The breakout kid actors of 2018 — from 'Young Sheldon' star Iain Armitage to 'Black-ish' dynamo Marsai Martin — have big ambitions for their showbiz careers and beyond.
From Iain Armitage to Storm Reid, meet the under-18 stars raking in the cash ($250,000 an episode for the Stranger Things actors), racking up the followers (12 million on Instagram for Dance Moms alum Maddie Ziegler) and taking charge of their careers like no generation before them (Black-ish’s Marsai Martin is executive producing her own movie Little at Universal). As The Hollywood Reporter scours the call sheets and Coogan accounts to anoint the 30 child prodigies with bright futures and plans to impact the world far beyond the industry, these young stars say they just can't wait to be old enough to vote. As Black-ish castmember Miles Brown puts it, “Kids are trying to make things happen more than the adults are."
This story first appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
KNOWN FOR Young Sheldon
"I love when people recognize me," says the Virginia boy who beat out hundreds for the part of a pint-size Jim Parsons in CBS' Big Bang Theory prequel, TV's top-rated new comedy. The son of actor Euan Morton and theater producer Lee Armitage will reprise his role as Shailene Woodley's son in the second season of HBO's Big Little Lies.
BEST PART OF BEING AN ACTOR "Getting to do something that makes people happy."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Probably Mr. Lin Manuel Miranda. I've seen Hamilton six times. My dad is in the show."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … "If they were alive, David Bowie and Freddy Mercury. Those were the people I would be dying to work with most, no pun intended!"
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Probably do geology, gemology or be a magician. There is this magic trick called the fire wallet. It's a wallet and basically when you open it, it sets on fire but it's totally safe. I want that but you have to be 21 to get it."
KNOWN FOR Girl Meets World
She starred on the Disney Channel show for three seasons, then hit the big screen in A Wrinkle in Time and also appears on ABC's The Goldbergs. On Instagram, where she has more than 5 million followers, the Angeleno has been open about mental health struggles and identifying as queer — and has become a human rights activist, even speaking before the U.N. Women U.S. National Committee.
KNOWN FOR Black-ish
When Brown transitioned from hip-hop dancing to acting at age 8, a battle broke out between Anthony Anderson and Kevin Hart over who'd recruit him as their TV son. Obviously, Brown went with ABC's Black-ish, on which he and Martin play twins. Now, the pair are breaking into film, with Brown starring in indie Emmett alongside Rita Wilson as Martin drives a new project of her own. After firing the agent who suggested she "just chill and take a break" during a hiatus, the executive producer of 2019's Little conceived the film, a twist on Tom Hanks' iconic comedy Big, and even convinced Issa Rae to star alongside her in the Universal feature.
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT Space Jam
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … "Space Jam. I know you're doing it, LeBron!"
LAST SHOW I BINGED "When Stranger Things season two came out I literally watched the whole season while my dad was shopping at some suit store. We were there for a long time!"MY HERO "LeBron. He's a good example of anything can happen, anything is possible."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "It just went straight to my college savings."WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Be an NBA player."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Passionate, because I feel like we've taken a lot of action for a lot of things that are going on right now. And I feel like a lot of the protests are kids from my generation, and I feel like that doesn't happen that often when you have kids who are trying to make things happen more than the adults are."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "I see that they're just chillin' every day and coming home from school playing Fortnite. I'm like, 'Oh my God, you guys are already level 100 on this game that I can't play because I'm busy doing a TV show.'"
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Beyonce and President Obama, and I met them at the same time — the White House Easter Egg Roll — which was very overwhelming!"
MY HERO "My mom because she is the definition of black girl magic."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "I went to the Gucci store."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Inspire more girls to believe in themselves and create their own stuff at any age."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Fearless. We just want to inspire young kids like us that they can do anything."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They get to walk around and no one recognizes them."
KNOWN FOR Stranger Things
As the magnetic Eleven, the English teen became an instant star when Netflix's sci-fi drama debuted in 2016. Hollywood's top agencies all wooed the actress, who ultimately signed with WME. Before she reprises her role in the Emmy-nominated show's third season (set for summer 2019), she'll make her big-screen debut in Warner Bros.' Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May 2019).
KNOWN FOR Mowgli
Chand was playing Little League when one of the team moms — who happened to be a casting director for Adam Sandler's films — plucked the 6-year-old off the bench for a part in 2011's Jack and Jill. "I always wanted to be a rock star or a paleontologist or something," he says. "I never really knew I had a passion for acting." The New Yorker kept it up with Homeland, Bad Words and Lone Survivor. Then he landed the gig of a (short) lifetime: the title role in Andy Serkis' Jungle Book film Mowgli, which jumped from Warner Bros. to Netflix for its October premiere.
THE MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT Pirates of the Caribbean
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Working with Christian Bale on Mowgli. I just love The Dark Knight."
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … Wolverine
LAST SHOW I BINGED Star Wars: The Clone Wars
MY HERO "I really admire Leonardo DiCaprio. The way he devotes himself to a character is just incredible. I want to learn from that and be like him."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "I don't think I'm allowed to use my paycheck. I think we put it in my Coogan account."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Have a little bit more independence. I mean, my parents let me have my independence but I'd like a touch more."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Competitive."
AGES 11, 14 and 14
KNOWN FOR Fresh Off the Boat
Playing three brothers on Fresh Off the Boat, this trio helps ABC plant a comedy flag on Tuesdays. Littlest castmember Chen recently snagged a plum part in Warner Bros.' upcoming Zachary Levi DC film Shazam!
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "I notice that people mainly say, 'Has anyone ever told you that you look like Evan from Fresh Off the Boat?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I am.' It's funny because everyone asks the same question."
MY HERO Elon Musk
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "I think it all goes in the Coogan account and it will stay there until college."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Drive a car."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO ... "Pilot commercial planes."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Just robots staring at phones, pretty much."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They don't have to be awake at 1 a.m."
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "Someone thought I was on Black-ish!"
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … Jackie Chan
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … Ocean's 11
LAST SHOW I BINGED 13 Reasons Why
MY HERO "Keanu Reeves because he is big on charity. His story of giving away his earnings to his crew impressed me most."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Drive a car and ride a motorcycle."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Build a conglomerate of resorts around the world with exclusive entertainment and dining experiences for guests who love adventures."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They get to participate in team sports and compete with other schools while I'm working on set."
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "On Instagram, someone from Italy messaged me and said he was a fan. When I stopped responding right away, he would get upset with me. Then he messaged me my address one day. I cut it off because it felt weird!"
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Obama. I got to see my dad fangirl out like crazy."
I'D LIKE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … "I'd want to someday portray Amadeus Cho, the current version of Marvel's Hulk who is Korean-American."
LAST SHOW I BINGED Lucifer
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "The first thing I did was I got 50 bucks and I saved up for an XBox One. By the time it was my birthday, I was able to pay for half of it, and my dad helped me out with the rest."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Drive."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Develop my culinary skills and maybe open a restaurant."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Always making new advancements."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They're able to be worry-free and act how they want."
KNOWN FOR Deadpool 2
Dennison became an internet sensation after starring in a 2013 PSA directed by Taika Waititi aimed at preventing driving under the influence of marijuana in their native New Zealand. The director later cast him to play a runaway orphan opposite Sam Neill in 2016 dramedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which became the country's highest-grossing movie. The film — and Dennison — caught the attention of Deadpool producers, who offered him the role of Firefist in the sequel opposite Ryan Reynolds. Next up: Godzilla vs. Kong with Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler.
KNOWN FOR Eighth Grade
Fisher remembers being 5 years old, dancing on stage at a SoCal jazz cafe, when an agent went up to her dad and said, "Your daughter looks like a young Dakota Fanning and she is not afraid of people — let's do this." She quickly landed her first gig, a voice role in Despicable Me — but after years of small parts, this small actress was ready to quit. "As someone who struggles with acne, unless you're really good, they can cast an 18-year-old who can play 13," she explains. Then she landed the lead in Bo Burnham's feature directorial debut Eighth Grade, and with rave reviews (and even a whiff of awards buzz), she's rethinking the quitting thing.
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "iCarly or Hannah Montana."
I'D LIKE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … "Heathers — as Veronica."
LAST SHOW I BINGED The Good Place
MY HERO "Bo Burnham, my writer and director. It's stupid, it's cliché, but it is absolutely true."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Move out. I love my parents and my family but I really like my space more."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Write and direct, or do animation."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Strong. I think we've had a lot of stuff happen to us — and it feels like the world is on fire but we're still kind of making it."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "Put that shit in the bank."
KNOWN FOR Interstellar
After modeling from age 3, Foy started acting at 9, nabbing a plum part in The Twilight Saga as the daughter of Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart's characters. She went on to play Matthew McConaughey's daughter in Christopher Nolan's 2014 space epic Interstellar and soon after became Disney's pick to lead its live-action The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (Nov. 2).
MOST EMBARRASSING AUDITION STORY "When I was little, I went to run to my mom after a commercial audition and ran into a mirror."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Oprah. I don't think actual words came out."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … "Yara Shahidi. We have done print work together as kids but we have never acted together."
LAST SHOW I BINGED Teen Wolf
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … "Believe in myself, and to pick up my socks."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Vote this year."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Aware, intelligent and well spoken."
KNOWN FOR American Vandal
Gluck, who grew up around the industry (his dad was a second-unit director on Transformers, among other projects), has already built a robust comedy career — from Adam Sandler's Just Go With It (his first role) to Netflix's American Vandal, premiering its second season this year. He's now shooting Big Time Adolescence with Pete Davidson.
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "Parks and Rec, That '70s Show, The Office. I really love that sort of dry humor. Step Brothers and most Will Ferrell movies and SNL."
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "I was on vacation and posted a boomerang of the hotel I was staying at and the next day I came down to the lobby and there were five girls with presents and letters."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … "Andy Serkis. Comedic-wise, Jim Carrey, Steve Carell and Will Ferrell."
LAST SHOW I BINGED "Scrubs. I've seen it two times but I'm bingeing it a third time."
MY HERO "Andy Serkis. He's just insanely talented, and I wish I could see how his mind works."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "Recently, if I get a paycheck, I always just go on a shopping spree and buy a few cool shirts and pants."
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … "Be honest about anything I do, whether it be good or bad, because hiding it just makes things worse."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Rent a car, skydive or adopt a kid — I can't wait to be a dad."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Still be working in this industry, and would love to move on to producing and directing."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Confused and obsessed."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They go to college. I got accepted and I want to go, but I can't because of work."
KNOWN FOR Gifted
After five years on the job, Grace has a résumé that reads like a Hollywood veteran's, with nearly 50 credits in TV (Once Upon a Time, Designated Survivor) and film, where she recently starred in Gifted opposite Chris Evans and portrayed a young Margot Robbie in I, Tonya. She'll play a junior version of Brie Larson in March's Captain Marvel and star in Rob Lowe's directing debut The Bad Seed ("I'm the bad seed," she says), Amazon dramedy Troupe Zero and Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House.
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "All the Shirley Temple movies and Pee-wee's Playhouse."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Emma Watson. I drew a photo for her and gave it to her."
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … "I just know some day I want to play Harley Quinn. She's one of my favorite DC villains."
LAST SHOW I BINGED A Series of Unfortunate Events
MY HERO "My mom and dad and Meryl Streep."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "Sometimes whenever I get roles I get a Pokemon stuffed animal."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "I like my age. I like being 12."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Still be an actress. I want to act forever and ever and ever."
KNOWN FOR It
The L.A.-born Grazer may have grown up in the business (you might know his uncle Brian), but he's making his own mark — as Eddie in Warner Bros.' horror smash It and as Alex on the short-lived CBS comedy Me, Myself and I. Next up: Beautiful Boy, the highly anticipated Steve Carell-Timothee Chalamet drama, and Warners' Shazam!
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT Stand By Me
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY "Once I was at dinner and saw Harrison Ford walk in with his family and I got so nervous and my mom went up to them and told him how much I idolized him as Han Solo and Indiana Jones."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … "Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Wes Anderson."
I'D LIKE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … "Without a doubt, Indiana Jones — I want to be Indy, of course!"
LAST SHOW I BINGED Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
MY HERO "Robin Williams for having so much soul, imagination, talent, authenticity and moving so many people as a one-of-a-kind human being."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "I bought a new skateboard."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Marry Scarlett Johansson."
KNOWN FOR Moonlight
"I just went because it was for a grade," says the Miami native of his audition for Moonlight (his sixth-grade drama teacher, who ended up playing a principal in the film, was the one who urged him to try out). "Then I got the part." Hot off the Oscar best pic, he booked a major role on Lena Waithe's Showtime drama The Chi, now filming its second season, and a part in Black Panther.
MOST EMBARRASSING AUDITION STORY “When my drama teacher and I were recording a tape one time, I farted in the middle of the take.”
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION “On this one girl’s Instagram page, everything is me and she thinks I’m her boyfriend. She messages me ‘Good morning’ every day. I don’t respond.”
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Andrew Garfield, because he's my favorite actor."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … "Denzel … and Andrew Garfield."
LAST SHOW I BINGED Netflix’s On My Block
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK “Bought new gaming pieces.”
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … “Be humble and never get bored.”
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … “Not go to school and keep acting.”
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … “Creative, inspiring, talented.”
KNOWN FOR Bunk'd
When her Disney show Jessie ended in 2015, the network quickly ordered spinoff Bunk'd, with Jackson as a lead. Lee Daniels handpicked her to star in the Fox pilot Our People (it never made it to series), and she'll voice-star in Disney Channel's Marvel Rising. With more than 3.5 million Instagram followers, Jackson also has become a prominent anti-bullying advocate.
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT That's So Raven
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Angelina Jolie. I ran into her coming out of the bathroom at the Maleficent premiere. She knew who I was and her kids watched Jessie. She said it kind of related to her because [some of] her kids are adopted, and on that show, [my character was] adopted and so are the other kids. She was so sweet."
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … "Any scary movie because I love them. I've been watching scary films since I was like 3 years old, which is bizarre."
MY HERO "Tom Hanks and Will Smith because they were my favorite actors — but then I saw that they weren't just in front of the camera, they were also producing and directing."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Vote. It sucks being so young and not being able to vote."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Be a fashion designer."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Woke. We're very opinionated and we use our voice to get our message across."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They get to go to prom."
AGES 13 and 15
KNOWN FOR A Quiet Place
Bountiful, Utah-born Simmonds nabbed a role in Wonderstruck after a teacher suggested she audition and later landed A Quiet Place when director John Krasinski pushed to cast a deaf actress. Jupe's résumé reads like a list of hot films: The Brit has snagged roles in the Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly comedy Holmes and Watson, Christian Bale-Matt Damon drama Ford v. Ferrari and Shia LaBeouf's Honey Boy (yes, he's young Shia).
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT What's Eating Gilbert Grape
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "John Hurt. What a legend. I got to work on his final movie [That Good Night] with him before he died."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … Paul Newman
I'D LIKE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … "They should never ever remake this, but Empire of the Sun."
LAST SHOW I BINGED "Futurama. We properly binged it when we were doing Suburbicon."
MY HERO "My dad or Captain America."
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … "Bugger off."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Young, dumb and addicted to technology."
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "Blue Jasmine. The acting in that blew my mind."
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "Someone secretly taking pictures of me when I was going down an escalator with my friends and seeing it on Instagram later and being shocked by it."
I'D LIKE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … "Anything scary."
LAST SHOW I BINGED Riverdale
MY HERO "My mom. She's done everything for me. She learned sign language when she found out I was deaf and she works so hard to raise us. She's very brave and is a lot of who I am."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "Clothes and gifts for my family."
WHEN I GROW UP I WANT TO … "Become a professional motorcycle racer."MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Young, creative and curious, and we feel like we want to help and make change and make people feel better about themselves."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They can hang out with their friends at the mall and not have pictures taken of them."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO …
KNOWN FOR It
He spun his first gig — a Hot Wheels ad — into a prestigious indie film career. After key roles in St. Vincent, Midnight Special, The Confirmation and The Book of Henry, he scored his biggest role yet as Bill Denbrough in Warner Bros.' It. In addition to It: Chapter Two, the Philadelphia native has parts in The Lodge with Riley Keough and The True Adventures of Wolfboy with John Turturro.
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "Leonardo DiCaprio's movies, including What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Catch Me if You Can, and Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver and The Godfather."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "I was terrified when I met Bill Murray for the first time [on St. Vincent]. I remember him being very tall and intimidating, and he didn't really want to talk to me. It took a while, but we eventually became pretty close."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … "Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson."
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … The Goonies
LAST SHOW I BINGED Tim and Eric
MY HERO "My mom because I hope to be as selfless and strong as her."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Keep acting and become a director or cinematographer."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Drive. But I only have six more months until I get my license."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Glued to technology."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They get to go to high school and prom."
KNOWN FOR Sharp Objects
"I'm actually a brunette," jokes Lillis, who's played junior versions of two A-list redheads: a teenage Jessica Chastain in Warner Bros.' It franchise (she's currently shooting Chapter Two) and Amy Adams on HBO's Sharp Objects. Warners also tapped the New Yorker for the title role in Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, and she'll star opposite Naomi Watts in Claire McCarthy's The Burning Season.
BEST PART OF BEING AN ACTOR "Traveling. I love to be able to go to places I've never been."
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "I've gotten a few people who thought I was the clown [from It] and I really didn't understand that."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "I had no idea how to talk with Amy Adams."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … Wes Anderson
MY HERO Bill Murray
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "I got an iPad."
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … "Stand up straight. Think before speaking. Don't mutter."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Drive a boat. I've always wanted a boating license."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Complicated."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They get to sleep on time."
KNOWN FOR Stranger Things
The New Jersey native joined with fellow Stranger Things kids to score massive pay raises ahead of the third season of Netflix's hit, nabbing an estimated $250,000 an episode. He's since landed a voice part opposite Simon Pegg in animated comedy Hump and continues to raise awareness (he has nearly 9 million followers on Instagram) for cleidocranial dysostosis, a genetic condition that affects his bones and teeth.
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "I had a couple lick my neck when they hugged me. I didn't know what to do. It was uncomfortable."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … Darren Criss
LAST SHOW I BINGED Netflix's Imposters
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "Put it right into a trust. I don't spend the money that I make. I don't need anything right now."
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … "Chew with my mouth closed."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Drive."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Hike the Pacific Crest Trail because that sounds awesome."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Distracted, inspired and creative."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They get to act like idiots in public. I can't do that."
KNOWN FOR Stranger Things
The New Yorker kicked off his career on Broadway as Simba in The Lion King before booking Stranger Things. Ahead of the show's third season, he shot Steven Soderbergh's basketball drama High Flying Bird with Zazie Beetz and Andre Holland.
THE MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "The Broadway show Lion King."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Stephen Curry was awesome!"
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … The Matrix
LAST SHOW I BINGED Black Lightning
MY HERO "My parents. Their love, support and sacrifice have been endless. They will forever be my heroes."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Go skydiving."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Produce and direct."
KNOWN FOR Transformers: The Last Knight
After years as a Nickelodeon star — on the series 100 Things to Do Before High School and movies Splitting Adam and Legends of the Hidden Temple — the Cleveland-born Peruvian-American actress graduated to more mature roles as a street-wise tomboy in Transformers: The Last Knight and later as a drug cartel figure's daughter in Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Now she's back to her Nickelodeon roots, portraying a teenage version of Dora the Explorer in Paramount's live-action feature.
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "Anything with Shirley Temple or Judy Garland in it."
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "My fans remember the slightest things, like the fact that I love Kit Kats. Someone once surprised me with 50 Kit Kat bars. Those didn't last long."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Zac Efron because High School Musical."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … Natalie Portman
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … Selena
LAST SHOW I BINGED The Office
HOW I CELEBRATED MY FIRST BIG ROLE "I was very young, so we just went on a spree at Toys 'R' Us."
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … "Value education."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Drive a rental car."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Become a director."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Aware, knowledgeable and motivated for change."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They're not constantly being put under a microscope by the whole world."
KNOWN FOR Jane the Virgin
From the moment a 6-year-old Ortega saw Dakota Fanning in Man on Fire, "I wanted to be the Mexican version of her," she says. It took two years (and a dramatic monologue) to convince her mom, but she finally landed her first acting job in Rob Schneider's eponymous CBS comedy series, Rob. She's gone on to roles on Disney Channel's Stuck in the Middle and The CW's Jane the Virgin (as a young Gina Rodriguez).
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "I was at a meet-and-greet and his little boy ran up and started crying and he jumped on to my leg. So I was walking around and he was holding on to my leg and wouldn't let go."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Britney Spears. She was on an episode of Jane the Virgin. I think I peed my pants."
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … Man on Fire
LAST SHOW I BINGED "Pose from Ryan Murphy. That show is everything."
MY HERO Emma Gonzalez
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "I bought my sister a cheer outfit."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Vote. I just barely made the cutoff but I'll be voting in 2020 — I'm so excited."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Act, write, produce."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Loud, powerful, woke."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They get to go to public school, and I miss public school so much."
KNOWN FOR The Florida Project
She charmed critics with her breakout turn in The Florida Project and again with her Critics' Choice Awards speech. "Guys, this is a real problem," she said of impoverished kids like her character, Moonee. "You need to go out there and help." Next up, a leading role opposite Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard in Amblin's supernatural horror pic The Turning (February), as well as voice parts in Angry Birds 2 (2019) and The One and Only Ivan with Angelina Jolie.
BEST PART OF BEING AN ACTOR “You get to see these exotic and fun directors and it all smooshes together and it’s a ball of excitement.“
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION “One time there was this lady who just came up to me and was like, 'Oh, my God, I love your acting.' And I was just literally sitting at Subway.“
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … “I met John Boyega, who is my man crush Monday, and all I said was, 'I love Star Wars!' I literally fan-girled out.“
I'D LIKE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … Wonder Woman
LAST SHOW I BINGED Stranger Things.
MY HERO “All of my directors, especially [The Turning director] Floria Sigismondi because she was the one who made me want to do directing. Inside of me, I actually feel like I might grow up to be her.“
I’M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN "I mean, I have the greatest life I could ever live so I’m not jealous."
KNOWN FOR Game of Thrones
Her scene-stealing turn as feisty Lady Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones' seventh season was the U.K. native's acting debut. Now she has her own British-German children's show, The Worst Witch (on Netflix), and will soon be seen in the Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly comedy Holmes and Watson and Renee Zellweger's Judy Garland biopic.
KNOWN FOR A Wrinkle in Time
Ava DuVernay hand-selected the Atlanta native for the lead in her $100 million Disney adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's novel. "It was nerve-wracking," says Reid of the audition, "but it paid off." The film underperformed, but next, she stars with Zendaya in HBO's Drake-produced Euphoria and reteams with DuVernay for Netflix drama Central Park Five.
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "I was obsessed with Matilda and Shrek, so I would memorize those two and act them out. I think that put the spark in me."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Zendaya, and it might sound cliche because I'm doing a show with her, but I actually met her when I first moved out here and she was at Ben & Jerry's and I saw her and I was, like, frozen. And I took a picture and now we're doing a show together!"
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … "If I could play Matilda, that would be my dreams coming true."
LAST SHOW I BINGED "I'm actually binging season six of Orange Is the New Black right now."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "I was obsessed with Hello Kitty at the time, so I splurged on a Hello Kitty backpack and it was, like, $300 and faux leather but I thought I was the coolest thing walking around town."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Drive."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Be producing and directing."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Powerful, strong and beautiful."
KNOWN FOR Stranger Things
Schnapp first wanted to act when he saw Annie on Broadway at age 5. He voiced Charlie Brown in 2015's Peanuts Movie before making his live-action debut in Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies. As Will Byers on Stranger Things, he was absent for most of the first season, but rose to a series regular for the second, scoring a pay increase to around $250,000 an episode. Up next for Schnapp is a pair of indies: Abe and Waiting for Anya.
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "One time I was out at an airport and I went into the bathroom to go pee and this guy tapped me on the shoulder while I was peeing, and asked to take a picture. It was very awkward taking that picture let me tell you that."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "The Rock. I love him and he inspires me to stay motivated."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … Leonardo DiCaprio
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … Spider-Man
LAST SHOW I BINGED Orange Is the New Black
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … "Listen."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Skydive."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They get to go to camp for a full seven weeks and I can only go for a week because I'm filming."
KNOWN FOR Stranger Things
The Texas native beat out swarms of kids for one of the few new roles — tomboy Max — in Stranger Things' second season. Sink, who has appeared in episodes of The Americans, Blue Bloods and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, will next star in the Paramount horror film Eli.
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT High School Musical
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … "Probably my childhood hero, Amy Adams."
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … La La Land
LAST SHOW I BINGED Friday Night Lights
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … "Clean my room."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "I bought a doll for my little sister at the American Girl store."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Drive."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Strong and inspiring and very empowered."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They get to be in high school shows and stuff."
KNOWN FOR Jessie
When her sister went to orientation at UCLA, an 8-year-old Totah tagged along to take an acting class. She caught the bug, persuaded her family to move from Sacramento to L.A. and booked a role on Disney Channel smash Jessie. "The first young, nerdy, feminine character I'd seen on Disney," says Totah, an outspoken LGBTQ advocate. After minor parts (Glee, ABC's Back in the Game, Spiderman: Homecoming), she finally scored a lead role on NBC's Champions. Though the comedy lasted only one season, Totah has already lined up 2019 Disney comedy feature Magic Camp.
THE MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT Thelma & Louise
MOST EMBARRASSING AUDITION STORY "One time I had to go to this audition where I had to roller skate, and I didn't know that you had to know how to roller skate. I just thought it was about roller skating. So they made me roller skate and I fell on my face on Sunset Boulevard and I was asked to leave. It was one of my lows."
BEST PART OF BEING AN ACTOR "Getting to escape my own thoughts and emotions."
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "I was once onstage performing something in Orlando and someone grabbed my ankle and I faceplanted. But they screamed my name as they did it, so I felt important."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Oprah, the queen."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … Reese Witherspoon
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Rent a car."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Smart, strong and accepting."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "They can go anywhere and do anything without someone posting on Instagram about it."
KNOWN FOR Room
After watching his sister Emma appear in movies like Elysium, the Canadian wanted in on the fun (little sis Erica later followed suit) — and after catapulting to fame with Room (opposite Oscar winner Brie Larson), he's become one of the most in-demand child actors, with parts in The Book of Henry and Wonder. Films in the pipeline include The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, premiering at TIFF, and Shane Black's September Predator reboot.
MOST EMBARRASSING AUDITION STORY "I remember one time at an audition, I had a line where I had to say, 'Momma and papa.' I ended up saying it in a weird accent that sounded French."
BEST PART OF BEING AN ACTOR "Getting to play different roles. I really like to become a whole new person."
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "Nothing ridiculous yet. Luckily, I have very polite fans."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Leonardo DiCaprio. I met him at the SAG Awards and the Oscars. Poor Leo, there was this long line of people waiting to take a photo with him and I just cut the line."I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … Harrison Ford
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … The GooniesLAST SHOW I BINGED Stranger ThingsHOW I CELEBRATED MY FIRST BIG ROLE "Smurf cupcakes."
HOW I SPENT MY FIRST PAYCHECK "I'm saving up all my money for when I'm an adult."MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Music, movies and social media."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Go to university."
KNOWN FOR Stranger Things
The Canada-born actor has seen his career skyrocket since joining Netflix's Stranger Things. He snagged the role of Richie in It (and the sequel) and is onscreen now in Ken Marino's Dog Days. In addition to voicing parts in animated remakes of The Addams Family and Carmen Sandiego, he'll star opposite Brooklynn Prince in Universal's The Turning and alongside Nicole Kidman in Warner Bros.' The Goldfinch.
THE SHOW OR MOVIE THAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT Nowhere Man
MOST EMBARRASSING AUDITION STORY "It was for a part in a movie and the casting person was really uncool — interrupting me, eye-rolling, just obnoxious and mean. The kicker is that the kid who got the part is the exact same kind of person, and then the movie gave everyone explosive diarrhea."
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "I was literally horse-collared in Manhattan for a selfie within seconds of my dad giving me some really terrible news. It was like a hit-and-run selfie."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "I was nervous at the start off work with Mackenzie Davis and Sarah Paulson, because they slay so hard, and then meeting [Ryan] Gosling and [Harrison] Ford was pretty amazing. But the most starstruck I have been was with Bill Hader — but now we are buds so, you know, no big deal. But Bill! Frickin'! Hader!"
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … "Honestly, why keep making remakes when there is so much amazing original content to film?"
LAST SHOW I BINGED Nirvana the Band the Show
MY HEROES Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … "Stop saying 'like' so much."
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Direct."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Online way too much."
I'M JEALOUS OF REGULAR KIDS WHEN … "No one is asking them for a selfie."
KNOWN FOR Dance Moms
Ziegler twirled and jetéd from Lifetime's Dance Moms, where she started at 8, to music video stardom and 12 million Instagram followers. She's best known for dancing in a series of Sia's music videos — including chart-topper "Chandelier" — and the two now are expanding their work to the screen: She'll star in the singer's directorial debut, Sister, with Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr.
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "Sometimes when I go out to the movies with Sia and she's not in her wig fans will come up to me and ask Sia to take a picture of us because they don't know it's her."
I WAS MOST STARSTRUCK BY … "Justin Bieber! I was 9 and it was the best day ever."
I'M DYING TO WORK WITH … "Zac Efron. I just love him."
I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF … High School Musical
LAST SHOW I BINGED "Queer Eye. I seriously have fallen in love with that show and can't get enough of it! I cry every episode."
MY PARENTS ALWAYS TELL ME TO … "Be nice to my sister."
I WISH I WERE OLD ENOUGH TO … "Drive. So soon!"
WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO … "Start my own charity inspiring young girls and boys."
MY GENERATION, IN A FEW WORDS, IS … "Addicted to their phones."
Editor's note: Weeks after this issue published, Josie Totah came out as trans in a piece for Time magazine. Per her request, this article has been updated accordingly.