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Hollywood’s New Creative Leaders of 2017

Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Creator, “Bojack Horseman”; 33
Despite being the creator of one of Netflix’s biggest sensations, “BoJack Horseman,” Bob-Waksberg takes a collaborative view of his work. The writer-showrunner moved to Los Angeles with a background in comedy and was inspired to create the series by his friend Lisa Hanawalt’s art, as well as his early experiences in L.A. “The best thing is that I get to work with so many other amazing people,” he says of working on “BoJack.” “And I guess you learn from them and I get to suck the genius out of their brains and splatter it across the screen. It’s a true joy and an honor.” Bob-Waksberg advises those entering the industry not to wait for people to give them permission to create. “If you come to L.A. and you just are constantly looking for somebody to appreciate you, you’re not going to find it. But if you just focus on the work — take an improv class or join a writers group — and just keep churning it out and making stuff, you can’t help but be better.”

Gigi Gorgeous
Actress, producer; 25
Winning awards is great, but not just for the chance to bask in the glory. Gorgeous (nee Gregory Lazzarato) says the Streamy win for feature for her documentary “This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous,” which recounts her transgender tale, will help ensure more publicity for the Barbara Kopple-helmed film. “The movie isn’t over,” she says. “I’m doing all I can to keep sharing my story.” Gorgeous, who has 2.3 million Instagram followers and almost 3 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, hopes that storytellers will chart new waters when it comes to incorporating transgender characters into TV shows and movies, where transgender doesn’t have to be part of the plot. “Visibility is key and it’s there now, but we need to keep pushing through.”

Ian Jones-Quartey
Writer, animator, voice actor; 33
Los Angeles is filled with angst-ridden folks who come to Hollywood to prove their families wrong, but Jones-Quartey isn’t one of them. The creator of Cartoon Network’s “OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes” describes his late grandmother, Theodosia Okoh, a philanthropist and designer of the flag of Ghana, as a huge influence. “When I was young, being an artist wasn’t something that was discouraged,” Jones-Quartey says. “Having a figure like her in the family changes your perspective on what can be done.” He says his series’ lead character is a kid who wants to be a hero. In Jones-Quartey’s capable hands, “K.O.’s” already a knockout.

Julie Klausner
Actor, writer, podcaster, author; 39
The multi-talented performer-writer technically holds an executive producer title on her smash Hulu hit “Difficult People,” which also stars real-life pal Billy Eichner. But Klausner’s strength comes from knowing where she’s most skilled. “I’m very fortunate that I was able to present my talents as a writer and performer and there were people who could help put my ideas into production,” she says. The show’s success has opened doors for future television projects, which is great since Klausner says “TV remains my first love.” However, the New York City native adds, “I’m a Broadway baby. I’d love to get into that down the line.”

Kumail Nanjiani
Actor, producer, writer; 39
Nanjiani feels it’s important to write not only what you know, but also what you feel. “The Big Sick,” the feature film that he starred in and also co-wrote with wife Emily V. Gordon, details their romance and her recovery from a medically induced coma. “The biggest challenge was having to revisit an emotionally draining point in both of our lives,” says the “Silicon Valley” star. “We had to try to remember a lot of things that our brains are designed not to.” The film’s success led to Nanjiani being invited to host “Saturday Night Live” earlier this month.

Jordan Peele
Writer, director, actor; 38
“Get Out,” the directorial debut of Peele, an Emmy winner for “Key and Peele,” yielded more than a box office windfall. Universal Pictures has signed the artist to a first-look deal. Peele will produce, write and direct an untitled social thriller, set to debut on March 15, 2019. In a conversation with Norman Lear in June, Peele said he was inspired to write “Get Out” based on horror films he watched as a child with a predominately African-American audience. “It’s no accident that the sunken place resembles this darkened theater … where no matter how loud and hard we scream at the screen we can’t affect what’s happening,” Peele says.

Constance Wu
Actress; 35
ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” star Wu likes to select work that boasts both strong writing and inclusive characters. “I want to encourage narrative plenitude as opposed to positive portrayals; that way POC [people of color] folks don’t only have one story to represent the whole,” she says. As an actress, she likes to capture “moments of vulnerability and intimate uncoolness. I got into this because brave stories make people feel less alone in the world.” In the future, she hopes to write and produce stories centered on diverse actors. Wu commended progress at the 2017 Emmys, although she says they still have ways to go regarding inclusion on television. “They’re still exceptions that prove the rule. Real progress is going to be when these wins aren’t extraordinary but just ordinary.”

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