Breaking Big: See photos of Paul Mescal, Taylour Paige, and more of EW's favorite 2021 stars
The 25-year-old actor first broke out in the Hulu/BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney's Normal People, which was streamed more than 62 million times in the U.K. alone.
"To see the final figure [of Normal People's reach] was quite amazing," Mescal says. "[As was] working hard with people that you adore, achieving the things you dreamed up in your head."
Mescal's work on Normal People — and, let's be honest, those sex scenes — can still be streamed for your viewing pleasure, but he's currently filming the starring role in Benjamin Millepied's reimagining of the French opera Carmen.
The Chinese-Canadian actor plays Jung on the Netflix sitcom Kim's Convenience, but this summer he'll become the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first Asian lead superhero with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
"It's going to surprise a lot of people in how small and intimate it can feel," Liu teases of the flick, which will pit his master martial artist against notorious Marvel terrorist organization the Ten Rings.
Miller debuted to the moviegoing public at last year's Toronto International Film Fest playing opposite Mark Wahlberg and Connie Britton in the film Joe Bell, and he has a few other highly secretive projects up his sleeve.
"If I ever had any doubt that I was supposed to be an actor, that's all gone now," Miller, 21, says of his time in isolation. "A lot of people haven't been working, so having that cut off has been eye-opening. I need this."
After breaking out at Sundance 2020, Zola, the retelling of a viral Twitter thread scripted by Jeremy O. Harris and Janicza Bravo, fell into a yearlong COVID limbo before finally being assigned a release date (June 30, for now). Paige plays the titular Zola — opposite Riley Keough, whose friendship she counts as a career high.
"I've accumulated so much clarity," Paige says of her downtime this year. "Learning how to speak up for myself, how to say no politely, and how to be an engaged listener without having to say anything."
We would start talking about her time on Pennyworth and the British series Grantchester, but we know you're all still reeling from her unbelievable take on Princess Diana for the latest season of The Crown.
The actress, 25, got her start on stage at Cambridge University, where she was a member of the prestigious theater group Footlights. She now lives in London, where she was photographed for this very shoot.
The subject of all our collective quarantine binging cops to doing her own viewing of The Queen's Gambit and The Undoing — not that it made the mandatory time off any easier. "It's confirmed, I'm the most restless person," she says. "I like working a whole day."
"A lot of people said Daisy reminded them of Rosa, my character in The Forty-Year-Old Version," she says of her role as a student with Zack Morris-like abilities to freeze time. "Both have been so instrumental to my success."
"I keep an open mind when roles come my way because I want to show I have range," Velazquez says. "Maybe I can be a female Terminator one day."
The singer got his first big boost when his 2017 song "Ugotme" landed on a popular Spotify playlist, and in 2020 he released his latest album, Apolonio.
As part of the album's promotion, Apollo, 23, got the chance to perform a socially distanced concert at Paisley Park in Minnesota — a major highlight for the self-proclaimed "really big Prince fan."
The former high school teacher turned choreographer turned actress stars as Mercedes on the Starz drama P-Valley — which is currently poised for its second season.
"I can't go anywhere," Evans says of the recognition P-Valley brought her. "People know me by my walk, by my voice… It's been overwhelming."
Jasmine Cephas Jones
It's hard to get better than being an original cast member of Hamilton (Cephas Jones played Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds), but in 2020 the actress took home an Emmy for her work on the Quibi show #FreeRayshawn.
Jasmine Cephas Jones
To make it even better, her her dad nabbed his own statue during the same ceremony, for This Is Us. "We're peers now, and it's a full-circle thing," she says.
After pivoting to publishing fresh off a successful tech-sales career, Mateo Askaripour's debut novel, Black Buck — about a Black man thrust into the startup world — nabbed him a six-figure book deal. It's now a New York Times best-seller.
At press time, Askaripour was at the center of a multi-production-company bidding war for the rights to the novel, and he's poised to continue building out his Hollywood career. "It feels weird to talk about highlights," the 29-year-old says. "But we still have to be able to celebrate all the time. That's a form of resistance."
"I'm going to do something I'm calling seven crazy nights, which is where I go to the movie theater every day," Askaripour says of his post-pandemic plans. "I don't care what's playing."
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