Entertainment Weekly chose 10 artists — actors, singers, and authors — who made noise in 2019, and plan to make even more next year. Ahead, everything you need to know about their breakout moments, how they’re handling new fame, and what makes them tick — creatively speaking.
Steve Schofield/Amazon Studios
BREAKOUT MOMENT: As “Hot Priest” on Amazon’s Emmy-winning Fleabag, Andrew Scott’s charm and devilish wit made us all question our faith.
UP NEXT: Starring opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in Sam Mendes’ WWI drama 1917 (Dec. 25) and playing literary con artist Tom Ripley on Showtime’s upcoming Ripley, as well as appearing in season 2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials.
ON HIS ARDENT FAN BASE: Scott doesn’t want to be defined as just one thing. But for now, the 43-year-old Dublin native is happy to bear the moniker of Hot Priest. Since playing the dreamy cleric in Fleabag’s second season — and showcasing some serious onscreen chemistry with costar Phoebe Waller-Bridge — he has developed a much different fan base than in his days as Sherlock’s ruthless villain Moriarty; typical reactions now include “Strangle me!” and “Hear my sins!” “Then, when they meet you in real life,” Scott notes, “they’re like, ‘Hello, I really enjoy your work.’ ”
UNORTHODOX CHOICES: When one character “becomes too hot,” as the actor puts it, it’s time to look for the next big thing. “I like playing with all those different sides of yourself without losing yourself,” he says. True to form, Scott has three upcoming projects that he calls “slightly left of center. That’s always what I’m looking for.” In 1917, “there’s nowhere to hide” because the WWI film from director Mendes was shot to look like one continuous take. Scott likes to think of it as “a very expensive film [made] on your iPhone. You can’t cut away.” The actor is also eager to put his stamp on Ripley (“an iconic literary character”) on Showtime’s take on the Patricia Highsmith novels.
FINDING HIS RELIGION: On His Dark Materials, Scott is on the other side of the cloth as John Parry, traveler in an alternate reality controlled by an authoritarian religious institution. “Those books are really important for kids,” Scott says of the Philip Pullman trilogy that inspired the series. “It teaches them about goodness and kindness in the world.” Growing up as a gay man in the Catholic Church, Scott faced his own struggles with faith, making him appreciate “the ethics” of His Dark Materials. “You can be a good person in the world [without] organized religion.” That said, between all his new career adventures, Scott says, “people will forget about the Hot Priest.” Blasphemy. —Nick Romano
BREAKOUT MOMENT: In her first-ever acting role, Hunter Schafer shines (and glitters) as Jules, a magnetic trans student on HBO’s provocative teen drama Euphoria.
UP NEXT: Season 2 of the series, and exploring roles further away from her own identity. “I’m really curious to not have the character map readily available,” she says.
ART IMITATING LIFE: Schafer, 20, never considered a career in acting until HBO approached her with the chance to play a lead on Sam Levinson’s buzzy new series. “I was working as a full-time model in New York when the casting team for Euphoria reached out to my modeling agency,” she tells EW. “I gave it a shot and it snowballed from there.” The novice actress drew on her own experience as a transgender teen to inform her performance: “I felt more capable of playing her because [of the] parallels between us.”
ON REPRESENTING: Since the show’s launch, fans have flocked to the series, grateful to finally see someone like themselves portrayed: “It’s been really sweet to have some close moments with people who are excited about seeing a trans person on TV.” —Ruth Kinane
Kate Elizabeth Russell
BREAKOUT MOMENT: She sold her debut novel, My Dark Vanessa, in the seven figures last fall — the highest price tag of the season.
UP NEXT: The book publishes next March, and Hollywood is already circling. Safe bet an adaptation is on the way.
HER CINDERELLA MOMENT: Kate Elizabeth Russell was teaching creative writing at the University of Kansas when she got the biggest phone call of her life. Her book had just been acquired for north of $1 million. “I had to run out of the classroom,” she recalls. “My students sat there like, ‘What is going on?’” For a debut author, it all sounds like a fairy tale.
ON #METOO FALLOUT: Russell, now 35, first started writing Vanessa’s characters when she was 16. She came to grips, through fiction, with the relationships she had with older men as a teenager. She continued working into her Ph.D. program, and then the #MeToo movement exploded. It’s at the center of the completed book: A teacher’s former student accuses him of sexual misconduct, forcing the protagonist, Vanessa, to reflect on her own toxic affair with the man. “I realized that my book was going to be read in the context of that movement anyway,” she says. “So I might as well address it head-on.” That she does — and the results are thrilling. —David Canfield
BREAKOUT MOMENT: Playing Kelli, the confident, tequila-loving diva on HBO’s Insecure.
UP NEXT: Portraying a career woman in the comedy Like a Boss (Jan. 10); roles in Sonic the Hedgehog (Feb. 14) and Wonder Woman 1984 (June 5).
ON KELLI VS. NATASHA: For someone whose most memorable TV moments include indulging in under-the-table sexploits at a Hollywood diner and getting Tasered at Coachella, Natasha Rothwell is pretty low-key. “One of the things I love about playing Kelli is she’s so unapologetic,” says the actress, 39. “Because in my real life, I bumped into a table this morning and apologized to it.”
FIRST JOB: Rothwell acted in employee training videos for an insurance company. “It was this whole song and dance where the magical HR person sort of manifested, genie-style,” she recalls. She’ll be channeling a different kind of superpower in Wonder Woman 1984: “It’s such a testament to femininity and feminism, and to do it in the ’80s?” says Rothwell, her voice rising to Kelli-esque levels. “The costumes alone.” —Clarissa Cruz
Kelvin Harrison Jr.
BREAKOUT MOMENT: As Tyler, the son in a wealthy African-American family whose world begins to crumble, in the movie Waves.
UP NEXT: Starring opposite Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield in The Photograph (Feb. 14), and Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross in Covers (May 8).
ALL ROADS LEAD TO STERLING K. BROWN: They say never meet your heroes, but don’t tell that to Kelvin Harrison Jr. The actor, 25, viewed Sterling K. Brown as a model for his own career and rewatched his scenes from The People v. O.J. Simpson (Brown played prosecutor Christopher Darden) like they were curriculum. Fast-forward to a few years later, and that admiring dynamic bled into Harrison’s breakout role in Waves. He portrays Tyler, the hyper-achieving son of Brown’s stern patriarch. The two play brilliantly off each other — particularly as things unravel. “Sterling listened to me,” Harrison says. “He empowered me to have my own voice.”
ON BRANCHING OUT: Though he can carry the heaviest of scenes, Harrison’s gearing up for work on the lighter side — in 2020, he stars in the A-list comedies The Photograph and Covers. “I’m excited to branch out,” he says. “Expand into sci-fi, expand into fantasy, expand into romance. Just continue to grow.” —DC
BREAKOUT MOMENT: Her first single, the vintage pop throwback “1950,” which has been streamed more than 300 million times since its debut in February 2018.
UP NEXT: The nationwide Cheap Queen tour, running through Feb. 14; musical guest on the Nov. 23 episode of Saturday Night Live.
ON HER FOLLOWING: In her short but buzzy time as a professional musician, King Princess, 20, has developed her own community of fervent queer female fans. But for the singer-songwriter born Mikaela Straus, it’s not something she fully expected to happen. “My shows are definitely a point of gathering for gay women, and [I’m] interested in what’s happening with them because I was not a part of a community when I was a kid that looked like this — outwardly female and gay,” she tells EW.
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: There’s a method behind the glamorous mid-tempo grooves of her debut album, Cheap Queen. “I used a lot of local, weird, choppy vocal samples and, like, vintage-y sounding stuff mixed with new drum sounds,” she says, adding that her mentor, überproducer Mark Ronson — he signed Straus to his Zelig Records imprint in 2017 — said “’you can make s— sound old, but what makes it modern is drums and bass.’ I thought that was really concise and beautiful because it’s really how I work.” —Kerensa Cadenas
Megan Thee Stallion
BREAKOUT MOMENT: Her May 2019 mixtape Fever, which sparked this year’s inescapable Hot Girl Summer movement.
UP NEXT: The rapper, 24, will continue releasing singles into next year. She also confirms that she’s finally ready for a debut album — but may give fans a sequel to her 2018 mixtape Tina Snow first.
ON GOING VIRAL: Hearing Megan Thee Stallion talk about how successful her year was shows why her fans, affectionately known as the Hotties, look to the Houston native for an epic confidence boost. “I feel like I took over a whole season,” the rapper born Megan Pete tells EW. “You can’t even think about summer without thinking about the hot girl. We did what had to be done.”
THE ART OF THE TWERK: Megan’s energetic shows have gained notoriety as well, with the Fever artist calling them a safe place for twerking. Videos of her perched on stage dancing — all reinforced by her enviable “Vibranium knees,” which she jokingly notes feed off of “a mixture of D’USSÉ, stamina, and vitamins” — often go as viral as her empowering, tongue-in-cheek rhymes. (Sample line: “Yeah I’m in my bag, but I’m in his, too,” from her song “Cash S—” with DaBaby).
BITTERSWEET SYMPHONY: Though the past 12 months have turned Megan into a household meme (if not yet name), she’s also hit a devastating moment in her personal life, losing her mother to brain cancer in March. Publicly, with the love of her Hotties, the rapper remains positive, giving a reminder to all to “always keep your head up, and just know that you that bitch.” —Marcus Jones
BREAKOUT MOMENT: His role as Kevin Richardson in Netflix’s Central Park Five miniseries When They See Us.
UP NEXT: He has joined This Is Us as Malik, a thoughtful, straight-A high schooler caring for his infant daughter.
CHANNELING HIS INNER CHILD: For When They See Us — which followed a group of black teenagers wrongly convicted of assault and rape — the then 16-year-old worked diligently with director/co-writer Ava DuVernay to strip away his own confidence and turn in a poignant portrait of a frightened teen trapped in a racist legal system. “We were trying to focus on ‘How do we make it feel younger?’ and ‘How do we take away that Asante swag?’ ” says Blackk, 18. “It was a process of me going back into middle school, where I identified with Kevin a lot more. That’s where I can make him feel younger, more fragile, more innocent.” Blackk’s performance — in his first role that wasn’t a school play — earned him an Emmy nod.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: Now on This Is Us, he plays another misunderstood character. “What isn’t always present when you take your first glance is so interesting to me,” he says. “Every single person on this earth is living a life that’s just as complex as our own.” —Dan Snierson
BREAKING MOMENT: He stole Ben Platt’s heart (and conscience) as high school presidential candidate River on Netflix’s The Politician.
UP NEXT: He’s staying in the Ryan Murphy family, returning for season 2 of The Politician and starring in and producing the limited series Hollywood.
ON HIS DOPPELGÄNGER: He knows you think he looks like Henry Cavill. “My pie-in-the-sky ambition is to play Superman,” says the actor, 26. So it’s fitting that his upcoming role in Hollywood has a few old-fashioned similarities to the Man of Steel. “My character has a certain optimism, a lack of jadedness.”
FATHER KNOWS BEST: When he found out the role of River on The Politician was being bumped up to a series regular, Corenswet had a pinch-me moment. He was with his late father when the good news came. “I [handed] the phone to my dad and [said], ‘Tell me if it says what I think it says.’ He read it and said, ‘I think this is it. This is the one.’” —Maureen Lee Lenker
BREAKOUT MOMENT: On Stranger Things 3, Maya Hawke’s ice-cream-scooping Robin not only helped save Hawkins, Ind., from creatures and Russians but also broke ground as the series’ first LGBTQ character.
UP NEXT: Currently recording an album; starring opposite Andrew Garfield in Mainstream (out next year).
ON OPENING MINDS: In a series filled with special effects and CGI monsters, one of the most exhilarating moments of Stranger Things’ third season was Robin’s coming out to co-worker Steve (Joe Keery). The 21-year-old actress hopes that her performance as Robin may have opened some eyes and hearts. “I always have loved that she came out in the end,” she says. “It’s a family show that is multinational and bipartisan. People like it in the red states and in the blue states. It’s an important thing when shows that have that wide a reach make an effort to introduce different kinds of people into their lens.”
FASHION TIPS FROM DAD: Things’ popularity also means Hawke’s own public visibility has increased in the past year. Thankfully, famous parents (she’s the offspring of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke) can help with coping mechanisms. Quips the actress, “A strategy I learned from my dad actually is dressing like a somewhat homeless person, and then nobody bothers you.” —Tim Stack