Seventh Row’s editors pick the fifty most exciting emerging actors working today, from Paapa Essiedu to Josefine Frida.
At Seventh Row, we pride ourselves on seeking out the best hidden gems that nobody’s talking about to ensure that our readers never miss a great film again.
One of our greatest pleasures at Seventh Row is predicting who the stars of tomorrow will be before anyone else. We take pride in being Florence Pugh fans from her very first screen role in The Falling (2014), before she gained attention with Lady Macbeth (2016) and shot into the stratosphere with Midsommar (2019) and Little Women (2019). We’ll happily brag about knowing that Timothée Chalamet was going to be big when we saw him in Miss Stevens (2016), several months before Call Me by Your Name (2017) premiered and he became an Oscar-nominated teen heartthrob.
With this list of fifty emerging stars, we’re staking a claim on who will (or deserves to) blow up as a screen star in the next decade. We limited our picks to actors whose first screen credit was within the past fifteen years, to separate up-and-comers from underrated character actors (that’s a whole other list that we’d love to make). These are all people whose careers we are excitedly watching bloom, who haven’t quite had their star-making turn yet, but surely have it on the horizon. If they’re in a film, we’re interested.
If all goes right in the world, check back on this list in ten years, and these little-known names will have transformed into a group of arthouse favourites, awards darlings, and bonafide stars.
We first took note of Noée Abita when she was still a teenager with her first leading role in Léa Mysius’s Ava (2017). She’s since impressed us as the co-lead in Genèse (2018) despite the underwritten part. But it’s her leading role in the recent Slalom (2020) that is her real tour de force, where the writing gives her a character to really sink into as Lyz, a high level slalom skier who is sexually assaulted by her coach.
Jared Abrahamson first came to our attention with his sensitive leading turn in the hockey drama Hello Destroyer (2016), which made anything he appeared in a must see. Since then, he’s impressed us with supporting turns as the most mature member of the group in American Animals (2018), a macho oil worker in Never Steady, Never Still (2017), and a single father in Like a House on Fire (2020). We’re still waiting for him to get a showcase role to help him break out from treasured Canadian character actor to star.
Naomi Ackie first made an impression as the maid in British period drama Lady Macbeth (2016), although her character was frustratingly sidelined. It wasn’t until her supporting turn in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe: Education (2020) that we truly woke up to her talent. In just a few minutes of screentime, she oozes charisma. We wrote about that performance in our best supporting performances of 2020 list. Ackie’s next role is likely to be her breakout: she’s playing Whitney Houston in the biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody, which will probably be released in 2022.
Niamh Algar first came to our attention as the only character with a pulse in Mother/Father/Son (2019) aside from Helen McRory. Algar played Billy Howle’s love interest and stole every scene right out from him. She further impressed with her now BAFTA-nominated performance in Calm with Horses (2019), as well as a series of other supporting turns including in The Last Right (2019) and The Virtues (2019). Most recently, she starred in the disappointing Sundance horror film, Censor (2021), single-handedly making it watchable as a traumatized film censor.
Oulaya Amamra burst onto screens with her fiery performance in Divines (2016), which is available on Netflix. That film came out five years ago, and yet we’re still thinking about Amamra, waiting for her to get another worthy showcase role. The French actress has worked on a smattering of projects since, including the recent Philippe Garrel film The Salt of Tears (2020).
When we first saw the Donmar Warehouse’s Henry IV (2018) film, we were instantly impressed with Jade Anouka’s scene-stealing Hotspur — no easy feat when you’re acting opposite the great Harriet Walter. Anouka’s facility with the Bard’s language was especially impressive as she brought a modern sensibility to the part. Since then, she has appeared in Fisherman’s Friends (2019), Small Axe (Education), and the TV show The Drowning (2021). Her big break has yet to come but I’m excited for more people to discover her.
Sadaf Asgari, who first acted in the 2017 film Disappearance, has popped up in a number of recent Iranian films, including the Sundance award winner Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness (2020) and the TIFF 2020 premiere 180-Degree Rule. We first spotted her in the short film Exam (2019), a tense mini thriller in which she plays a teenager tasked with delivering a packet of cocaine on the day of an important high school exam. So much of the film’s tension is in her face, as she attempts to look innocent for her teachers while inside she’s absolutely terrified of being found out. A formidable leading lady, she’ll surely be a fixture of Iranian cinema for years to come.
If all were right in the world, Mamoudou Athie would have been the leading actor in half a dozen rom-coms already. We first saw him in Patti Cake$ (2017), but he truly shone as the kind love interest in Unicorn Store (2017). Athie’s charm is infectious. He recently has a lead role in the little seen Netflix drama Uncorked (2020), and he’s about to lead a TV show called Archive 81, so we have hope that Athie will break out in a big way sooner rather than later (although we won’t be satisfied until we get more rom coms!).
Bartosz Bielenia first impressed as the lead of Polish Oscar-nominated film Corpus Christi (2019), in which he played a teenager just out of juvenile detention who decides to pose as a priest. Since then, he appeared as a hostage-taking gunman in the mediocre Sundance film Prime Time (2021), creating an unsettling and always compelling performance. He’s just completed his next project, Applause, which we hope to see on the festival circuit soon.
When we held a Lockdown Film School masterclass with Toronto filmmakers Kazik Radwanski and Sofia Bohdanowicz, both of them waxed lyrical about working with actress and filmmaker Deragh Campbell. Campbell is a hot commodity in the Canadian film industry, and it’s easy to see why. In Radwanski’s recent Anne at 13,000 ft (2019), she plays a live wire of a character, creating a painfully real and detailed portrait of a woman suffering from manic episodes. In Bohdanowicz’s MS Slavic 7 (2019, which Campbell co-directed), she’s a lot more subdued as a woman studying her great-grandmother’s letters. When she monologues about the letters, she takes her time, allowing the viewer to watch her think and process in real time. Both Bohdanowicz and Radwanski have suggested they might be working with Campbell again in the near future, so expect more exciting collaborations to come.
Mariana Di Girólamo
Chilean actress Mariana Di Girólamo was a (literally) fiery presence as the eponymous Ema (2019) in Pablo Larraín’s film. She’s a captivatingly intense screen presence whose physicality is incredibly expressive, both in dance scenes and non-dance scenes. We named that performance one of the best of 2020.
Harris Dickinson first floored us as the quietly sensitive gay teenager in Beach Rats (2017), a performance of great depth told so much through closeups that revealed his character’s insecurities. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of genres and styles: he played a naive rent boy Adonis in Postcards from London (2018), the privileged hippy J. Paul Getty III in Trust (2018), and is set to appear in Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir: Part II (2021) later this year. We were especially impressed by his two-scene turn in Matthias & Maxime (2019) as a hilarious dabbing bro proving Dickinson has a wealth of untapped comic potential. He’s just wrapped shooting on Ruben Östlund’s new film, Triangle of Sadness, which should hopefully give him a chance to shine comedically.
Dunne had her theatre breakout starring opposite Harriet Walter and Jade Anouka in Phyllida Lloyd’s Henry IV (2018) at the Donmar as Prince Hal, in a charismatic and mercurial turn. She also appeared as Portia in Julius Caesar (2019), playing the wife of Harriet Walter’s Brutus. Not waiting for opportunities to come to her, she penned the screenplay of Herself (2020), in which she starred opposite Walter, and reunited with director Phyllida Lloyd. In Herself, she played a woman recovering from spousal abuse and learning to be a single mother amidst serious ongoing trauma.
When we saw the recording of Paapa Essiedu’s Hamlet (2016) at the RSC, we immediately knew he was a star. Even in a piece of filmed theatre, his incredible charisma was palpable, and he created a Hamlet you could invest in emotionally in an otherwise uneven (and often boring) production. (We went deep on his work in Hamlet on the 21st Folio podcast). Since then, he’s played Edmund in King Lear (2016) at the RSC in a much talked-about turn, and appeared as a supporting character in Kiri (2018) and The Miniaturist (2017). We were particularly taken with his turn in Press as a journalist who trades his integrity for job security. But it’s his turn in the BAFTA-nominated sensation I May Destroy You (2020) that really put him on the international map. Physically unrecognizable in his movements here, his Kwame is the gay bestie of the show’s protagonist, who like her, is sexually assaulted and has to deal with the aftermath.
As the smart and headstrong Noora in the Norwegian teen series Skam (2015-2017), Josefine Frida made a memorable screen debut. Since then, she was equally impressive in the film Disco (2019), as an evangelical champion dancer grappling with the strictures of her religious community. Those two very different roles already demonstrate the twenty-four-year-old actress’s range, and promise even greater things to come.
Lily Gladstone won plenty of critics group prizes for her heartbreaking supporting turn in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women (2016), although it’s taken several years for her to get the kinds of high profile roles she deserves. Since then, Gladstone has been quietly excellent in small roles in films like Freeland (2020), the short film Little Chief (2020), and Reichardt’s First Cow (2019). Things are about to change, as she’s landed a major role in the new Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moon, which could position her for 2021 awards contention.
Canadian writer-director-actress Grace Glowicki first came on our radar in the Canadian drama Cardinals (2017), as one of a pair of sisters coping with their mother’s return home from prison. Playing opposite Canadian legend Sheila McCarthy, Glowicki held her own. Since then, she starred in Raf and has had supporting roles as the best friend in Paper Year and the dream-world MPDG in Strawberry Mansion (2021), proving she can do surreal, too. But her real tour de force is as Tito in her directorial debut, Tito (2019), a hunched, slumped man with social anxiety — you would never know this is the same person who appeared in all of these other films.
The day after Adam (Forrest Goodluck) in The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) discovers his roommate covered in blood from a self-inflicted injury, the extent of Adam’s deep trauma can be seen on his face, in the quiet but stunned way he behaves. Goodluck’s scene-stealing turn here cemented him as an actor to watch, and he’s since been the best part of Indian Horse (2017), a compelling centre for Blood Quantum (2019), and a laid back college kid in I Used to Go Here (2020). All of these have been supporting roles, but it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out as a leading actor.
After blowing us away as the lead in Rosie (2018), an film about a Dublin mother struggling to find temporary housing for her family, Sarah Greene was a highlight supporting character in last year’s TV miniseries Normal People (2020). Without much screen time, she exuded so much warmth and emotional intelligence as the mother of Paul Mescal’s Connell. Just a few weeks ago, her latest project premiered: the Amazon original TV comedy Frank of Ireland, in which she stars alongside Domnhall Gleeson.
Korean actress Yeri Han was the unsung MVP of Minari (2020), Lee Isaac Chung’s awards darling indie which earned Yuh-jung Youn an Oscar and Steven Yeun an Oscar nomination. By our count, Han deserved to be on that stage just as much, if not more, than they did. As Monica, the long suffering wife of Yeun’s Jacob, Han quietly conveys the worry and anger that Monica often holds herself back from verbalising. Han mostly works in Korea, so we’ll be keeping our eye on any work she does from now on, whether over there or in the States.
Eilie Harboe burst onto the international film scene with her starring turn in Joachim Trier’s Thelma (2017), as the titular small town girl who moves to Oslo, falls in love with another woman, and goes into a tailspin due to her extremely Christian upbringing. As Thelma, Harboe tracks her character’s arc from insecure to secure, undergoing new and exciting experiences, while still being tethered too tightly to her parents. Since Thelma also has supernatural powers, which start to surface through seizures, Harboe had to convincingly perform these seizures, and did so seamlessly. She’s continued to work in Norway since, but has yet to appear in anything that’s made it onto the international scene.
Kelowna-born actress Taylor Hickson is so good in Giant Little Ones (2018) as Franky’s (Josh Wiggins) love interest, Natasha, that it’s easy to think she co-stars in the film rather than just appearing in a handful of weighty scenes. Natasha is an outcast at school recovering from sexual assault, and the sister to Franky’s former best friend, but forms a connection with Franky once he faces bullying, too. When recounting what happened to her in the past, Hickson looks like she’s recalling it in the moment. She plays Natasha as sometimes overconfident and flirtatious and other times deeply vulnerable and insecure. But impressively, she’s not a victim, and she’s in control of her sexuality. With just a few scenes, she feels like a fully realised character, as complex as Franky. Since then, she’s starred on the TV series Deadly Class and Motherland, but has yet to return to the big screen.
Sharon Ishpatao Fontaine
Few breakout performances are as dynamic and captivating as Innu actress Sharon Ishpatao Fontaine’s in Kuessipan (2019). It was her first, and so far, only screen role, and yet the young Innu star was as charismatic on screen as any lead performance last year. Her character, Mikuan, is funny, confident, flawed, and intelligent while still being a believably frustrating teenager. Here’s hoping the film industry in Quebec and elsewhere catches on to Ishpatao Fontaine’s star power soon.
We first took notice of Kanien’kehá:ka actress Devery Jacobs as the whip smart, no-nonsense badass Aila in Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013). Made when she was just nineteen, the film instantly launched Jacobs as a can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her star of the screen with immense talent. She’s since appeared on a number of Canadian and American TV shows, including Mohawk Girls (2014-2015), Cardinal (2019), The Order (2019-2020), and American Gods (2019-2021). When she reunited with Barnaby in Blood Quantum (2019), she still jumped off the screen with just a few scenes. Despite leading roles in indie films The Sun at Midnight (2016) and the just-premiered We Burn Like This (2021), we’re still waiting for Jacobs to make waves internationally. She’ll be co-starring in Taika Waititi’s Indigenous TV series Reservation Dogs (2021), and that’s sure to put her on the map.
Since her first role on the 2016 TV series Undercover as the daughter of Adrian Lester’s character, Tamara Lawrance has been stealing scenes in everything she appears in. She was a dynamic Viola in the National Theatre’s Twelfth Night. She stole every scene with Prince Harry as his regular Londoner lover in King Charles III. And she jumped off the screen as Billy Howle’s girlfriend in On Chesil Beach (2017). With her first starring turn in The Long Song (2018), as an enslaved woman who falls in love with a white man (Jack Lowden), Lawrence cemented herself as one of the most talented actresses working today. She would then reteam with Lowden as the lead of Kindred (2020), here playing a pregnant woman trapped in a house by her white relatives, finding depth in an underwritten role. It’s a tribute to her (and Lowden, also on our list) that the film is so compelling. She also had a memorable supporting turn in Education (2020), the final installment of the Small Axe (2020) series. She’s set to star opposite Letitia Wright in the next films from Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska (The Lure).
After training in acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), Lee began his career working for a number of prestigious theatre companies, including the National Theatre of Scotland, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Court, and the Abbey Theatre (National Theatre of Ireland). He has since expanded his work to TV and film, recently with a key role in the wonderful miniseries Chimerica (Lucy Kirkwood, 2019), but King-Lu in First Cow (2019), his first major leading role on film. As the soft-spoken but always thinking and speaking King-Lu, an entrepreneurial man with a knack for petty crime, Lee is always compelling. He gives long monologues like they’re full of stream-of-consciousness ideas that he’s coming up with on the spot.
Although Imani Lewis has yet to play a leading role in a feature film, you’ve likely seen her crop up here and there a lot over the past few years. With supporting roles in The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020), Farewell Amor (2020), Eighth Grade (2018), and Premature (2019), emerging filmmakers are taking notice of Lewis’s talents. She’s got a starring role in the new TV show First Kill, so here’s hoping it’s a hit.
Czech actor Juraj Loj has only had a handful of film and TV roles so far in his career, but his turn in Agnieszka Holland’s amazing Charlatan (2020) was enough to earn him a place on this list. As the loyal but conflicted lover of faith healer Jan Mikolásek, Loj gives a performance that’s equal parts charming and moving. He stands his ground against his scene partner, the more seasoned actor Ivan Trojan.
We’ve been banging the drum for emerging Scottish actor Jack Lowden ever since his supporting turn in the 2016 miniseries War and Peace (which also launched Jessie Buckley’s screen career) as Nikolai Rostov, a character Lowden makes much more compelling than he has any business being. Lowden has been stealing scenes in supporting roles in everything from Denial (2016) — in which I’m certain he acted his way into a bigger role than was intended — to being the very best thing in the otherwise missable Mary Queen of Scots (2018), as Mary’s drunken, problematic, and manipulative queer husband. Ever since his turn in Dunkirk (2017), he’s been getting bigger parts and more complex roles, and has been tending to take parts as impotent men. His best work to date is as the cowardly white administrator who falls for an enslaved woman in The Long Song (2018), though he’s also the heart of the 2019 Florence Pugh vehicle Fighting with My Family (if you cry, it’s because of him). He recently completed shooting as the lead of Terence Davies’s Benediction (2021), which should bring him more attention.
While Danielle Macdonald was charismatic and likeable in Patti Cake$ (2017) and Dumplin’ (2018), it wasn’t until her supporting turn in the Netflix miniseries Unbelievable (2019) that we realised just how talented she is. As a rape victim who stays calm under pressure, Macdonald delivers a restrained and complex performance, conveying her character’s composure while still cluing us into the trauma behind her calm surface. She has impressive range, and she’ll be displaying it in a number of upcoming projects, including Bo Burnham’s second feature as a director.
The year 2017 was particularly stellar for Scottish actor James McArdle. On stage, he starred as Jewish-American Louis Ironson at the National Theatre in Angels in America (2017), earning him an Olivier nomination. On TV screens, he stole scenes and hearts as Thomas in Man in an Orange Shirt (2017), a man who launched intergenerational trauma for Thomas’s lover, Michael (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and his family when Michael made the mistake of leaving Thomas. Taking a break from screen work, he starred as Platonov in the National Theatre’s Young Chekhov plays (opposite Olivia Vinall) and then as Peer Gynt in Peer Gynt. Last year, he appeared as the excellent Mr. Murchison in Ammonite (2020), one of the best supporting performances of the year. And now, he can be seen weekly on Mare of Easttown (2021) once again opposite Kate Winslet. (Fun fact: McArdle and Lowden got their start together in the West End play Chariots of Fire, and both appeared in ‘71 (2014), in which Denise Gough tries to save Lowden’s life.)
Tallie Medel made our list of the best lead performances of 2020 for her incredibly understated turn in Dan Sallitt’s Fourteen (2019). Medel has become quietly acclaimed as a New York character actress, making her film debut in Sallitt’s previous film, The Unspeakable Act, in 2012. She’s an actress who is so restrained and unshowy that it’s easy to see why she hasn’t garnered more mainstream attention thus far. Her performances do not demand attention — they’re small, introspective, and they draw you in slowly but surely.
With only one screen performance to her name to date, Samantha Mugatsia still earns a place on this list because she impressed us so much in the controversial Kenyan lesbian love story Rafiki (2018). Her performance made our list of the 50 best performances of the decade. It’s a performance that announces a movie star: she’s charismatic, romantic, and multi-layered. We’re still impatiently waiting for her to star in another film.
Young Kwakwaka’wakw actress Violet Nelson had a showcase breakout role in The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019), starring opposite Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers in a two-hander shot in a single take. She impressed as a withdrawn and defensive pregnant teen reluctant to accept help as a domestic abuse victim. But it was her supporting turn in this year’s Berlinale title Night Raiders, an Indigenous sci-fi film also starring Tailfeathers, that made us really sit up and take notice of Nelson. She plays a member of an Indigenous resistance group who proves herself to be a badass leader, capable of taking charge. It’s such a contrast to her role in The Body Remembers, showcasing Nelson’s range and how rapidly she’s growing as an actor.
Don’t let Joel Oulette’s distractingly handsome features and physique fool you, this actor is going places because of his craft. With very little screen work behind him, though a lot more time spent in training as a hobby, Oulette carries the TV series Trickster (2020) on his shoulders, as Jared, an Indigenous teen who carries the world on his shoulders. Jared is wise beyond his years, often forced to parent his own parents who are either too high or injured to hold down a job, pay the bills, and offer him stability. But he’s also just a kid, falling in love for the first time, hanging out with his friends, and trying to figure out who he is — all while dealing with some more mysteries about his origins. Oulette perfectly navigates Jared’s insecurities and his maturity, his worldliness and his cluelessness, creating a character who feels like an everyman because he’s so specific. Last year, Oulette also appeared in Monkey Beach (2020), this time as a cool competitive swimmer, the polar opposite of Jared’s outsider. At just 18, Oulette is a rare find.
With “the charisma of a leading man and the energy of a scene-stealing character actor” (as Justine Smith wrote in her profile of the actor), twenty-three-year-old Québécois star Théodore Pellerin has already impressed us time and time again. From his astounding turns in Canadian films Genèse (2018) and Chien de Garde (2018) to his standout supporting role in Eliza Hittman’s New York-set Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020), Pellerin almost always elevates the projects he’s in.
After Charlie Plummer blew us all away in Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete (2017), the young actor has stuck mostly to the YA genre, and he’s been elevating it time and time again. Just last year, he took what could have been an annoying teen boy love interest in Spontaneous (2020) and made him feel refreshingly real, genuine, and loveable. He also grounded the YA schizophrenia dramedy Words on Bathroom Walls (2020), making it feel a little less insensitive than it might have otherwise (although even he couldn’t save some of that dialogue). Hopefully, he’ll get a chance to spread his wings outside of the genre pretty soon, in another Lean on Pete level role.
Another actor who impressed us in Words on Bathroom Walls (2020) was Canadian Taylor Russell, who injected a lot of life into a potentially Manic Pixie Dream Girl-type role. She was compelling in Waves (2019), but Words on Bathroom Walls proved her range. In the former, she’s shy, withdrawn, and whispers a lot; in the latter, she’s a ballsy, intelligent, outspoken young woman who tries her hardest to conceal her vulnerability. She’s about to star in Luca Guadagnino’s next film, Bones & All, alongside Timothée Chalamet, so expect to hear her name a lot more from that point on.
In the first episode of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series, Mangrove (2020), Rochenda Sandall gave one of the best performances of the year. Her work as the tough-as-nails Barbara Beese, who balances her activism with motherhood, leaves a mighty impression. Sandall has made her name as a character actress in several British TV shows, from Line of Duty (2012-) to the recent Criminal: UK (2019-), and stole scenes in the Donmar’s Coriolanus (2014) starring Tom Hiddleston (now on National Theatre at Home).
Having graduated from Guildhall Drama School just four years ago, British actor Shubham Saraf has already played Ophelia in Hamlet (2018) at the Globe Theatre, Benvolio in The National Theatre’s Romeo & Juliet (2021) film, and had supporting roles on The Bodyguard (2018), Criminal: UK (2019-), and A Suitable Boy (2020). He can speak the speech, but he’s just as compelling eating a bag of chips while listening to an interrogation in Criminal: UK. Hopefully, some meaty leading roles will be in his future.
Albrecht Schuch first caught our attention as the compassionate Anti-Gewalt Trainer in System Crasher (2020), who mistakenly crossed professional boundaries to help a hurting, troubled young girl. At the Berlinale this year, he was named one of the festival’s European Shooting Stars, an honour that’s previously been bestowed on actors such as Domnhall Gleeson, Riz Ahmed, Luca Marinelli, and George MacKay. At the festival, he impressed as the rich, depressed, left-leaning PhD student and best friend of Fabian in Fabian – Going to the Dogs (2021) — a supporting turn that holds the weight of a leading role. You can now see him in virtual cinemas in Berlin Alexanderplatz (2020).
Irish actress Ann Skelly first caught our attention in Kissing Candice in 2017, but by the next time we saw her, in this year’s Rose Plays Julie, she had flourished into an even more accomplished actress. Her character, Rose, is somewhat of an enigma, but Skelly reveals so much through slight flickers of her almost-always-blank expression. She’s captivating.
We became fans of Devon Terrell from his debut role in Barry (2016), an absolute showcase for the young star that unfortunately hasn’t resulted in much for Terrell since. In Barry, he plays a young Barack Obama, impressively channeling the energy of the college-aged president while never slipping into imitation or deifying the man. It was a promise for incredibly exciting things to come, and we’re still itching to see that promise fulfilled.
Norwegian actress Kristine Thorp, who is also a novelist and a production designer, made a huge impact on us at this year’s Berlinale in Ninjababy (2021). She plays graphic novelist and slacker Rakel, who accidentally falls pregnant and finds out too late to have an abortion. Thorp is absolutely hilarious in the role, and she makes Rakel feel like a full person, effortlessly making up for the places where the script falls short of giving her a proper backstory. It’s a star-making performance.
Karelle Tremblay stunned us in her first leading role at just eighteen in Anne Émond’s Our Loved Ones (2015), a coming-of-age story about cycles of grief. Her intelligent, emotional performance immediately put her on our radar, and her next leading role, in The Fireflies are Gone (2018), was just as impactful. Since then, she’s taken supporting roles opposite industry heavyweights, playing the drug addict daughter of Gabriel Byrne in Death of a Ladies’ Man (2020) and the caretaker of Remy Girard’s retired professor with dementia in Tu te souviendras de moi (2020). She’s one of Canada’s most talented young actors.
Olivia Vinall’s theatrical breakout role was as Desdemona opposite Adrian Lester’s Othello and Rory Kinnear’s Iago at the National Theatre (2013). She took a character who could be a victim and made her a thoroughly modern woman, intelligent and forthright, and I’ve been following her work ever since. In less than a decade on stage, she’s played Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, Rosalind in As You Like It, and Cordelia in King Lear (2014) at the National Theatre, as well as starring in all three of the National Theatre’s Young Chekhov plays. By comparison, she’s just getting started on screen, but has already wowed playing two very different characters in The Woman in White (2018) and as the woman manipulating everything behind the scenes in Roadkill (2020).
Geraldine Viswanathan made her name in comedy, namely in the uproarious Blockers (2018), in which she plays the loudest, horniest, most outgoing girl in a trio of best friends. We were blown away, then, to see her play a very different role in the drama Hala (2019), about a shy Muslim teen finding her voice. The young Australian star thrives in both comedy and drama, and even rom-coms like The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020), in which she ensures the quirky lead character is loveable rather than tipping over into being annoying.
In 2020, North American audiences could see Benjamin Voisin as a quiet, queer teenager coming out and falling in love in the 1980s in Proud (2018), as a self-confident gay hearththrob in Summer of ‘85 (2020), and as a teenager’s vision of his dead older brother who oozes toxic masculinity in Man Up! (2019). We didn’t even put together that these were all the same person until after the fact, albeit Proud was made in 2018 and only released abroad last year.
Lydia West first appeared on British TV screens in Russell T. Davies’s Years and Years, but she really made a mark in Davies’s It’s a Sin (2021). The show, which premiered earlier this year and focuses on the AIDS crisis in London, features a strong cast of young actors, but West emerged as the standout.
In 2015, Odessa Young appeared in two very different roles in two TIFF films: as a rebellious, runaway teenager in the dramedy Looking for Grace (2015), and the more introspective titular character in The Daughter (2015) who is at the centre of family discord. She’s since appeared in Assassination Nation (2018) and A Million Little Pieces (2018), but it wasn’t until Shirley (2020) that she started to gain broader attention. Starring opposite Elisabeth Moss as novelist Shirley Jackson, Young’s Rose is the real protagonist of the film, sensual, smart, and watchful, and slowly seduced by Shirley. She quietly runs away with the film.
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