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BAFTA Unveils New Crop of Breakthrough British Talent to Watch

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has revealed its newest roster of Breakthrough Brits, talent whom the organization identifies as ones to watch. Actors Jessica Barden and Paapa Essiedu and writer and director Lucy Cohen are among a 19-strong lineup that spans film, TV and gaming.

Previous Breakthrough Brits have gone on to become established stars at home and abroad, meaning that the accolade is prized by emerging talent and the list is scrutinized by the industry. Molly Windsor and Daisy May Cooper, who scooped leading actress in TV series “Three Girls” and female performance for “This Country” respectively at the 2018 BAFTA Awards, have both been Breakthrough talent. Letitia Wright (“Black Panther”) and Alex Lawther are among other recent Breakthrough Brits.

Barden stars with Lawther in Channel 4 and Netflix drama “The End of the F***ing World.” Now getting ready to appear in a production of Harold Pinter’s “Night School” on the London stage, Barden told Variety that her ambitions extend to stepping behind the camera. “I continue to work towards wanting to produce alongside acting,” said Barden, who will soon be seen alongside Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell in the movie “Jungleland.”

“There’re a lot of people out there who don’t make films properly and don’t treat people properly,” she said. “I never want to stop acting, but my dream is to be 50 years old and know that I have the means to create opportunity for actors that want to work in the way the way I want to work, which is you go there every day and you’re cast because you are good enough, or smart enough, and want to learn.”

Another Breakthrough Brit with behind-the-camera ambitions is Essiedu, who has played numerous classical stage roles, including Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and starred in “Murder on the Orient Express” and BBC drama series “Press,” which has just finished.

“I’m already writing stuff and thinking about short films and TV pilots that I’d like to get off the ground,” Essiedu said. “In order to have a greater level of control over stories that you think are important, that you want to be the forefront in people’s imaginations, you have got to get behind the camera. You have got to start writing; you have got to start directing.”

The jury selecting this year’s Breakthrough Brits included actors Gemma Arterton, Stacy Martin, and George MacKay. The winners are celebrated at an industry reception, which will be held  Nov. 7 in central London. The honorees receive mentoring and support from BAFTA as they move to the next stage of their careers. The likes of Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt, and Olivia Colman have lent their support to previous winners.

Writer and director Lucy Cohen made Netflix feature documentary “Kingdom of Us.” During her year as a Breakthrough Brit, she plans to step into the world of drama with a BBC Films project. “What’s been interesting is having interest from the fiction world through [“Kingdom of Us”], so now I’ve started developing my first fiction project, which is something I have wanted to do for a while alongside documentaries,” Cohen said. “It’s new territory for me, so being able to have a steer or guidance is great.”

BAFTA chief executive Amanda Berry hailed this year’s cohort. “As Breakthrough Brits reaches its sixth year, it is wonderful to see what our previous Breakthrough Brits have gone on to achieve, and I am so excited to see, with BAFTA’s support, guidance and mentorship, what our 2018 honorees will do next.”

(Pictured L-R: Jessica Barden, Paapa Essiedu, Lucy Cohen)

The full lineup of 2018 Breakthrough Brits

Adrienne Law – Games Producer

Annie Price – Presenter

Chris Walley – Actor

Daniel Kokotajlo – Writer/Director

Daniel Lawrence Taylor – Actor/Writer

Ellena Wood – Director

Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly – Producer

Harry Nesbitt – Artist and Game Developer

Jay Armstrong – Game Developer

Jessica Barden – Actress

John Campbell and Katie Goode – Technical Director & Creative Director

Lucy Cohen – Writer/Director

Luisa Omielan –  Comedian

Lottie Bevan – Co-Founder & COO

Michael Pearce – Director

Paapa Essiedu – Actor

Ria Zmitrowicz – Actress

Vanessa Whyte – Cinematographer

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