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On The Rise '12: 10 TV Stars Who Should Break Through To The Big Screen Soon

by Oliver Lyttelton
June 12, 2012 12:40 PM
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Jessica Pare
Jessica Paré
At the end of season four of "Mad Men," viewers were flung something of a surprise, as lead character Don Draper proposed to his secretary, a character only introduced a couple of episodes before. Over the long, long hiatus before season five, it wasn't clear if Megan Calvet would be back, but she certainly was, as Megan Draper, and over the course of Season Five, she's become one of the key figures on the show, indeed, arguably the most prominent female character (Peggy had a strong season, but was mostly absent in the last few episodes). And while the character's been a little divisive among fans, we'd argue that 31-year-old Jessica Paré has done a smashing job in the role. The Montreal-born actress has been working for over a decade -- she led "Stardom" in 2000 for "The Barbarian Invasions" director Denys Arcand, and made several films in Canada before breaking into the US with Paul McGuigan's "Wicker Park" and TV drama "Jack & Bobby." She's been working consistently ("Hot Tub Time Machine" being her most recent), but without quite matching her early success, but "Mad Men" has certainly meant that she's turned heads. She's neatly represented the younger generation, and a kind of bohemian ambition that her husband will never understand, with a slightly offbeat, goofy beauty that makes hera tremendously compelling screen presence (see: "Zou Bisou Bisou"). But her skills go beyond her mere presence -- she's managed to make the new Draper marriage seem like it could be the real deal, while still instilling levels of ambition that could end up sewing the seeds for it to crumble. And her struggles with step-motherhood -- caught between being a mother and a friend to Don's daughter Sally, have been some of the most compelling moments of the series. As best as we can tell, Paré doesn't have anything lined up over the show's hiatus, but with showrunner Matthew Weiner making a movie over the break, it could be a while before season six, so we're sure a decent role will come around before too long.

Chris Pratt
Chris Pratt
Perhaps something of a cheat here as he’s already made a bigger name for himself than most of our other picks, Chris Pratt makes it onto our list for two main reasons: firstly, “Parks and Recreation” [spoiler alert] is not going to feature in our forthcoming top ten TV shows, despite having occupied the number 1 spot the season before. Now, while we all did feel the quality slipped a few notches this time out, that summation could seem unduly harsh on a show that we all are still rooting for -- so we wanted it to feature in some capacity somewhere. And secondly, there are perils and pitfalls associated with this kind of listmaking, and Chris Pratt, with a prominent upcoming role in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” following on from scene-stealing turns in “Moneyball” and "Five Year Engagement” is, frankly, as close to a banker as we’ve got. If you need reminding of why, you just need to look at his impeccable change of gear from adorable doofus Andy Dwyer in ‘Parks’ to obnoxious asshole in ‘Engagement’ to sweet but sad and broken ball player in “Moneyball.” Most of all, perhaps it was his performance in the latter film that really made us realise the kid’s got chops - it’s a small role, but perfectly balanced and heartbreakingly understated, that culminates in one of the most satisfyingly earned triumphal moments in a sports movie, ever. We really can’t wait to see what he does in “Zero Dark Thirty” and to see if, as we suspect, it gives him a leg up into the big leagues, but prior to that we’ll be seeing more of Andy Dwyer, which is absolutely fine by us -- very little is as funny as that human Golden Retriever of a man throwing himself into something. He's sharper than he looks too -- the show's writers credit one of the finest ever jokes on the series (Andy looking at WebMD and diagnosing a colleague with 'Network Connectivity Problems') to an adlib from Pratt. Maybe we'll see him pen a whole script before too long?

Damon Wayans Jr.
Damon Wayans Jr.
Nepotism can understandably be frustrating for those caught on the outside, but it's sometimes hard to argue that there must be a gene for talent. The latest evidence that some people just have funny bones is Damon Wayans Jr, the son of comedy legend Damon Wayans ("The Last Boy Scout"), and the latest offspring of the prodigious Wayans family to head towards the big time, thanks to his hysterical role on ABC sitcom "Happy Endings." The 29-year-old Wayans appeared in a plenty of his father's work as a younger man: he played the younger version of David Alan Grier in his father's film "Blankman," and would later appear in a recurring role in his sitcom "My Wife And Kids," as well as being a regular on his short-lived Showtime sketch comedy series "The Underground." Furthermore, his first lead role was in 2009's "Dance Flick," the parody of films like "Step Up" that Wayans Sr. directed. But the younger Damon had also been carving out a career as a stand-up and a writer away from the family, and broke out on the big screen as part of a high-testosterone double act with Rob Riggle in "The Other Guys." Soon after, Wayans Jr. became a series regular on "Happy Endings," which began airing in the spring of 2011. It was initially unpromising -- another "Friends" rip-off in a season that was already full of them. But after a few episodes, it found its feet as a snappy, gloriously weird and very funny show, that features a cast of serious ringers -- we couldn't decide between Adam Pally, Eliza Coupe and Casey Wilson for this slot, and even Elisha Cuthbert has proven herself to have impressive comic abilities. But Wayans Jr. takes the prize on the merits of the last couple of season: as Brad, one half (with the excellent Coupe) of an aggressively sexual, blissfully happy, enormously neurotic married couple, he's been consistently brilliant, wringing belly laughs out of even the show's weaker episodes. He was almost on a bigger show -- he shot the pilot of Fox's monster hit "New Girl" in second position, but had to bow out when "Happy Endings" was unexpectedly renewed. But with the ABC show gaining more and more fans, that may not turn out to be the worst thing in the world. As far as we can tell, Wayans Jr. doesn't have any movies lined up, but it's surely only a matter of time.

Maisie Williams
Maisie Williams
Without doubt, had we given birth to a female human child during season 1 of "Game of Thrones," Daenerys would have made it onto the shortlist of baby names. But were we to pop one out right now, she’d be Arya, no contest. Aside from clearly demonstrating that we are too fickle to be anyone’s parent, this also proves just how thrillingly Arya Stark’s storyline developed over this season -- so much so that, in a cast packed with great chewy female roles featuring dragons and monster childbirth and being 7 foot tall and wrongly accused of murder, it was little Arya’s often more prosaic adventures that somehow left the most indelible mark. And probably the very primary reason for that is young Maisie Williams, an actress so brilliantly suited to this, her first role, that it’s almost too much of a wrench to imagine her playing anyone but the scrappy, uppity, doggedly loyal but ferociously prickly pint-sized Lady of Winterfell. And yet not so, because just to watch her go toe-to-toe with a seasoned pro like Charles Dance in their scenes together (some of the most oddly touching in the show to date) is to recognise how spot on her seemingly intuitive instincts as an actress are; she’s conflicted, resilient, resourceful and wonky all at once -- she’s a wonder. And so we have to believe she’ll be enriching a variety of roles with that crooked intelligence and fantastically expressive face before too long. As of now, the 15-year-old Williams has only one more role lined up, in a 3-part TV ghost story airing in the UK in October “The Secret of Crickley Hall,” but frankly, if she doesn’t have a whole lot more on her dance card by this time next year, well, we may have to shut up shop for a while here and write her a goddamn lead ourselves.  

-- Oliver Lyttelton, Jessica Kiang

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  • 1974 | June 23, 2012 7:25 PMReply

    Rose Leslie all the way! I like how Playlist loves talented redheads, Rose and Jessica- we all know Jessica who, in particular

  • rob | June 18, 2012 12:56 PMReply

    under the "Adam Driver" heading Alison Williams is listed twice while Jemima is not at all. Alison is certainly double the pleasure but Jemima wants to be included too

  • Monica | June 17, 2012 3:56 PMReply

    Great list and very enjoyable to read too. I agree that Maisie Williams is the S2 stand out performance amongst the younger cast of Game of Thrones, but still, it has to be said they are ALL remarkably good. Jack Gleeson is just delightfully wicked as Joffrey and Sophie Turner has done very strong work as well, even if her part is not as flashy.

  • Whodatninja | June 14, 2012 2:10 PMReply

    Good list. Jacobs is the whole package, Chris Pratt is a gifted comedic actor, Pare is stunning and should have been a bigger name after her starring role years ago in Stardom, Wayans is truly funny and stands on his own outside his famous family and Goggins caught my attention way back in the surprisingly amusing Major League 3 (yes, I can admit that the movie is strangely likable) and he was magnetic in Justified. Killam I didn't know of before Community, but he was freaking hilarious during his guest stint. One thing though. Aaron Paul is indeed a good actor, but the idea of the small framed actor playing McClane's son kind of makes me chuckle, despite how menacing he is capable of being onscreen.

  • dizzylucy | June 13, 2012 6:54 AMReply

    I'd say that Walton Goggins (genius) and Chris Pratt, who are on my favorite drama and comedy shows, have already broken through.
    Everyone else on the list is deserving too, and I think most of them will get there.

  • Mike | June 12, 2012 9:28 PMReply

    Goggins has masterfully created (obviously credit to the writers as well) the most complex & heartbreaking character currently on television. I somehow missed his casting in Lincoln amongst the barrage of star names, but as a huge Justified & Spielberg fan that makes me really excited.

  • loudrockmusic | June 12, 2012 9:21 PMReply

    Adam Pally!
    Also, I love Chris Pratt as much as you guys do, but does he get any points for being married to Anna Faris?

  • Zoe | June 12, 2012 5:55 PMReply

    Glad to see Gillian Jacobs included in this list and recognized for her brilliant work on Community season 3! Very much poised to be a movie star, and definitely has the looks.

  • Liz | June 12, 2012 5:48 PMReply

    Walton Goggins' hair deserves to be a star.

    The rest of him is pretty good too.

  • please | June 12, 2012 4:28 PMReply

    What is Playlist's fascination with Chris Pratt ? He is usually annoying and cloying. The poor guy tries too hard. I always feel he is acting-it never feels natural.

    Yes, I agree with Aaron Paul ( but he is not a leading man and he has no strong physical presence ) & Killam is as good as SNL's Bill Hader.

  • Jeremy D | June 12, 2012 5:02 PM

    I'm pretty sure you're the same person that posts this every time Chris Pratt is mentioned. You sure seem have a problem with him. You're very much in the minority, I suspect.

  • DG | June 12, 2012 1:08 PMReply

    Definitely agree about Killam and Aaron Paul

  • nik | June 12, 2012 1:00 PMReply

    Good set.

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