One of the most thrilling things about being a watcher of film and TV is the sheer amount of new talent that you get to see shine. Even just watching a few movies a year, you’re bound to stumble across a bright new actor or actress who, you can tell from the minute they step on screen, is going to be around for a long time, and that thrill of discovery is one of the best things that you can take away from a movie.
Every year, we like to compile some of the names that we, and industry figures, are most excited about into what we call our On The Rise series. In the last few years, we’ve spotlighted people like Kiersey Clemons, Bel Powley, Gina Rodriguez, Corey Hawkins, Keith Stanfield, Jack O’Connell, Taron Egerton, André Holland, Daisy Ridley, Katherine Waterston and Tessa Thompson, who’ve all gone on to bigger things since.
Who made this year’s class? Below, you’ll find the 20 actors and actresses we’re most excited about right now. Take a look and let us know who has caught your eye in the comments section.
By the end of the fall, it’s going to feel like Haley Bennett is an overnight success, with at least three major movies lined up. But that’s actually far from the case — the Florida-born actress actually made her debut nine years ago, aged 19, as a famous pop star in the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore rom-com “Music & Lyrics,” and has been steadily working ever since, but looks likely to finally explode this year. The title role in “The Haunting Of Molly Hartley,” the female lead in Joe Dante’s “The Hole,” and Gregg Araki’s “Kaboom” (she’s particularly good in the latter) all followed, but she’s having a bit of a Chastain year at present. First came POV actioner “Hardcore Henry,” then Tribeca-premiered noir “A Kind Of Murder,” while the fall will see her reunite with “Equalizer” director Antoine Fuqua for ‘The Magnificent Seven,” play the object of Emily Blunt’s obsession in “The Girl On The Train,” and appear in Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply,” and as Miles Teller’s wife in potential Oscar sleeper “Thank You For Your Service” (with Terrence Malick’s “Weightless” coming up too). Remember the name…
It’s almost surprising that we don’t see more dancers become movie stars — not just the obvious names like Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly, but people like Jamie Bell, Channing Tatum, Penélope Cruz, Mia Wasikowska and Zoe Saldana all started out as hoofers before breaking into stardom. Algerian-born actress Sofia Boutella stuck at it for longer than most, though: She was a rhythmic gymnast for the French national team, then spent a decade in music videos and stage tours for the likes of Madonna and Chris Brown, before breaking into movies with UK “Step Up” copycat “StreetDance 2” in 2012. But she really turned heads as fearsome, legged villainess Gazelle in “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” an essentially silent performance that put her in the annals of screen henchman alongside Oddjob and Jaws. But she really proved her mettle as alien warrior Jaylah in “Star Trek Beyond.” Boutella was an unexpected highlight, with an iconic screen presence and a subtle vulnerability. It’s just the start, too. She’ll next appear with Charlize Theron and James McAvoy in spy thriller “The Coldest City,” and will then play the title role in blockbuster “The Mummy” opposite Tom Cruise.
Millie Bobby Brown
As Eleven, the mysteriously named, supernaturally inclined enigma at the heart of Netflix smash “Stranger Things,” Millie Bobby Brown captured a lot of hearts straight out of the gate. In her very first acting role, she’s also got probably the hardest job — she has to play a blank slate, yet one we root for. It’s a performance marked by clever flourishes (there’s a fascinating subtext about Eleven/El/”Elle” discovering her gender identity) but also a kind of quiet, intensely empathetic soulfulness that makes some of her scenes, especially those with evil father figure Matthew Modine, very moving. She has nothing else in the cards right now, but that will absolutely change as more people discover that this 12-year-old may be nearly as spookily talented as her onscreen alter ego. Meanwhile her co-star, Natalia Dyer (who plays Nancy) is almost a vet, having been in the “The Hannah Montana Movie” at 12, but resurfacing properly in Leah Meyerhoff’s 2014 indie “I Believe In Unicorns.” Despite the twee title, the film is a striking, authentic and beautiful tale of coming-of-age and young love, and Dyer shone. Then again, this is a show so popular, it’s destined to launch many stars (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin are all wonderful, too), relaunch some (Modine, Winona Ryder) and deservedly boost the profiles of others (David Harbour).
Sterling K. Brown
For all of their flaws, you can’t deny that Ryan Murphy’s stable of shows are great for actors. Whether they’re providing steady showcases for brilliant older actresses like Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates, raising the profile of long-serving character actors like Sarah Paulson or Denis O’Hare, or breaking new talent like Finn Wittrock or Taissa Farmiga, “American Horror Story” had all kinds of benefits. And its spin-off this year “American Crime Story” and its O.J. Simpson storyline continued to bring brilliant work out of its actors, but no one was as revelatory as Sterling K. Brown. He’s a veteran character actor (with long-running appearances on “Army Wives,” “Supernatural” and “Person Of Interest”), but virtually walked away with “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson,” proving more than a match for Sarah Paulson as prosecutor Christopher Darden, showing a principled, decent man whose mistakes would come to haunt him. It rightfully earned him an Emmy nomination, and he’ll soon headline NBC show “This Is Us,” and has movie gigs in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” and with Chadwick Boseman in “Marshall” coming up.
You know when you learn someone’s name, and then suddenly you’re seeing it everywhere? That’s what it’s been like with Callie Hernandez recently. The Mexican-born, Austin-raised actress was seemingly discovered by Robert Rodriguez — first appearing in 2013’s “Machete Kills,” she then went on to appear in Rodriguez’s “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” and “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For,” before booking a regular role in ABC drama “Members Only.” Despite being picked up to series, the show never aired, but Hernandez likely won’t be complaining: In the months to come, she’ll play one of the lead roles in surprise horror reboot “Blair Witch,” before joining Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in Damien Chazelle’s musical “La La Land,” as well as being a regular in the Nick Nolte-starring comedy series “Graves.” And bigger things still await in 2017: Terrence Malick’s “Weightless,” and as one of the crew in Ridley Scott’s eagerly awaited “Alien: Covenant.”