Next Gen Talent 2019: Hollywood's Rising Young Stars Revealed

6:00 AM 11/6/2019

by Bryn Elise Sandberg, Rebecca Ford, and Mia Galuppo

From HBO’s ‘Euphoria’ breakouts to a ‘Daily Show’ comic and the new Little Mermaid, meet 25 talents positioned for big- and small-screen stardom.

"I don’t give a fuck if it’s popular as long as it makes sense to me," says Jonathan Majors (pictured with Hunter Schafer) of how he chooses his roles, from 'White Boy Rick' to Spike Lee’s 'Da 5 Bloods.' "Because if it makes sense to me, it’ll make sense to everyone else."
"I don’t give a fuck if it’s popular as long as it makes sense to me," says Jonathan Majors (pictured with Hunter Schafer) of how he chooses his roles, from 'White Boy Rick' to Spike Lee’s 'Da 5 Bloods.' "Because if it makes sense to me, it’ll make sense to everyone else."
Alexandra Gavillet

Get to know these names. Whether they're leading tentpole films (Shang-Chi's Simu Liu, Mulan's Liu Yifei) or fronting must-see-TV (Pose's Indya Moore, Unbelievable's Kaitlyn Dever), this batch of 25 rising stars are here to stay. They're who every producer in town is looking to cast, agent is vying to sign and studio is hoping will carry their next franchise. From recent big-screen breakouts like Once Upon a Time's Margaret Qualley and The Last Black Man in San Francisco's Jonathan Majors to a handful of stars from one of the year's hottest shows (Euphoria), The Hollywood Reporter anoints the top emerging talent of 2019.

Profiles written by Kirsten Chuba, Ashley Cullins, Mia Galuppo, Michael O'Connell, Bryn Elise Sandberg and Piya Sinha-Roy.

  • Naomi Ackie, 28

    Alexandra Gavillet

    In 2018, the London actress was coming off a few indie projects — Lady Macbeth, Yardie, The Corrupted — when she got an offer from a galaxy far, far away. "When Star Wars came along, it felt so outside my remit because I've never seen anyone who looked like me," says Ackie. "We're not just talking about color — we're talking about a woman who has thick thighs, things that you don't necessarily see in these action movies." This December, Ackie will be seen as new character Jannah, a fighter in the Resistance, in J.J. Abrams' The Rise of Skywalker, and she just made her return in the second season of Netflix dramedy The End of the F***ing World.

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    "Jamie Foxx. Saw him at D23, he nodded at me twice and I freaked the hell out."

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    "Viola Davis, Joaquin Phoenix, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep."

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    "I want to be Tiana [in The Princess and the Frog]. Let me be Tiana."

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR, I'D BE

    "A seamstress."

    I HOPE I DON'T GET TYPECAST AS

    "Sassy. None of that shit. A girl with attitude. I hate that shit."

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    Big Mouth

    MY GO-TO KARAOKE SONG IS

    "'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' by Whitney Houston."

    CURRENT SONG I'M LISTENING TO ON REPEAT

    "'Boxes and Squares' by Tank and The Bangas"

  • Halle Bailey, 19

    ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

    Nabbing the role of a Disney princess is a springboard for additional studio fare — look no further than the careers of Cinderella star Lily James and the reigning Jasmine, Naomi Scott. So, while Bailey's only acting credit to date is as a recurring character on Freeform series Grown-ish, after her turn as Ariel in 2021's The Little Mermaid remake from director Rob Marshall, more offers are sure to follow. But the live-action feature won't be the young star's first brush with royalty. As teens, Bailey and her sister Chloe were taken under the wing of queen Beyoncé, who signed the Georgian R&B duo to her Parkwood Entertainment management, later releasing their debut studio album, The Kids Are Alright.

  • Ella Balinska, 23

    Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

    Growing up in London, Ella Balinska was a competitive school athlete, excelling in javelin and track and field. But it was the role of Enobarbus in a school production of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra that sold Balinska on performing. "It gave me a chance to explore a character not very well known," she says. "I'd love to play Tom Buchanan in a different version of The Great Gatsby." While Balinska's breakout came with the Sky One series The Athena, on Nov. 15 she'll burst onto the big screen alongside Kristen Stewart and Naomi Scott in Elizabeth Banks' Charlie's Angels reboot.

    MY GO-TO KARAOKE SONG

    "'Creep' by Radiohead."

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Wes Anderson

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR, I'D BE

    "An athlete or an astrophysicist."

    CURRENT SONG I'M LISTENING TO ON REPEAT

    "'Rusty Nails' by Moderat. It's a real vibe."

  • Charlie Barnett, 31

    Alexandra Gavillet

    This Florida native was hard to miss in 2019. After three seasons on NBC's Chicago Fire, Barnett swapped procedurals for prestige — starring alongside Natasha Lyonne in Netflix breakout Russian Doll and also appearing in the streamer's continuation of 1990s miniseries Tales of the City. The actor, whose work often keeps him from his home base of Los Angeles, says he's not sure how Lyonne and company plan to include him in the second season of their Emmy-nominated comedy. But in the meantime, he's landed arcs on the final run of The CW's Arrow and the second season of Netflix's You.

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    "Charlize Theron. Everything I've ever wanted to be is embodied in that 6-foot-tall South African beautiful, blond woman. I would love to work with her."

    I'D LOVE TO HAVE A CAREER LIKE

    "Gary Oldman, David Oyelowo or Jeffrey Wright — but Tom Hanks is my mom's biggest wish for me. I like seeing actors who have a balance of life and career."

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    "I mean, I wanted to see myself in Denzel Washington."

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    "Honestly? Dexter's Laboratory. I bought all of the seasons, out of nostalgia I guess, because I hadn't watched it in so long. It's freaking amazing. Animated TV is my greatest escape."

  • Ana de Armas, 31

    When Ana de Armas first arrived at London’s Pinewood Studios to shoot No Time to Die, the 25th installment in the James Bond franchise, she was a bit starstruck — though not when introduced to lead Daniel Craig. It happened as she was walking into a meeting with director Cary Joji Fukunaga, who was chatting with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the British creator of Fleabag and Killing Eve who’d been hired to bring a fresh female perspective (and some humor) to the film’s script.

    "I saw Phoebe, and I just blushed — I got red like a tomato," says de Armas, 31. "I was like, 'Oh my God, can I hug you? I want to be your friend.' " De Armas' co-star, Lashana Lynch, had a similar reaction when she learned of Waller-Bridge's involvement. "I very literally squealed when I first heard her name," says Lynch, 31. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh, British girl just like me. She's going to know how to actually take care of women onscreen.' "

    Read the full story here.

  • Kaitlyn Dever, 22

    Alexandra Gavillet

    The Texas-raised actress has been working steadily in Hollywood since she was 11 years old. Dever, who was born to figure skater parents (her dad went on to voice both Barney the dinosaur and Bob the Builder later in his career), spent several years moving fluidly between roles on the small screen (Justified, Last Man Standing) and the big (The Spectacular Now, Short Term 12). But between back-to-back leading parts in critical hits Booksmart and Unbelievable, 2019 was a banner year for her. Next up for Dever is B.J. Novak's FX limited series Platform opposite Lucas Hedges and Annapurna-produced horror anthology Monsterland for Hulu.

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    Euphoria

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    "Anthony Michael Hall in every John Hughes film."

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Sarah Paulson

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    Urban Cowboy

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR, I'D BE

    "A director."

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    Joaquin Phoenix

    CRAZIEST WAY MY LIFE HAS CHANGED

    "I bought a house!"

    I'D LOVE TO HAVE A CAREER LIKE

    Sandra Bullock

  • Jacob Elordi, 22

    Alexandra Gavillet

    The Australian actor became an instant heartthrob after starring in Netflix's breakout rom-com The Kissing Booth, opposite Joey King. In the wake of his newfound stardom, he took a more serious turn in HBO's edgy teen drama Euphoria playing Nate Jacobs, a jock with a host of anger issues and sexual insecurities. Elordi currently has his hands full with the second installments of both projects. Having just wrapped Kissing Booth 2 in Cape Town, South Africa, he's gearing up for the second season of the Zendaya-fronted drama series in Los Angeles — but not before he takes a trip back to his hometown of Brisbane.

    CRAZIEST WAY MY LIFE HAS CHANGED 

    "I live in America now, which is quite strange."

    PERSON I'D LOVE TO WORK WITH

    Robert Pattinson

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    Chernobyl

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    Blinky Bill

    CURRENT SONG I'M LISTENING TO ON REPEAT

    "'A Very Good Year' by Frank Sinatra."

  • Barbie Ferreira, 22

    Alexandra Gavillet

    After entering the public eye at age 16 as a model for Target, H&M and Aerie, the New York native has been pivoting toward her lifelong dream of acting. She finally notched breakout star status this past year with HBO's Euphoria. "I was very nervous about it because I feel like people have opinions on models who act and there might be more scrutiny," says Ferreira of her transition to performing, "but it's been really seamless." Ferreira will follow up season two of the prestige drama with HBO Max's first film, Unpregnant, alongside Haley Lu Richardson.

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    Succession. Everyone has been recommending it to me and let me tell you something: It’s the best.”

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Winona Ryder

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    Jawbreaker

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    Megan Thee Stallion

    CURRENT SONG I'M LISTENING TO ON REPEAT

    "'Holy Terrain' by FKA Twigs feat. Future."

  • Kelvin Harrison Jr., 25

    Austin Hargrave

    Harrison, whose parents are trained musicians, always thought he was predestined for the music business. But then he met Viola Davis when he scored a one-line role in 2013's Ender's Game. Her advice to him? Take acting classes. Turns out she was on to something: This year alone Harrison has starred in The Wolf Hour, Luce, Gully, Bolden and awards contender Waves, not to mention Epix series Godfather of Harlem. "My journey has been so natural," he says. "It all felt like it was meant to be." Next up for the New Orleans native: Covers, alongside Dakota Johnson, and Aaron Sorkin's The Trials of the Chicago 7.

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    Sailor Moon

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    "Lynne Ramsay and Tilda Swinton."

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    "Charmed, for a movie. I would love to be a warlock."

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR I'D BE

    "A dean of arts."

    I HOPE I DON'T GET TYPECAST AS

    "The thug."

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    "The Handmaid’s Tale. It was intense. Every day I found myself being traumatized and scared."

    MY GO-TO KARAOKE SONG IS

    "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"

  • Simu Liu, 30

    Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

    "You can't spell 'accounting' without 'acting,' " jokes Liu of his first career at Deloitte. It was only after being let go from that job and moving back home that Liu responded to a Craigslist ad asking for Asian extras for a Hollywood movie. "I thought it was going to be the biggest scam in the world," he says — but it turned out to be Pacific Rim. Liu went on to appear on Canadian sitcom Kim's Convenience before Marvel came calling — literally. "I was lounging around in my underwear eating shrimp chips, when I got a call from an unknown number in Burbank," remembers the actor, who a week prior had a screen test for the MCU. "A voice goes, 'Hi, this is Kevin Feige.' " Four days later, Liu was in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con being introduced as Marvel's first Asian superhero, Shang Chi.

    MY GO-TO KARAOKE SONG

    "A Whole New World"

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    “There are so many. Jackie Chan, J.J. Abrams, Michael B. Jordan, Steven Spielberg, Taika Waititi.”

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    Ocean’s 11, as Danny Ocean.”

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    “Season three of Stranger Things.”

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    “There weren't many out there, I am not going to lie. I think it is that there weren’t enough people that looked like me onscreen.”

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    "Tom Hiddleston. He had such an aura about him I forgot how to speak words."

  • Lashana Lynch, 31

    Lashana Lynch says creating her No Time to Die character was about working with writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge and director Cary Fukunaga to shape a real woman. "I didn't want someone who was slick. I wanted someone who was rough around the edges and who has a past and a history and has issues with her weight and maybe questions what's going on with her boyfriend," she says.

    She even talked to Waller-Bridge, who is only the second woman in the history of the franchise to be a credited writer after Johanna Harwood (1962's Dr. No and 1963's From Russia With Love), about adding an issue that nearly every woman faces but rarely makes its way into action films. "We had one conversation about her maybe being on her period in one scene, and maybe at the beginning of the scene — and I spoke to Cary about this — throwing her tampon in the thing," says Lynch, making a motion of tossing trash into the bin. (She's mum about whether it made it in.)

    Read more here.

  • George MacKay, 27

    Austin Hargrave

    A casting director tapped a 10-year-old MacKay during a scouting trip to his primary school for his first role as one of the Lost Boys in Universal's Peter Pan. Ever since, he has been learning on the job, working alongside the likes of Daniel Craig (Defiance) and Bill Nighy (Pride). "I didn't get in to drama school," says MacKay, who was rejected from England's top theater programs, RADA and LAMDA. "So I made a conscious decision to do plays for the lessons in voice work." His stateside breakout came in Sundance darling Captain Fantastic, but he'll gain leading man status with his roles in two ambitious films: Sam Mendes' World War I film 1917 (out Dec. 25) and Justin Kurzel's True History of the Kelly Gang.

    I'D LOVE TO HAVE A CAREER LIKE

    "Cate Blanchett. I like the variation and that the only consistency is the quality."

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR, I'D BE

    “If I could have the talent, I would want to be a pro surfer. It’s the best feeling in the world when you are riding a wave.”

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Joaquin Phoenix

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    Russian Doll

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I IDENTIFIED WITH MOST AS A KID

    “It’s a really English film: There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble. It’s about this kid who want to be really good at football but he’s just not good at football. Then he gets these antique boots and they are magic. There is a really great line that goes, ‘It’s not in the boots, Jimmy. It’s in ya feet.’”

    CURRENT SONG I'M LISTENING TO ON REPEAT

    "'Into the Mystic' by Van Morrison."

  • Jonathan Majors, 30

    Alexandra Gavillet

    "If Gus Van Sant pulls you out of school," says Majors, "you go." The Dallas native was in his last semester of his graduate program at the Yale School of Drama when he was cast in limited series When We Rise. In the three years that followed, Majors, the son of a pastor, has become a film festival regular with titles like White Boy Rick and The Last Black Man in San Francisco. The actor has since jumped into bigger budgets and higher concepts with Spike Lee's Vietnam War drama Da 5 Bloods and Jordan Peele's sci-fi HBO series Lovecraft Country.

    CRAZIEST WAY MY LIFE HAS CHANGED 

    "I live nowhere but have four addresses."

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY 

    Scottie Pippen

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Mark Rylance

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    Dog Day Afternoon

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    “Robin Hood, but the animated one.”

    CURRENT SONG I'M LISTENING TO ON REPEAT

    "'Set Me Free' by Active Child."

  • Isabela Merced, 18

    Alexandra Gavillet

    "I've always tried to avoid people putting me in a box," says Merced, who recently changed her last name from Moner to pay homage to her late Peruvian grandmother. It's that attitude that explains how the Ohio native has been juggling a spectrum of genres, from the gritty thriller Sicario: Day of the Soldado to Paramount's live-action family pic Dora and the Lost City of Gold. The next chapter of her career will include new music and a pair of Netflix films that once again showcase her range: John Green's holiday movie Let It Snow and thriller Sweet Girl, alongside Jason Momoa.

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    "Fleabag. It blew my mind."

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    "My little brother and I would pretend to be Juni and Carmen from Spy Kids."

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    "If he were still alive, I would say Robin Williams. Also, Natalie Portman."

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    "Moulin Rouge. It has all my favorite elements in it."

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR, I'D BE

    "Something to do with children — a teacher or a therapist, or guidance counselor." 

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    Jim Carrey

  • Indya Moore, 24

    Alexandra Gavillet

    Moore always dreamed of performing but "being trans and a person of color, I just didn't think that I would be allowed in those spaces," says the actor, model and activist. That all changed when they broke out on FX's Pose. They've since used the newfound fame to launch a production company that amplifies issues related to transphobia and bullying, in particular against black trans women. Moore can also been seen in Universal's Queen & Slim (out Nov. 27) and Netflix's family film A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting, the latter of which is the first project in which Moore is not playing a sex worker, which, they add, "is really important to me."

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    When They See Us

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    “Ava DuVernay, Melina Matsoukas, Justin Dillard, Jordan Peele, Lena Waithe, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Fuller, Michael Green, Laverne Cox.”

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    "I would die to be in The Matrix, and I would really love to be in Star Wars."

    CURRENT SONG I'M LISTENING TO ON REPEAT

    "'Juicy' by Doja Cat."

  • Josh O'Connor, 29

    Mike Marsland/WireImage

    After building a career in British television and theater, with a breakout performance in 2017 film God's Own Country, the actor is taking on his biggest role yet as a young Prince Charles in the third season of Netflix's The Crown. He recalls a meeting he had with his agents in which they discussed the pros and cons of playing the iconic royal figure — "and there were no cons," he says. O'Connor also talked over the decision with Olivia Colman, whom he's acted with previously. "I'm not interested in setting out to play Prince Charles in the way that we already know he exists and in the way that we perceive him in the public eye," says O'Connor. "The exciting thing about The Crown is we go behind closed doors and I can try to create something new that feels fresh."

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR I'D BE

    "A ceramicist."

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Jessie Buckley

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    "I know there’s recently been a remake, but I’d love to do a remake of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, the Gene Wilder version."

     LAST SHOW I BINGED

    The OA and I loved it.”

  • Lewis Pullman, 26

    NICK AGRO/AFP via Getty Images

    "I was on the tractor division," says Pullman of the required job he took at his small North Carolina liberal arts college. "I figured if acting didn't work out I could be on the road crew, working the back hoe." Pullman — the son of actor Bill Pullman and performer Tamara Hurwitz — grew up splitting his time between Los Angeles and Montana, and opted for a degree in social work, spending his summers doing short films. It was after school that the parents of a high school friend, Little Miss Sunshine filmmakers Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, asked him to audition for Amazon series Highston. Since then, he's booked roles in Hulu's Catch 22Bad Times at the El Royale and the upcoming Top Gun sequel, Maverick.

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    "River Phoenix in Stand by Me."

    I'D LOVE TO HAVE A CAREER LIKE

    “My all-time favorite actor is Sam Shepard.”

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    Bad Lands or Bottle Rocket.” 

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    Escape From Dannemora

    MY GO-TO KARAOKE SONG

    "'Dancing in the Dark' by Bruce Springsteen."

    CURRENT SONG I'M LISTENING TO ON REPEAT

    "'Sunday Morning Coming Down' by Kris Kristofferson, even though I feel guilty not listening to it just on Sundays."

  • Margaret Qualley, 25

    Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

    Somehow the daughter of actress Andie MacDowell managed to grow up out of the spotlight. Born in Montana and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, Qualley trained as a ballerina at the North Carolina School of the Arts before landing an apprenticeship at the American Ballet Theatre in New York. At 16, she quit dance, first for modeling and then for acting. After landing her first big role in Damon Lindelof's HBO drama The Leftovers and garnering raves for dancing in a viral perfume ad for director Spike Jonze, she truly broke through this year with roles in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and FX's Fosse/Verdon, the latter of which earned her an Emmy nomination.

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    "Brad Pitt, but don't tell him about this because we are friends now."

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Jack Nicholson

    I HOPE I DON'T GET TYPECAST AS

    "Crazy. Because that’s what I mostly get cast as. I don’t get it." 

    FIRST APP I USE IN THE MORNING

    Spotify

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    "Unbelievable! Kaitlyn Dever is a phenomenon. And also Forensic Files."

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    Pee-wee Herman

  • Anthony Ramos, 28

    Alexandra Gavillet

    "I almost wanted to give up because it was really difficult auditioning," says Ramos of his early years trying to break into acting. "No one was in a rush to give a barely 5-foot-9 Latino with freckles a lead role." But then the Brooklyn native saw Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2008 Broadway hit In the Heights. "It was the first show I saw where I was like, 'Oh, I don't only relate to these characters, I know them,' " he says. He's become a staple of the Miranda-verse, as part of the original cast of Hamilton on Broadway. Then, after a turn in A Star Is Born and the release of his debut album, The Good & the Bad, he nabbed the lead in Jon M. Chu's film adaptation of In the Heights, out June 2020.

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    "Spielberg is the GOAT. And I've always loved John Legend."

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    "I’m too old, but The Sandlot. If they remade Sandlot, can I be the coach?"

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR, I'D BE

    "I’d probably be a gym teacher to be honest, just so I can teach baseball. I miss it a lot actually."

    FIRST APP I USE IN THE MORNING

    "I’m addicted to Instagram. I need to get off of that thing. And then YouTube, and you go down a rabbit hole."

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    Rocky Balboa

    MY GO-TO KARAOKE SONG

    "'Don’t Stop Believin',' Journey. That’s like, a classic."

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    Barack Obama

    CRAZIEST WAY MY LIFE HAS CHANGED

    "Sometimes my manager will call restaurants and I know the place is packed, but they’ll give me a table. I’m like, 'Woah, that’s crazy!' Thank God I did a couple of movies because I can now eat at the restaurant I want to eat at."

  • Haley Lu Richardson, 24

    Alexandra Gavillet

    The Arizona native moved out to Los Angeles at age 16 to dance after convincing her parents with a poster board presentation. It didn't take long for her to make the leap to acting full time, quickly graduating from made-for-TV movies to more high-brow fare like The Edge of Seventeen, Split and Support the Girls. She was nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award in 2017 for her breakout performance in Columbus. Next, she'll reteam with director Kogonada for his new film After Yang starring Colin Farrell and front Unpregnant with Ferreira.

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR, I'D BE

    "An esthetician. I love popping zits."

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Sean Baker

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    "Flashdance! Someone make a Flashdance remake with me!"

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    Spongebob Squarepants

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    "I sobbed when I met Viola Davis." 

    CURRENT SONG I'M LISTENING TO ON REPEAT

    “'For Good' from Wicked. It’s magical."

  • Taylor Russell, 25

    Austin Hargrave

    "I thought I'd be a dancer, but I have really bad knees so that couldn't happen for me," says Russell, who quickly turned her attention to acting. She appeared in TNT's Falling Skies before a part in Netflix's Lost in Space. But it was 2019's horror Escape Room that got Russell noticed. "I've never screamed at the top of my lungs for a couple months straight," she says. Next up, Russell is poised for a breakout playing an introverted teenage girl in A24's coming-of-age drama Waves, hitting theaters Nov. 15. "There were a lot of commonalities between her and when I was a teenager, so it felt really personal to me to play her," explains the Canadian actress. "It was like a love letter to the 16-year-old in me who was so hard on herself, and didn't necessarily know her power."

    I HOPE I DON'T GET TYPECAST AS

    "A sassy black girl without full-fledged emotions."

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Amy Adams

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    "The Sound of Music, but I would be very scared."

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR, I'D BE

    "I’d definitely be a kindergarten teacher."

    FIRST APP I USE IN THE MORNING

    "The weather app."

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    "The Staircase on Netflix."

  • Hunter Schafer, 20

    Alexandra Gavillet

    The breakouts in HBO's Euphoria are almost too many to name individually, but Schafer deserves special kudos for the fact that she seemingly came out of nowhere. It's the model and actress' first acting gig — though landing a major role opposite Zendaya in the raw high school drama is hardly her first major accomplishment. While she was still in her early teens, the young activist rose to prominence when she and her father became two of the most outspoken protestors against North Carolina's HB2 — the ultimately repealed "bathroom bill" that sought to keep Schafer and her fellow transgender peers from using the public restrooms of their gender identity.

    I'D LOVE TO HAVE A CAREER LIKE 

    "Tilda Swinton or Anohni."

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Janet Mock

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    Suspiria

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR, I'D BE 

    "Pursuing fashion design." 

    FIRST APP I USE IN THE MORNING

    "The clock app to turn off all five-plus alarms I set."

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    Succession

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    "Raven in Teen Titans Go!"

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    "Justin Leblanc from Project Runway when I was 15."

  • Josh Whitehouse, 29

    Alexandra Gavillet

    The Brit "stumbled into acting" in his late teens after being discovered by a modeling agency while playing guitar at a gig in London, which later led to his being cast in his first movie, Northern Soul. After a turn in BBC period drama Poldark, Whitehouse scored a starring role in the Game of Thrones prequel — though HBO shockingly chose not to move forward with it after shooting the pilot. "To even have been cast in the role meant the absolute world to me," says Whitehouse. "I count myself as very, very fortunate and I am excited to be back in the grind." He's also awaiting the release of his next three films: the David Lynch-produced The Happy Worker, a Valley Girl remake and Netflix's The Knight Before Christmas. Whitehouse hopes to build a career as a character actor — but “If none of it works out, I’ll be a painter.”

    I'D LOVE TO HAVE A CAREER LIKE

    Daniel Day-Lewis

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Bill Murray

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    The Princess Bride, but I kind of hope that never gets remade.”

    LAST SHOW I BINGED

    Trailer Park Boys

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    “Jack Skellington. I always wanted to wear a pinstripe suit and dress like a skeleton, plus he sang songs and stuff. I love Tim Burton."

    MY GO-TO KARAOKE SONG

    "'You Can Call Me Al' by Paul Simon."

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    Leonardo DiCaprio

  • Liu Yifei, 32

    Alexandra Gavillet

    Liu was in the middle of a self-imposed four-month work hiatus when she got a call from her Chinese manager about auditioning for legendary warrior Hua Mulan. Twenty-four hours later, she was in Los Angeles doing push-ups and lunges with a physical fitness trainer, part of an hours-long tryout for the lead in the new Disney live-action film. Liu laughs, "It was three [tough] things together — jet lag, auditioning and then working out." Though Liu, who cites Roman Holiday and Gone With the Wind as favorite films, is a well-known star in her native China, and has been working there since she was 15, March's Mulan will mark her first major Hollywood production.

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    Darren Aronofsky

    FIRST APP I CHECK IN THE MORNING

    WeChat

    GO-TO KARAOKE SONG

    "Let It Go"

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    Natalie Portman

  • Jaboukie Young-White, 25

    Alexandra Gavillet

    The moment it "clicked" that Young-White had made it as a comedian was right before his first set on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in December 2017. "I had to readjust the narrative I was telling myself," he says. "I don't think I'm an underdog anymore. I might just be a dog now." From there, the Illinois native went on to write for Netflix comedy Big Mouth and land a gig as a correspondent on The Daily Show. “I went from grabbing coffee and people getting my name wrong to ‘Mr. Young-White, your trailer is ready’ in less than a year,” he quips. Tempering his perfectionism to keep up with the show’s grueling schedule has been a challenge, and so has coming up with clever commentary in the current climate. “When the raw materials you’re working with are already so absurd and so dark, how do you take that and build satire?” The Set It Up and Rough Night actor is also attached to a new Bo Burnham-scripted movie at Paramount.

    I HOPE I DON'T GET TYPECAST AS

    "A really hot and smart and amazingly talented person. I hate it when people typecast me as that. Really: as the sassy best friend."

    PERSON I'M DYING TO WORK WITH

    “Either Donald Glover or John Waters.”

    I'D LOVE TO STAR IN A REMAKE OF

    “A really dark live-action remake of Coraline as Wybie."

    IF I WEREN'T AN ACTOR, I'D BE

    “A middle school social studies teacher.”

    FIRST APP I USE IN THE MORNING

    “Twitter, obviously. 100 percent.”

    ONSCREEN CHARACTER I MOST IDENTIFIED WITH AS A KID

    "Honestly, I didn’t see myself represented in TV when I was growing up and that’s why representation in Hollywood is so important."

    PERSON I'VE BEEN MOST STARSTRUCK BY

    “Triple-H. I haven’t watched wrestling since I was like 14. I saw him backstage at South by Southwest and I started shaking. He hit a primal part of my brain and I was really starstruck."

    CRAZIEST WAY MY LIFE HAS CHANGED

    “I got to take my family to Jamaica for the first time in years. I hadn’t been since I was 5.”

    I'D LOVE TO HAVE A CAREER LIKE

    Tina Fey

    A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.