'Stranger Things' star Millie Bobby Brown and 'Moonlight's' Ashton Sanders are among the series stars and blockbuster breakouts who are shaking up the industry.
What does it take to be a rising star? For these 20 top young actors and actresses, it ranges from a hit Netflix series (13 Reasons Why's Katherine Langford and Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown) to awards attention (Moonlight's Ashton Sanders) and, sometimes, being plucked from San Diego and flown off to a galaxy far, far away (Kelly Marie Tran for Star Wars: The Last Jedi). Here, THR introduces the Next Gen of top talent coming to a big or small screen near you.
Profiles written by Rebecca Ford, Mia Galuppo, Ashley Lee, Bryn Elise Sandberg and Kate Stanhope.
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
The British breakout stepped in front of a camera for the first time in 2015 as the lead in Ang Lee's risky 3D drama Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. Also making headlines for being Taylor Swift's latest beau, the actor has a packed slate of historical dramas: Yorgos Lanthimos' The Favourite with Emma Stone, Chris Weitz's Operation Finale with Oscar Isaac, the Beau Willimon-penned Mary Queen of Scots with Margot Robbie and Joel Edgerton's LGBT title Boy Erased with Nicole Kidman.
DYING TO WORK WITH Paul Thomas Anderson.
HOLLYWOOD WILL REALLY CHANGE WHEN … "Decisions aren't just based on someone's name, and the most talented person for the role gets the job."
MY WORST HABIT ON SET "I beat myself up too much sometimes."
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM HOLLYWOOD NEEDS TO FIX IS … "Especially in light of what's recently been in the news, men not abusing their power, and gender equality. That's pretty obvious at the moment."
The Yale grad broke out playing Grandmaster Flash in Baz Luhrmann's Netflix series The Get Down and has since been featured in TBS comedy series The Detour and Geremy Jasper's Sundance breakout Patti Cake$. He stars with Brie Larson in her directorial debut Unicorn Store (which premiered at TIFF) and with Kristen Stewart in William Eubank's thriller Underwater, and is currently filming The Front Runner, with Hugh Jackman.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM HOLLYWOOD NEEDS TO FIX IS … "I have a lot of female actor friends, and there's a lot of discrimination in terms of ageism. When I think of how Sally Field played Tom Hanks' love interest two years before she played his mom, it's unbelievably unfair."
DYING TO WORK WITH "Dee Rees. Her taste is fantastic. I haven't seen Mudbound yet, but I saw Pariah as a short and a feature and thought it was fantastic — a beautiful and well-told story. I would love to work with more African-American female directors, and she's at the top of her game. There's something really special about her."
HOLLYWOOD WILL REALLY CHANGE WHEN … "There's willingness from studios to take risks on artists again. You see the success of Get Out — people didn't see that coming, but people saw that movie because it was a good movie. It's amazing and brilliant. That kind of risk really paid off, and I hope people follow that lead and go away from the cookie-cutter things that people are clearly tired of. It's just in the numbers."
Atlanta put Beetz on the map, but it was 2016 indie Wolves that allowed her to quit her day job as a server. "That was a really significant moment," says the New York native, who has spent the past few months filming season two of Donald Glover's Emmy-winning FX dramedy, which she says gets darker this season. "I always think when I'm on a set that I'm going to get fired, and this is the first time that I don't feel that way," she adds. Beetz also will star as mutant mercenary Domino in Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool 2, part of a three-picture deal with Fox.
MY WORST HABIT ON SET "Being antisocial. Sometimes I just feel super awkward and insecure about my work, so I shut down. It's been good practice for me to actively work against that and try to engage and be vulnerable, even when it is difficult!"
I'D LOVE TO HAVE STARRED IN … "Boogie Nights. The spirit is so vibrant."
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM HOLLYWOOD NEEDS TO FIX IS … "The distribution of wealth in this industry. It's embarrassing and it embarrasses me to be a part of that. No one should have half a billion in their personal account. It's a huge problem in our country, and it is on a global spectrum as well. Our Earth is dying, people have no medicine. We need to change this."
The British teen was catapulted into superstardom when Stranger Things became a global phenomenon after it debuted on Netflix in summer 2016. As the mysterious and powerful Eleven in the drama, Brown quickly became one of the most pursued young talents in Hollywood, drawing interest from all the major agencies before eventually signing with WME. The actress continues to play a key part in the sci-fi drama's second season, which dropped Oct. 27, and will make the leap to the big screen in Warner Bros.' tentpole sequel Godzilla: King of Monsters, due out in 2019. As for her future work, Brown says: "It can be a comedy, a romance — it doesn't matter what it is — if I feel emotionally connected to the role, I'll do so."
The native New Yorker, who is fluent in French, is garnering critical acclaim and awards buzz for his starring role in Luca Guadagnino's gay love story Call Me By Your Name (out Nov. 24). But that's not his only awards-season appearance: He plays one of Saoirse Ronan's suitors in Greta Gerwig's directorial debut, Lady Bird, and also appears in the Christian Bale-led Western Hostiles. Next, he'll be seen opposite Steve Carell in the drama Beautiful Boy, playing a young man struggling with a meth addiction, and in Woody Allen's next movie.
MOST EMBARRASSING AUDITION "I was 14, and the font on the page of the script was almost unreadable. Wherever that tape exists, there's very little acting going on and a lot of eye straining."
Sure, the U.K. native has enjoyed roles in two film franchises (Fast and Furious, The Maze Runner), but her turn as Missandei on HBO's Game of Thrones helped her star rise most. "I have lots of young women of color saying how much they love watching her journey, and that's meant a lot to me," says the actress, whose mother is Dominican and father is of half-Saint Lucian and half-English descent. Next up? The final Maze Runner film and Thrones' last six episodes. "It is starting to feel like it's all coming to an end," she says. "It's a real bittersweet moment."
DYING TO WORK WITH "Quentin Tarantino because he's so eccentric and his movies are just so crazy and spectacular."
MY WORST HABIT ON SET "As long as there's a supply of tea, I'm generally quite content."
LAST SHOW I BINGED "Stranger Things season one. I literally just finished it in time for the new season. And before that was Insecure."
MOST EMBARRASSING AUDITION "I definitely had an audition a few years ago where I was so very nervous that they said, 'Oh, thank you very much,' and I left the room and vomited into the toilet out of pure nerves."
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM HOLLYWOOD NEEDS TO FIX IS ... "Representation, whether it's diversity, whether it's the types of women and female characters that are represented, characters that we can relate to and see in our everyday lives. Just generally more equality in every sense of the word."
"I'm kind of boring," the New York City native says with a laugh at THR's Next Gen photoshoot. But a quick glance at her recent projects reveals otherwise. After following her sister, Anna, into acting at 14, Garner quickly amassed memorable supporting roles in such films as Not Fade Away and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For before segueing to TV on FX's The Americans. But it's her performance in Netflix's Ozark that is turning heads. With a second season of the crime drama and roles in the Emma Stone-Jonah Hill comedy Maniac and miniseries Waco coming up, 2018 looks to be anything but boring.
DYING TO WORK WITH "Ben Foster and Annette Bening."
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM HOLLYWOOD NEEDS TO FIX IS … "I think in a lot of businesses, people are really afraid to take risks, and that is making them lack imagination."
While still attending drama school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the Brooklyn resident picked up a supporting actor Oscar nom for his role in 2016's Manchester by the Sea. Now, he's in two features poised as awards breakouts: Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird and Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. He's also set for the gay-conversion feature Boy Erased with Nicole Kidman and the homecoming drama Ben Is Back, written and directed by his dad, Peter Hedges.
DYING TO WORK WITH "Spike Jonze, Gus Van Sant and Paul Thomas Anderson."
I'D LOVE TO HAVE STARRED IN … "A voice in Ratatouille."
WHAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "When I saw the movie Super 8. It was a time period I was nostalgic about even though I didn't grow up in it. It just looked like pure fun and it was an escape from my own life and it was an adventure."
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM HOLLYWOOD NEEDS TO FIX IS ... "The biggest thing that comes to mind right now, especially with Harvey Weinstein, is that all of the people who are in positions of power that are abusing it to get what they want, particularly with women in their early 20s. That's the most deplorable aspect of this industry right now. In this industry and in other industries. There are so many stories being told today that we don't need. Hopefully we can have more female and African-American [representation] and filmmakers in marginalized communities telling their stories."
After playing the lead in Jordan Peele's breakout hit Get Out ($253 million worldwide), Kaluuya's crying face became a meme around the internet (and even a few tattoos). His face next appears in Marvel's hotly anticipated Black Panther, opposite Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan. "What's exciting about Get Out and Black Panther is they're new territory. They're showing an experience that really hasn't been seen at that scale or in that space," says the English actor, who also will appear in Steve McQueen's Widows. "I want to continue to tell stories that I believe in."
MY WORST HABIT ON SET "I go missing. I'll find a really obscure place to have a nap in the shade, and I won't tell anyone."
LAST SHOW I BINGED Insecure
MOST EMBARRASSING AUDITION "I went out for a Welsh role, but I knew my accent wasn't good. When you do a Welsh accent poorly, it comes out Indian. It was so bad."
MOST RIDICULOUS FAN INTERACTION "There was a time after Get Out when black women would just walk up to me, hug me and walk away."
"I was like, 'I'll get paid? Sure, I can do this shit,' " says Keoghan of the impetus behind his chosen profession. Before getting cast as a local boy who helps save soldiers in Christopher Nolan's World War II epic Dunkirk, the Dublin native had turns in Irish TV series and the Sundance drama Mammal. His breakout year also includes a leading role as a creepy kid on a revenge mission in The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos' The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Next up, Keoghan is set for the Irish period drama Black 47 and will appear alongside Blake Jenner and Evan Peters in the crime feature American Animals.
DYING TO WORK WITH "Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio."
I'D LOVE TO HAVE STARRED IN … "Batman and Robin. I'd like to be Robin."
LAST SHOW I BINGED "The Wire."
After a turn in David Lynch's star-studded Twin Peaks revival, the Texas-raised actor can be seen in three films garnering awards buzz this season: Jordan Peele's Get Out, Sean Baker's The Florida Project and the Frances McDormand starrer Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. He next returns to the thriller genre, starring opposite Abbey Lee and Riley Keough in Welcome to Stranger.
WHAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "When I was little and watching TV shows like Barney, it seemed like such a happy place, and I always wanted to be a part of it."
MOST "HOLLYWOOD" THING ABOUT MY LIFE "That I live in Hollywood, probably. When I walk around, I see the Hollywood sign, which is good just in case I ever forget where I am."
DYING TO WORK WITH "I love Samantha Morton. I think she is one of the best actors alive."
After starring (in her first-ever role) in Andrea Arnold's rebellious American Honey, Lane has become one of the most in-demand indie actresses, booking roles in upcoming films The Miseducation of Cameron Post with Chloe Moretz, Hearts Beat Loud with Nick Offerman and Ben Wheatley's Freak Shift with Armie Hammer. She's also leapt into her first big-budget project with a starring role in the Hellboy reboot.
WHAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "American Honey as well as the short Born in the Maelstrom. I felt so much release, and they truly allowed me to expand as well as heal mentally."
DYING TO WORK WITH "[Bombay Beach director] Alma Har'el. She has incredible vision and a beautiful mind."
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM HOLLYWOOD NEEDS TO FIX IS ... "People being taken advantage of sexually and manipulated as well as [lack of] diversity."
HOLLYWOOD WILL REALLY CHANGE WHEN … "Hollywood decides to care."
When the Perth, Australia, native landed her breakout role as a bullied teen in Netflix's 13 Reasons Why, she wasn't even sure she could get a working U.S. visa in time. "They called me with literally 36 hours' notice saying, 'You're leaving at 3 a.m. on Sunday, pack your bags,' " says Langford, who is currently in Northern California filming the second season of the breakout YA drama, which will feature her character in more scenes than even Langford expected. She's also starring in Greg Berlanti's coming-of-age film Love, Simon, opposite Nick Robinson.
MY WORST HABIT ON SET "Most of my set time has been on one show that is very intense. I slept a lot and was usually just very quiet."
MOST EMBARRASSING AUDITION "I met some producers, and we started talking about musical theater and [Bob] Fosse, and I stood up and did a Fosse jump."
I'D LOVE TO HAVE STARRED IN … "A superhero movie or a musical or a Star Wars — I'm a huge Star Wars fan."
"I grew up with Harry Potter, and I always wanted to be a part of those big stories," says Tran. She may not be attending Hogwarts, but she did land what director Rian Johnson has called the "biggest new part" of his Star Wars film, December's The Last Jedi. Tran, a native of San Diego whose main acting background has been in improv comedy, booked her first feature role as Rose, a Resistance maintenance worker.
DYING TO WORK WITH "Viola Davis. Anything she does, I feel like I have to go in a cave and like cry for an hour."
MY WORST HABIT ON SET "I am endlessly curious, so I pop my head into places, watching Chewy rehearsals and looking at the creatures department and touching things."
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM HOLLYWOOD NEEDS TO FIX ... "Diversity is something that is really important to me. In any way, we just need to get different types of people at the front of projects so we can tell stories that haven't been told before."
I'D LOVE TO HAVE STARRED IN ... "E.T. as E.T."
The New York native will have his biggest role yet starring as the infamously kidnapped John Paul Getty III in Ridley Scott's family drama All the Money in the World (Dec. 8). Beginning his career in community theater and later landing recurring roles on such TV shows as HBO's Boardwalk Empire, he didn't officially break out on the indie filmmaking scene until his starring turn in the Toronto Film Festival standout Lean on Pete. Next up: He'll continue his indie feature run, co-starring in the family drama Behold My Heart with Marisa Tomei.
MY WORST HABIT ON SET "Touching my hair. It's a nervous thing. The hairdresser's job is a lot harder."
I'D LOVE TO HAVE STARRED IN ... "One of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies."
WHAT MADE ME WANT TO ACT "I was a really shy kid growing up with a lot of trouble speaking in public. When I first tried, just in my community theater, something about it was really liberating, to let out all of the feelings I had in a very public space."
MOST "HOLLYWOOD" THING ABOUT MY LIFE "All the planes."
Playing the middle third of the lead in Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, Sanders jumped from Venice to Toronto to the Oscars, where his first big feature was awarded best picture. The Carson, California, native — the youngest of five brothers — has chosen to follow up the art house drama with some big-budget fare: the Rupert Wyatt-directed sci-fi thriller Captive State and Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer 2.
I'D LOVE TO HAVE STARRED IN … The Color Purple
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM HOLLYWOOD NEEDS TO FIX IS ... "We need to change what the representation of what Hollywood is. It's not about suits and ties. You should be able to come from a different background and wear whatever clothes and still be Denzel Washington."
DYING TO WORK WITH "I really admire Natalie Portman and her artistry."
The British actress beat out hundreds to become the next Disney princess, playing Jasmine in the live-action Aladdin retelling, directed by Guy Ritchie and also starring Will Smith and Mena Massoud as Aladdin. This year, she suited up as the Pink Ranger in Lionsgate's Power Rangers reboot after roles on the short-lived Fox series Terra Nova and drama The 33.
I'D LOVE TO HAVE STARRED IN ... "Bridesmaids! I literally know that scene on the airplane by heart."
MOST EMBARRASSING AUDITION "I went into an audition, and it was a Texas accent. I told my rep, 'I really can't do a Texas accent.' I proceeded to do the scene, and they were trying not to laugh because it was that bad. I even said, 'Well, that was crap.' We all ended up laughing."
MOST "HOLLYWOOD" THING ABOUT MY LIFE "I live in a little town an hour outside London, and when I'm working, I'm getting driven everywhere. When I'm working and I get dropped off at a friend's or my parents' after filming, and I pull up in this nice car, it looks like someone really important and I'm just going to a family barbeque. It's quite awkward. You're just like, 'I brought the salad!' But then on the weekends I'll get the Tube."
MY WORST HABIT ON SET "I do this thing where I wait to go to the toilet and then go at the most awkward time during filming, when they're about to shoot. I hold it until I literally think, 'I'm gonna wet myself.'"
After three years of playing Zoey Johnson on ABC's hit comedy Black-ish, Shahidi will graduate in 2018 to her own spinoff, Grown-ish, at Freeform. "It's been so much fun and so much work," the Minnesota native says of rising to No. 1 on the call sheet. "It's definitely a change of pace." Not to be topped by her college-bound alter ego, the actress also will hit the books as a freshman at Harvard University in 2018 and recently signed a modeling contract with New York's Women Management to improve representation for women and non-white faces. Her next goal? "I would love to star in a Marvel movie."
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM HOLLYWOOD NEEDS TO FIX IS … "It does truly need to become a space for everybody. It isn't representative of our actual world."
HOLLYWOOD WILL REALLY CHANGE WHEN … "I fervently believe that when we support all creative voices, it gives us some equilibrium and gives us a sense of equity, that everyone's voice is being valued and that everyone's voice is being heard. Also in terms of the creative and the less political side, not only will it shift the politics of Hollywood but it will also provide for more diverse storytelling not only in the people you see onscreen but the nuance of the story at hand. In breaking down these stereotypes and allowing really for more of a spectrum of stories — not saying that there are certain stories that don't deserve to be told, but rather they can't be the only stories that are told about a certain community."
Stenberg's breakout role in 2012's The Hunger Games as the tragic Rue was a brief but impactful performance opposite Jennifer Lawrence. But she has graduated to leading star with Warner Bros.' YA romance Everything, Everything this year and the upcoming Fox 2000 adaptation of Black Lives Matter novel The Hate U Give. Also a prominent activist, the Los Angeles native has two other significant projects coming up: the World War II romance Where Hands Touch and Jennifer Yuh Nelson's sci-fi adaptation of The Darkest Minds. "I choose films I believe can prompt an important and nuanced conversation on a large platform," says Stenberg, "or roles that I believe create representation for black women in spaces we typically don't get to occupy."
Earlier this year, the British actor and former model led Marc Webb's drama The Only Living Boy in New York opposite Kate Beckinsale, but it's his next project — as Eddie Redmayne's onscreen brother in Warner Bros.' Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them sequel (Nov. 16, 2018) — that has solidified his rise from indie breakout (he first caught the eye of critics and producers with Queen & Country, Green Room and Tramps) to blockbuster star.
MOST "HOLLYWOOD" THING ABOUT MY LIFE "I call watching a movie 'going to the office.' "
I'D LOVE TO HAVE STARRED IN … "I'd love to have played the narrator character in Mean Streets. Or Taxi Driver. Or Goodfellas. Basically anything De Niro did."