Best New Actress

On The Rise 2015: 20 Actresses To Watch

Wed Aug 12 13:17:45 EDT 2015


It’s that time of year again. When the blockbusters start to lull, and the fall festival season hasn’t quite begun. When the movies on release tend to be slim pickings. And that’s when we like to look to the future, and the talents who’ll be shaping it, with our On The Rise season of actors, actresses, writers, directors, cinematographers and composers to watch.

First up are the actresses —in what turned out, hearteningly, to be a tremendously difficult list to narrow down. There’s an enormous amount of talent out there, and with studios finally beginning to listen to the demand for more female-skewed movies, there will be hopefully more showcases.

, we’ve tipped Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander, Dakota Johnson, Maika Monroe and last year's list, Tessa Thompson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Rebecca Ferguson, among others, and watched their careers explode. Who’s on our ones-to-watch list this time? Take a look below, and let us know who you’re excited about in the comments, and come back next week to take a look at our picks for male actors whose stars are ascendant as well.


Melissa Benoist
It’s getting harder and harder to spot where superheroes might come from, but even so, when we saw Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash, ” we wouldn’t have imagined that the actress who shone in her brief appearances as the love interest of Miles Teller’s character would be the next to don cape and tights. But Benoist, previously best-known for appearing in the last few years of “Glee, " was that girl, and she’s premiering this fall in CBS’s “Supergirl” as Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin. The jury’s out on whether the show will rise to the level of “Daredevil” or “Agents Of SHIELD, ” but Benoist looks perfect in the footage. She’s not disappearing into TV completely, though: she’s already appeared this year in “The Longest Ride” and “Danny Collins, ” with crime comedy “Band Of Robbers” (which we dug at LAFF) and “Fast & Furious”-ish Universal pic “Low Riders” also coming up.

David Giesbrecht/Netflix Rachel Brosnahan in "House of Cards"

Rachel Brosnahan
The first time Brosnahan appeared in “House Of Cards” as a sex worker hired by Corey Stoll’s Peter Russo, it seemed like it was likely to be a brief, one-off guest appearance. Instead, the character became a key figure across the following three seasons, and has made Brosnahan one to watch in a big way. Before that show, she had small roles in horror flick “The Unborn” and underrated YA picture “Beautiful Creatures, ” but her sparky, soulful, Emmy-nominated turn as the tragic Rachel Posner in Beau Willimon’s show was where she really stood out.On The Rise 2015: 20 Actresses To Watch Since then, she also impressed at Cannes with a small role in Joachim Trier’s “Louder Than Bombs” as Jesse Eisenberg’s ex-girlfriend, while she’s also among the terrific ensemble of “Manhattan, ” the best TV show that you’re not watching. Next up, she’ll be seen alongside Chris Pine and Casey Affleck in coastguard drama “The Finest Hours” and with James Franco in indie thriller “The Fixer.”

"Love & Friendship"

Morfydd Clark
Whit Stillman’s upcoming “Love And Friendship” might be most exciting as a “Last Days Of Disco” reunion between the writer/director, Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, but this Jane Austen adaptation looks to be a big launching pad for one of the young British actresses we're tipping here, Morfydd Clark. Since the Welsh actress left drama school two years ago, she’s been extremely busy, initially coming to our attention as a teacher in Carol Morley’s “The Falling.” Since then, she’s wowed on stage in London in “Violence & Son, ” and will seen as Mr. Darcy’s sister in the upcoming “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” with Lily James and Matt Smith.Supergirl Stillman’s more traditional, zombie-free Austen adaptation might be her biggest breakthough, with Clark playing Beckinsale’s character's daughter. Brit List-topping sci-fi “The Call Up” is also on her dance card, meaning she’ll be near-omnipresent in 2016.

Netflix Freema Agyeman and Jamie Clayton in "Sense8."

Jamie Clayton
It looks likely this awards season that Eddie Redmayne will be following in the footsteps of Jared Leto by picking up an Oscar nomination for playing a trans character, but the time when straight male actors automatically take a part like the lead in “The Danish Girl” might be coming to an end, thanks to the strides made by people like the enormously talented Jamie Clayton.Freema Agyeman and Jamie Clayton in The actress first made her name on “Orange Is The New Black” star Laverne Cox’s VH1 reality show “TRANSform Me” and moved onto drama the following year with the HBO drama “Hung, ” but her biggest break came earlier this year with the Wachowskis’ Netflix drama “Sense8, ” in which she plays trans blogger/hacker Nomi. It’s a terrific, forceful performance, and it looks like other big-name directors are starting to pay attention: she’ll next be seen in Nicolas Winding Refn’s “The Neon Demon.”

Open Road 'Dope'

Kiersey Clemons
Love or loathe Rick Famuyima’s “Dope, ” there’s one actor who shines in the film, and that’s Kiersey Clemons. The 21-year-old actress has credits stretching back to her teens, mostly on Disney Channel shows like “Austin & Ally, ” but her turn as the confident, kick-ass Diggy in “Dope, ” one of the more interesting gay characters in cinemas this year, is maybe the best thing in the movie. That alone would have made her worthy for this list, but as well as a guest appearance in “New Girl, ” she shone in Amazon and Jill Soloway’s “Transparent” as Bianca, the step-daughter of Melora Hardin’s Tammy, who ends up in a questionable flirtation with Jay Duplass’ Josh. At present, she’s also joined Halle Berry in the regular cast of CBS sci-fi series “Extant": given her age, you sense that she’s still just warming up.

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