Updated: Feb 2
These five actors managed to leave their mark on the industry in 2020 and have promised to keep their momentum going into 2021. Below we discuss their breakout roles and what may be in store for us on future screens.
1. Michaela Coel
Her first roles include appearances in Black Mirror and the lead in Netflix's Chewing Gum. Still, with HBO's I May Destroy You, Coel officially introduces herself as a force to be reckoned with. Not only is she credited as creator, writer, and producer of the series, but she also more than delivers the complex character of Arabella- a messy, witty, and endearing young author who is on a journey to process and find closure after a sexual assault. Michaela Coel provides a new voice amongst sexual assault narratives through her exploration of trauma, race, and memory. She asserts that this voice cannot be silenced. The series is funny, unsettling, smart, and provocative. These are all qualities that Coel promises to deliver in the future.
2. Paul Mescal
Normal People gained buzz for its thoughtful portrayal of "ugly sex," made possible by an intimacy coordinator, and the undeniable chemistry between Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones. However, Mescal's ability to emote and express the challenges of being a modern-day young adult is what distinguishes the Hulu series from others. In his pained delivery, his furrowed brow, and mumbled observations, he delivers the anxious cerebral energy of Connell Waldron. Audiences are excited to see what else Mescal has to offer, as he's slated for Maggie Gyllenhal's The Lost Daughter and Benjamin Millipied's operatic classic, Carmen. We also just can't get enough of his signature silver chain.
3. Sidney Flanigan
Sidney Flanigan's performance in Eliza Hittman's Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) shows how uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and shameful young womanhood can be. Flanagan is cast as Autumn, who, through pained silences and avoidant eye contact, expresses the difficulty of crossing state lines as an underage girl to receive an abortion. She rarely says much, but she feels everything and manages to communicate her own kind of strength in doing so. Flanigan leaves audiences knowing that there is much left to be said and felt in her future roles.
4. Daisy Edgar-Jones
She is the Marianne to Paul Mescal's Connell, the Juliet to Normal People's sweaty Romeo. But Daisy Edgar-Jones doesn't just rely on her role as the love interest to identify her character in the series. She brings care and restraint in conveying a young woman struggling to uncover her sexuality, confidence, and power. We see Marianne challenged by rejection from loved ones and challenged to reconcile what it means to never quite fit in. Edgar-Jones has since been cast in the adaptation of the best-selling novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, as the lead role of Kya. Readers and viewers alike are anticipating Daisy Edgar-Jone's sophomore performance.
5. Matilda De Angelis
"Who killed Elena Alvez?" was the question everyone was asking this fall. Matilda De Angelis brings mystery, intrigue, eccentricity, and suffering to Elena's character in HBO's hit drama series, The Undoing. The character archetype of "the mistress" can often feel flat and one dimensional. Still, the Italian actress avoids this trap by making audiences reconsider what it means to be a wife, lover, mother, and friend. Her most notable scenes include an eerie kiss with Nicole Kidman and breastfeeding her newborn amongst a group of judgy upper east side moms. Keep an eye out for her in Paula Ortiz's Across The River and Into The Trees.