Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman: these are some names in Hollywood that immediately bring to mind all-star performances and legendary careers. Some actors are so consistently great at their jobs that they reach an untouchable tier, getting audiences excited for anything they attach their names to. But they weren’t always the stars they are today; they, too, had to start somewhere. At some point or another, even Meryl Streep was an up-and-coming actress, with a few memorable performances under her belt and the potential of Hollywood laid out before her.
There are a handful of young actors today who face that same potential. Even if Hollywood today is a very different animal than it was just a few years ago, any keen observer of pop culture will be interested in scoping out the next big stars, even if it’s only to brag that you knew who they were before they were famous. If you’ve been keeping up with the biggest movies of last year’s awards season—particularly Lady Bird, Get Out, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri—then you will already have seen a couple of the most promising young actors working today. (Surprisingly, Drake’s “Nice For What” was also a spotlight for promising young actresses.)
There’s another reason why paying attention to up-and-coming actors can be interesting: it give you a pulse-reading of how Hollywood is changing, and a potential view of where it is headng. Many of the actors on this list—Gideon Adlon, Katherine Langford, and Yara Shahidi, just to name a few—have constructed their platforms by taking roles that champion marginalized people, that deal with difficult issues like mental health or sexual harassment, and have gone on to give eloquent and nuanced interviews about their work. If we really believe Hollywood can evolve into a healthier, more inclusive version of itself, then we must believe in the power of the young kids in the list below and others like them to be involved in the change. Here are the best up and coming actors in 2018.