By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist August 14, 2014 at 3:39PM
With actors like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, David Oyelowo, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, David Harewood and more finding stardom in the U.S. after frustrations at home, U.K. writers have been puzzling over why Britain can't hold on to its best black actors. The answer, of course, is that no one writes them any good parts, and though one can only hope this state of affairs changes, the latest to head across the Atlantic is David Gyasi, who's netted a key role in Christopher Nolan's latest. 34-year-old Gyasi, a native of Fulham who trained at Middlesex University, has been acting for over a decade, traversing the familiar route of appearances in long-running shows like "Casualty" and "Doctors" at first, while also appearing in regional stage work. But he stood out alongside Hugh Dancy and John Hurt in 2005's Rwanda-set drama "Shooting Dogs," and bigger and better roles followed, including a major role in the stage production of "War Horse" (in the role taken onscreen by Benedict Cumberbatch). But his career really kicked off in 2012: he began with the year with a small part in George Lucas' passion project "Red Tails" before impressing massively in the undervalued, era-spanning BBC drama "White Heat," as one of a group of university flatmates whose number also included Sam Claflin ("Catching Fire"), Reece Ritchie ("The Lovely Bones') and MyAnna Buring ("Kill List"). Late that year, he also stood out in another star-studded ensemble, the Wachowskis' "Cloud Atlas,' while in between, also managed to fit in an episode of "Doctor Who," and a bit part as "Skinny Prisoner" in "The Dark Knight Rises." Christopher Nolan, the director of the latter, must have been impressed by what he saw on set, because Gyasi has reunited with the A-list filmmaker to play a key role in his upcoming "Interstellar," as one of the astronauts who join Matthew McConaughey on his epic mission (you can see snippets of him in the trailer). Last time Nolan promoted from within, he turned Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt into movie stars. Will he manage the same again with Gyasi?
With actors like Channing Tatum and Dwayne Johnson drawing crowds to some movies, but failing to do so with others (let's not forget "White House Down" or the recent "Hercules"), the search for the next great action hero continues apace. But being picked to literally fill the shoes of an older action legend is a good way to get noticed, so it could be that Luke Bracey has the right stuff. The 25-year-old Australian, like so many of his countrymen, got his start on long-running soap "Home & Away," which gave key early boosts to Heath Ledger, Chris Hemsworth, Guy Pearce, Jason Clarke, Naomi Watts, Isla Fisher and Melissa George. This brought him to the attention of Hollywood casting directors who cast him as a love interest in "Monte Carlo," and as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's replacement as Cobra Commander in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." 2013 saw him cast as the lead in a McG-directed teen soap spin on "Romeo & Juliet" called "Westside," which wasn't picked up to series, but that might be for the best, as the movies came calling. He'll be busy this fall, facing off against Pierce Brosnan as the co-lead in spy actioner "November Man" and will be playing the younger version of James Marsden in Nicholas Sparks-derived weepie "The Best Of Me." Taking his shirt off near some water in a Sparks picture helped turn Ryan Gosling into a superstar, but if that somehow doesn't work, Bracey has a pretty major back-up: he's taking over from Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah in next summer's remake of "Point Break," which Warner Bros. just moved to the height of summer, suggesting they're feeling pretty confident about it. We can be a little wary of someone like Bracey: he could just turn out to be Sam Worthington 2.0. But Hollywood casting directors certainly seem to be high on the guy, so he's certainly one to keep an eye on.
With a role in one of next year's most hotly anticipated films, Jamie Dornan could be a star in the making. The 32-year-old Northern Irish actor (distantly related to 1940s star Greer Garson) started off as a model for the likes of Calvin Klein while simultaneously playing in folk band Sons Of Jim, but despite making a brief acting debut in Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette," he was for years best known as Keira Knightley's swain. Better things for his career seemed to be on the way when he was cast as the Sheriff (and former Huntsman) in hit ABC series "Once Upon A Time," but he was killed off after only a handful of episodes in a shock plot twist. Third time was the charm though, and last year Dornan appeared opposite Gillian Anderson in "The Fall," a critically acclaimed BBC thriller series in which, cast firmly against type, he played the ordinary suburban father who's secretly a bitterly misogynist serial killer, his model looks making him almost incongruous yet effective in the part. It put Dornan on the map, and when Charlie Hunnam dropped out of Sam Taylor-Wood's upcoming adaptation of erotic literary blockbuster "50 Shades Of Grey," Dornan landed the much-talked-about role of billionaire/bondage enthusiast Christian Grey. The part has the potential to make him a lust object for billions, but Dornan actually has the acting chops to back it up, impressing in the recent Channel 4 drama "New Worlds" opposite Alice Englert. On the way, he'll appear in transatlantic romance "Flying Home," a supporting gig in the Bradley Cooper-starring untitled chef-themed movie, a second season of "The Fall," and "50 Shades Of Grey" hitting next Valentine's Day. After that, the world should be his oyster, and he's already started lining up projects, with an action movie at home in Ireland called "The Siege Of Jadotville," and some rumors that he might take the lead in Guy Ritchie's "King Arthur."
Thanks to a borderline-Aspergers level of recall for British character actors common to Playlist contributors, most of the faces from the excellent ensemble in Cannes crowd-pleaser "Pride" were familiar to us. Bar one: the young actor playing Northern Irish firebrand activist Mark, one of the film's most central figures. So we were positively shocked, not least because of how entirely convincing he was, to discover that the actor playing the part was (gasp!) an American, 24-year-old Ben Schnetzer. The son of two actors, Schnetzer racked up a major gig while barely out of his teens alongside Sam Neill on short-lived ABC mystery show "Happy Town," before heading over to London to study at the prestigious Guildhall School Of Music and Drama. Since graduating last year, he hasn't skipped a beat: he played the major role of Jewish boy Max in last year's "The Book Thief." But he made a much greater impression in "Pride" in a tricky role: Mark is the archetypal activist, sincere, fierce and humorless. But Schnetzer makes him likable, and he stands as the fiery center of integrity of the film. He stayed on the other side of the pond for his next project, joining a cast of fellow rising stars like Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Max Irons, Holliday Grainger, Jessica Brown Findlay, Sam Reid and Olly Alexander in Lone Scherfig's "The Riot Club," an adaptation of stage hit "Posh," which will be on the festival circuit this fall. He returned Stateside for the lead role in "Punk's Dead," the belated sequel to cult hit "SLC Punk," as Ross, the son of Michael A. Goorjian's character Heroin Bob. And there's blockbuster exposure on the way, with a key role in Duncan Jones' "Warcraft" in 2016, while he'll be appearing on stage with Holly Hunter and Bill Pullman in David Rabe’s "Sticks And Bones" this fall.
Honorable Mentions: There are a few TV figures who could step up in the next few years, including "Game Of Thrones" actors Richard Madden, Pedro Pascal, Joe Dempsie (who has the lead in sequel "Monsters: Dark Continent") and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (who'll next be seen in "The Maze Runner"). There's also "Rectify" actor Aden Young, "Boardwalk Empire" graduate Jack Huston, "Sleepy Hollow" star Tom Mison, "The Newsroom" player Thomas Sadoski (shortly to be seen in "Wild"), Matthew Rhys of "The Americans," "Homeland" star Rupert Friend, Thomas Middleditch of "Silicon Valley," Chris Geere and Aya Cash from "You're The Worst," and the boys from "Workaholics," who are picking up big movies left right and center.
Also worth keeping an eye on: "The Hundred Foot-Journey" actor Manish Dayal, Scott Haze of "Child Of God," "Chronicle" and "Unbroken" actor Alex Russell, Travis Fimmel, who has the lead in 'Warcraft," non-tree "Guardians" breakout Dave Bautista, Jake Lacy of "Obvious Child," Ray Fisher, who's playing "Cyborg" in "Batman V. Superman," Tom Sturridge, soon to be seen in "Far From The Madding Crowd," "Blue Ruin" star Macon Blair, and Olly Alexander from "Game Of Thrones" and "Posh." And some bitter disagreement ensued at the Playlist over two performers in particular, Matthias Schoenaerts and Chadwick Boseman. The pair fell between the cracks in previous years, and both have big projects either on the way or in theaters, but it was ultimately decided that both were too well-known and well-established at this stage to make a list like this one. Agree? Disagree? Have some more names to add? Let us know below, and check back next week for our corresponding list for the actresses. -- Oliver Lyttelton, Jessica Kiang