While Emma Watson, Donald Glover, and more A-list stars vie for the top acting prizes at this weekend’s MTV Movie & TV Awards, a crop of fresh talent will be after one of the show’s freshest additions: the Next Generation award.
The brand-new category recognizes the young actors who took over our screens this past year. All five nominees are bold, immensely talented, and likely not going away anytime soon. Before one of them takes home the Golden Popcorn on Sunday (May 7), get to know each of these breakout stars.
At just 17 years old, Yara Shahidi is already a force. The Minneapolis-born actress and model nabbed print and TV ad campaigns early on and she was 7 when she made her film debut opposite Eddie Murphy in 2009’s Imagine That. Roles in the Angelina Jolie thriller Salt, the indie flick Butter, and the TV drama Scandal followed. But her breakout role in the ABC sitcom Black-ish made her a star to watch
Shahidi’s also become a fierce activist, heading up Yara’s Club, a mentoring program for young women. Her work onscreen and off caught the attention of former first lady Michelle Obama, who wrote her college recommendation (yes, really). Shahidi heading to college doesn’t mean she’s leaving Hollywood behind though. She dreams of playing a Marvel superhero one day, and recently confirmed to Vanity Fair that there’s talk of a Black-ish spinoff that would focus on her character, Zoey, as a college student. Ah, when art mirrors life.
If you don’t know Daniel Kaluuya’s name, you almost certainly know his face. The first image that probably comes to mind is his wide-eyed, mid-hypnotization expression from Get Out, the movie that made him a star. That was just the beginning.
The 28-year-old Brit got his start on Skins, joining the U.K. teen drama as a staff writer and cast member when he was 17. He had a memorable turn on Black Mirror before scoring his first starring role in a U.S. film as Chris Washington in Get Out. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, which uses an interracial couple to address the real-life horrors of racism, became an instant box-office smash and a critical success (it currently has a 99 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes).
Kaluuya is a pretty private guy — he’s not on Twitter or Instagram, and he mostly keeps a low profile. Nevertheless, his star is only getting brighter: he’s been cast in Marvel’s Black Panther, slated for release next year. So remember that face — you’ll be seeing a lot more of it.
On TV, Issa Rae plays a woman who hasn’t quite figured anything out. Offscreen, however, the writer-actress-creator seems to be doing pretty damn well for herself.
Rae grew up mostly in Los Angeles, and earned a degree in African and African-American Studies from Stanford. In 2011, she launched the viral web series Awkward Black Girl, which spawned a best-selling book of essays and inspired Rae to produce other shows for her YouTube channel predominantly starring people of color.
Capturing the idiosyncrasies of black female life is clearly her forte, and she used that as fuel for Insecure, a series she co-created with Larry Wilmore. Insecure centers on a twentysomething working woman in South L.A. (also named Issa, and loosely based on Rae). Upon the show’s debut in 2016, Rae became the first black woman to helm her own TV show on HBO and her fresh comedic voice earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Filming for Season 2 is already under way, so get psyched for more hilarious bathroom freestyles ahead.
Against all odds, Chrissy Metz has become a leading lady at age 36, proving the best things in life are worth waiting, and fighting, for. In Metz’s case, that’s the NBC drama This Is Us, one of the biggest TV hits of the past year.
The Florida native moved to Hollywood after college and spent years working as a talent agent, though she desperately craved being in front of the camera. In 2014 she scored a part in American Horror Story: Freak Show, as the sideshow’s Fat Lady; This Is Us marked her first pilot.
Metz plays Kate on the prime-time tearjerker, and her vulnerable portrayal of a plus-size woman earned her a Golden Globe nod. The first season of the show mostly addressed Kate in terms of her depression and weight issues, but with the show being renewed for two more seasons, fans can expect to see more of Kate than just her weight-loss journey. The character will reportedly pursue a career in music in Season 2, a path Metz is pursuing in real life (she says her music will sound like a cross between Adele and Missy Elliott).
What do you recognize Riz Ahmed from? The HBO crime drama series The Night Of? Or maybe Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? Or even his side hustle as a rapper? It could be any of those, because Ahmed is one of the hardest-working dudes in Hollywood and his face seems to pop up everywhere.
Ahmed earned a degree from Oxford University before studying acting at London’s Central School of Speech & Drama. The Londoner got his start in indie films, and turned heads with a scene-stealing role opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in 2014’s Nightcrawler. Last year was big for him, thanks in part to The Night Of, which earned him SAG and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal of a college student-turned-accused murderer. He also had a strong supporting role in the newest Jason Bourne movie, played rebel pilot Bodhi Rook in Rogue One, and earlier this year showed off his versatility with a brief but memorable turn on the final season of Girls.
On top of all that, Ahmed is also a legit MC — he’s been rapping and producing music as Riz MC since 2006. Last year, Ahmed dropped a solo mixtape, Englistan, and even contributed to the star-studded Hamilton Mixtape. And he just played Coachella as a member of Swet Shop Boys alongside New York MC Heems. This is a guy whose artistry clearly knows no bounds.