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Next Gen Talent 2021: The Hollywood Reporter’s Rising Young Stars Revealed

Client: Ronny Chieng - Talent

From Daphne Bridgerton to “The Iceberg that Sank the Titanic,” these 16 rising stars are behind the characters that entertained audiences through lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Looking forward, they are fronting the titles that will bring audiences back to the multiplex.

Some talent, like Bridgerton’s Phoebe Dynevor and Nicola Coughlan, had their break-out moments in the middle of the pandemic, while others like West Side Story‘s Rachel Zegler are still waiting for their delayed big breaks to hit reopened movie theaters. From breaking barriers in the superhero space, like Batgirl star Leslie Grace, to breathing new life into established franchises (see: Dominique Fishback, who will lead the new Transformers), this year’s class will continue to play major roles in studio and streamer slates.

They join a list that, in years past, has included now-established stars like Midsommar actress Florence Pugh, Atlanta’s LaKeith Stanfield and Shang-Chi’s Simu Liu. All of them navigating an industry that is rapidly changing around them. As Cobra Kai’s Xolo Maridueña puts it: “I don’t have the handbook or ‘Acting in Your Early 20s for Dummies’ book just yet.”

Ronny Chieng

Chieng exemplifies Hollywood’s growing commitment to a sense of authenticity, or what the actor calls the “street test”: “Does what we see onscreen reflect what we see on the street?” Chieng was born in Malaysia and grew up between the U.K., U.S. and Singapore before heading to university in Melbourne, where he began performing stand-up comedy. A personal commitment to AAPI representation is evident in his growing list of credits: Shang-Chi, Crazy Rich Asians and Disney+ series Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.. Next up — when he’s not taking on Asian stereotypes and racism in his Netflix comedy special and viral segments as a Daily Show correspondent — is a martial arts action-comedy for Sony and Blumhouse horror M3GAN.

The person I am dying to work with … Leonardo DiCaprio

My pandemic binge-watch was … Billions

If I had to live in a world from a movie or TV show, I would choose … You’ve Got Mail

If I had a theme song, it would be … Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”

The social cause I am passionate about is … “Reducing plastic.”

Why aren’t people in Hollywood talking more about … “All these great stand-up comedians around the country who may or may not have Netflix specials.”

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