady, Never Still by Kathleen Hepburn, which at 18 was my first film in English, and ended up being selected at TIFF.

    The best thing about being Canadian is: Being French-Canadian.

    Actor or director you’d most like to work with? The Dardenne brothers

    When I'm not working, I'm: Basically waiting to work.

    Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds? Ryan Gosling. Because of what he did in Blue Valentine. His work was exceptional and deeply moving.

    Timmy's or Starbucks? I don’t really drink coffee, although I like a doughnut once in a while. So yeah, Timmy’s.

  • Ronnie Rowe Jr.

    Actor, 35

    Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Viacom

    Rowe, who stars in BET's new legal drama In Contempt, had a breakout lead role in Samuel Goldwyn Films' Black Cop, which debuted at TIFF in 2017.

    Actor or director I'd most like to work with: Denzel Washington. I really respect the career he has built for himself, and he has done it with grace, which I one day wish to re-create.

    Biggest career moment thus far: My film Black Cop having its world premiere at TIFF. I was able to share such an amazing moment with family and friends in the city where it all started.

    The best thing about being Canadian is: Our diversity. You can get dropped in the middle of Toronto and within 20 minutes be in Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, Greektown or find yourself on Eglinton West and get a taste of the Caribbean.

    Timmy's or Starbucks? I would like to say Timmy's, but Starbucks has this New Nitro Cold Brew that has changed my life.

    The Canadian star Americans should know more about (besides me!) Lamar Johnson. I hear nothing but amazing things about his work, but also who he is as a person.

    The Canadian show Americans are missing out on is: Kim's Convenience. It's an amazing family comedy that I feel all people can relate to, and it is really funny.

  • Ellen Wong

    Actress, 33

    Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

    After memorable turns in The CW's The Carrie Diaries and Syfy's Dark Matter, Wong landed her breakout role opposite Alison Brie on Netflix's GLOW.

    The best thing about being Canadian: The inclusiveness. It's not perfect, but the way we strive for acceptance and inclusion is really special.

    In 10 years I'd like to be … Well traveled, happy, healthy, free … and still working!

    When I'm not working, I: Draw, write, read and get outside. I love spending time with my family. I’m also writing a children’s book.

    Timmy's or Starbucks? Timmy’s! I always ask for a coffee with a little bit of hot chocolate in it — way more caffeine than a mocha, and less sweet.

    The Canadian show Americans are missing out on is: Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays

    Biggest 2017 accomplishment: I overcame my biggest fear when I swam in the middle of the sea at night! We were near Koh Rong Island in Cambodia where there are bioluminescent plankton, and I didn’t want to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    Ten years ago, I was: Getting ready for my fight test for Scott Pilgrim vs The World, and was about to fly to Los Angeles for the first time for my screen test.

    A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.