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After splashy roles in Atlanta and the hotly anticipated Deadpool spinoff, Zazie Beetz agonized over her next move.
With her star quickly rising, she wasn’t lacking for offers, with at least a few larger projects coming her way. But she and her agent, Gersh’s Lindsay Porter, both focused on the long game, weren’t sure another tentpole was the best next step. “We were like, ‘Is that really the right move in terms of balancing it out?'” says Beetz, who decided diversifying was more important. “It’s about a mix of doing franchise films that go global and then doing something weird, showing you have versatility.”
Indeed, multiple talent reps guiding the next A-list agree that the road to stardom for emerging talent today does, in large part, hinge on a varied résumé. “It takes showing different sides of who people are — that you can carry a big movie and also find heart in a little one,” says Porter. In addition to Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone, Margot Robbie, 27, is frequently cited as the model for how to do it right. After breaking out in an auteur-driven studio movie (The Wolf of Wall Street), she followed up with, among other films, a big-budget comic book franchise (Suicide Squad) and a buzzy indie darling (I, Tonya). Not every project is a critical or commercial hit, but together her credits prove she has range.
For others, securing a slot on the industry’s shortlist requires getting noticed, an increasingly difficult feat in today’s fractured landscape. “The key,” says one agent, “is to be a part of something that is the size and scale of a Twilight or Hunger Games that has a pre-existing awareness that transitions you into superstardom.” The next moves can make or break an actor, which is when it becomes crucial to “mix it up,” as Kristen Stewart did post-Twilight with a series of festival standouts (Clouds of Sils Maria, Personal Shopper) and Brie Larson did by following up Room with Captain Marvel. It’s why, according to one agent, Daisy Ridley hasn’t quite catapulted to Lawrence’s megastar status but easily could depending on her post-Star Wars moves.
Charting a strategic course also means saying “no” to potentially lucrative roles to avoid cluttering a star’s résumé with subpar credits. “Some people freak out and are like, ‘I have to do everything right now when I’m hot,’ ” says 13 Reasons Why breakout Katherine Langford, 21, who next stars in Greg Berlanti’s drama Love, Simon. “I said to my agents that I just want to do good quality roles, and I’m happy to wait for them.” Another Netflix breakout, Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown, 13, is being similarly selective about future projects. “I read different scripts every day and [my team and I] decide on what we want to do together,” she says. “It can be a comedy, a romance — it doesn’t matter what it is if I feel emotionally connected to the role.” Since meaty parts for 13-year-old girls tend to be sparse, it might mean unearthing new material by optioning a book or article.
Another tip from insiders shepherding stars like Taron Egerton and Zendaya: Network TV isn’t the venue for discovering talent it once was. With rare exceptions (see Sterling K. Brown), the days of rising to fame on a broadcast vehicle a la Friends‘ Jennifer Aniston are over. Reps are skipping network roles for premium cable and streaming parts, where material is meatier and schedules more accommodating (Alison Brie, for example, filmed Steven Spielberg’s The Post during her G.L.O.W. hiatus.) Jokes one rep, “No one wants their epitaph to read, ‘Here lies the actor from the Fox show that ran 11 years.'”
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.
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