There were MANY breakout performances in 2017, including those from well established actors (all hail the Romano-sance!). While we’re all for heaping praise on award-worthy stints from Allison Janney, Ruth Negga, Robert Pattinson, Daniel Kaluuya, Bryan Cranston, Gal Gadot, Sally Hawkins, Tessa Thompson, Daniel Day-Lewis, John Cho, Mary J. Blige, Laurie Metcalf and a long, looooong list of others, we wanted to highlight under-the-radar actors and actresses who need a little bit of publicized love, too. Honourable mentions go to Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip), Madelaine Petsch (Riverdale), Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck), Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Easy), Brian Gleeson (mother!, Phantom Thread, Logan Lucky, Assassin’s Creed), Vanessa Kirby (The Crown), Emily Piggford (The Girlfriend Experience), Alisha Boe (13 Reasons Why) and Pip Torrens (The Crown, Preacher). And now, in alphabetical order, are our 25 breakout stars from 2017:
Mamoudou Athie – Patti Cake$
As the introverted, kind-hearted musician Basterd, Mamoudou Athie gave a standout performance in the Sundance crowd-pleaser Patti Cake$. It’s no wonder that he was named a TIFF International Rising Star for his turn in Brie Larson’s directorial debut Unicorn Store and we hope to see a lot more of the actor at TIFF 2018 when Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner will undoubtedly play the Ryerson Theatre.
Claes Bang – The Square
Though Elisabeth Moss received much of the fanfare surrounding Ruben Östlund’s The Square (and she was superb in it!), the film is anchored by Danish actor Claes Bang’s riveting portrayal of gallery director and conflicted father Christian. [Also, the hottest use of red glasses on screen since Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) on The Mindy Project].
Katherine Barrell – Wynonna Earp, Workin’ Moms, Star Trek: Discovery
We first noticed Barrell in movies such as The Scarehouse and My EX-EX, but it seems like the actress was everywhere in 2017, as officer Nicole Haught on Wynonna Earp, Alicia Rutherford on Workin’ Moms, and even popping up on an episode of Star Trek: Discovery. The proud Canadian is a fixture on locally produced shows and though her roles may be recurring, we’re always fixated on just her whenever she’s on screen.
Amanda Brugel – The Handmaid’s Tale, Kim’s Convenience
In 2018, no show is more anticipated than the second season return of The Handmaid’s Tale. As the lone Canadian cast member on the Toronto-shot show, Amanda Brugel exhibited strength and grounded verisimilitude as the Martha hiding secrets (and now letters) in Commander Fred (Joseph Fiennes)’s household. We also loved seeing the down-to-earth Canadian startlet in a very different role in this past season of Kim’s Convenience.
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, Hostiles
Not only was Timothée Chalamet entrancing as Elio in Call Me By Your Name (seriously, stay for the end credits!), he was also hypnotic as Saoirse Ronan’s potential love interest in Lady Bird and opposite Christian Bale in Hostiles. Expect to see the young actor to be nominated for Best Actor at the upcoming Academy Awards, making him one of the youngest ever nominees. Count us as a huge fan alongside his bigger named fans such as Nicole Kidman and Xavier Dolan.
Hong Chau – Downsizing
The best part of Alexander Payne’s Downsizing (by far!) only shows up halfway through the film. Relative newcomer Hong Chau brings levity and heart as Ngoc Lan Tran, the strong-willed woman who changes the course of Paul (Matt Damon)’s life. We’ll be rooting for her to garner her very first Oscar nom in 2018.
Ana de Armas – Blade Runner 2049
The Cuban stunner Ana de Armas had a very tough role to play in Blade Runner 2049. It’s difficult to act lovingly towards Ryan Gosling and as a believable hologram, no less. But seriously, de Armas, with her expressive eyes and striking physicality, made us long for more Joi and less Officer K in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049.
Beanie Feldstein – Lady Bird
After her breakout year in 2017, something tells us people will no longer refer to her as “Jonah Hill’s sister”, they’ll now call Jonah Hill “Beanie Feldstein’s brother”. As loyal best friend Julie to Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), Feldstein was the character to which we most related (especially with her heartbreaking delivery of “some of us aren’t always happy” line). We’ve always longed for a friend like Julie with whom we could go to prom and listen to Dave Matthews, and that’s due to the comedic actress’ brave and very lived-in performance.
Paul Walter Hauser – I, Tonya
Serving as the comic relief in the wickedly funny I, Tonya, Paul Walter Hauser was very believable as Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie)’s former bodyguard Shawn Eckardt. We can’t wait to see the funnyman in Spike Lee’s upcoming film Black Klansman.
Dafne Keen – Logan
Though she doesn’t speak very much in the gritty X-Men Western Logan, she expresses a lot in her physicality and gets to kick major ass as the next-gen, pint-sized Wolverine successor. A standout performance in one of the best films of 2017.
Pom Klementieff – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ingrid Goes West
Though she is best known for being a wonderful addition to the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise as Mantis, displaying a knack for comic timing, (and as a potential love interest for Drax), Pom Klementieff’s year is best defined by her role in the underrated Ingrid Goes West as Harley Chung, a fashion blogger and Instagram influencer. The reason that this best defines the friendly Klementieff is that coincidentally, she herself is an influencer on Instagram IRL.
Vicky Krieps – Phantom Thread, Gutland
The versatile and multilingual Krieps, a native of Luxembourg, more than held her own as the love interest and muse Alma Elson, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s sumptuous Phantom Thread. When one considers that she is sharing the screen with screen legends Daniel Day-Lewis (in his final role) and Lesley Manville, it is an admirable task. Krieps also shines in the TIFF hit Gutland, giving rare screen time to Luxembourgian cinema.
Katherine Langford – 13 Reasons Why
Australian Katherine Langford is more than one reason why the Netflix original show 13 Reasons Why was, in our opinion, one of the greatest TV shows of the year, bar none. It was unfairly subjected to many warnings and restrictions, but the show and Langford predicted the horrible treatment that was to come in the year 2017. Langford’s Hannah Baker has the tough task of narrating the show from beyond the grave, and she received a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination for her difficult role.
Rebecca Liddiard – Alias Grace, Frankie Drake Mysteries, Slasher
The premature cancellation of Houdini & Doyle was its loss and our gain this year, as Rebecca Liddiard, Canada’s answer to Rachel Weisz, starred in a trio of shows that allowed her to explore different genres and periods of time. She was a formidable force as Mary Whitney opposite Sarah Gadon’s Grace, a welcome addition to Frankie Drake Mysteries as another Mary, and Andi on Slasher. Liddiard will next be seen opposite Shenae Grimes-Beech and Wendy Crewson on The Detail.
Michelle McLeod – Don’t Talk to Irene
The comic film Don’t Talk to Irene spent about ten years in turnaround from screenplay to finished film, and along the way, writer and director Pat Mills was gifted to find the perfect Irene, Michelle McLeod, who had never starred in a film, never mind as a lead. She is exceptional in the role of Irene, a bullied teen that stands up to her enemies in the funniest way possible. Like her character, she grew up idolizing Geena Davis, and when the two appear on screen together, it’s magic.
Jason Mitchell – Mudbound, Detroit
In a perfect world, Mitchell, who received praise at Sundance for his role as Ronsell Jackson in Dee Rees’ film Mudbound, would be hitting the awards circuit – yes, he’s *that* good. As it is, the film is an acting showcase, as in his family alone, Mary J. Blige, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (also great in It Comes at Night), and Rob Morgan are all first-rate. Yet Mitchell takes what could have been a standard role as the returning war hero and offers real gravitas and heart.
Grace Van Patten – The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Tramps
Yes, Grace Van Patten is part of an accomplished entertainment family, though her greatest triumph is holding her own against an ensemble featuring Adam Sandler’s best performance in years, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Marvel and more as the daughter Eliza, exploring herself through film and college (the opening scene is also brilliant). She was also wonderful in the Netflix-distributed Tramps which didn’t get enough attention after its TIFF premiere in 2016.
Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project
This is clearly Brooklynn Prince’s world and the rest of us are all just renting space in it. Moonee is a tough role and Sean Baker found a breakout in Prince, as well as Valeria Cotto and Christopher Rivera as the young charges. The film made us want to eat some ice cream and then watch as Prince cut a swath through the press tour, flipping off Jimmy Kimmel and impressing Robin Roberts. When you more than hold your own opposite Willem Dafoe and you’re seven…
Lili Reinhart – Riverdale
We always identified as more of a Betty than a Veronica. So props to Camila Mendes as Veronica and Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom (and the guys, we guess), but for us, Riverdale is the Lili Reinhart show. Her Betty is a ray of sunshine (even when she’s holding onto a certain black “hood”) and equally important as a role model as the actress has been very candid about her struggles with depression. We cannot wait to see her collaboration with another powerful blonde, Melanie Laurent, in Galveston.
Naomi Scott – Power Rangers
Go go Power Rangers! While we were initially impressed with Becky G’s take on the Yellow Ranger (LGBT representation is key), Scott has real staying power as the Pink Ranger Kimberly, especially when the OG and iconic Amy Jo Johnson cameos late in the film. Scott brings her unique skills to this role and we were so happy to hear that she was cast as Princess Jasmine in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming live-action Aladdin.
Algee Smith – Detroit
His Motown singer turned choir director Larry Reed helped to elevate Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, which didn’t receive as much praise as it should have, as Smith delivers a powerful performance and builds on his multi-faceted background, also contributing a song to the soundtrack. He will next be seen in the big screen adaptation of The Hate U Give, coincidentally opposite the next breakout star on our list.
Amandla Stenberg – Everything, Everything
If you know Stenberg’s name from Rue in The Hunger Games, (or better yet, from Lemonade), you better look again, as Stenberg is changing the game. Before she stars as the lead in The Hate U Give, check out her beautiful performance in Everything, Everything, as Stella Meghie’s adaptation of a Nicola Yoon YA novel was criminally underseen. Amandla Stenberg took on a tough role as Maddy and gave her everything.
Kelly Marie Tran – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
In a film where she had to compete with Oscar Isaac’s luscious hair, Adam Driver’s beefy chest, BB-8’s adorable bleeps and bloops, and lets not forget, super cute porgs, as the most memorable aspect of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Kelly Marie Tran blew them all away. Her Rose Tico was the strongest character to emerge from the Star Wars canon for a very long time (sorry Laura Dern!) and though she didn’t have the best storyline (come on Rian Johnson, she deserved more than just being the Eponine in the Rey-Finn-Rose love triangle), we hope to see a lot more of her in Episode IX. In the meantime, we’ll settle for endlessly watching her adorkable videos on Instagram.
Britney Young – GLOW
We really could have selected anybody from the Netflix show GLOW (with the exception of the established Alison Brie and Marc Maron), but we have decided to go with Young, whose Macchu Picchu would be a formidable opponent. Young takes the part of Carmen Wade as the female in a large male wrestling family (played by actual wrestlers), and makes us believe that she does this “for real”, both inside and outside of the ring.
Zendaya – Spiderman: Homecoming, The Greatest Showman
In two films where we were supposed to root for the lead male characters, we instead spent their entire respective running times hoping for more Zendaya. The former Disney star is luminous in every film in which she appears and was hands down the best competitor on Lip Sync Battle in 2017. More Zendaya in 2018, please.