Since 2013, Variety has been selecting its list of 10 Brits to Watch, artists across all media who have made an impact in entertainment. This year’s honorees will be feted at the seventh annual Newport Beach Film Festival U.K. Honors on Feb. 16 at at the Londoner Hotel in London.
India Amarteifio, "Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'
With a background in dance and theater, Amarteifio is one of the brightest young British acting talents on the horizon, with early stage credits in London’s West End (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical,” “Matilda the Musical,” “The Lion King”), as well as numerous television appearances (“Doctor Who,” “The Interceptor,” “The Line of Duty,” “Sex Education,” and “Military Wives”). “I trained professionally as a dancer, and when I was around 14 or 15 years old, I realized that dance is a short-lived career. I decided to hone-in on acting, and made a go of it.”
Amarteifio’s profile is about to be considerably raised later this year, with the arrival of Netflix’s eight-part limited series, “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story,” in which she plays the titular lead. “It’s daunting to have your name associated with a project like ‘Queen Charlotte,’ but I’ve seen two episodes, and I’m so chuffed about how it’s turned out. There’s a big weight in that it’s in the ‘Bridgerton’ family, but it will be a thrill to get the show out into the world. I learned a lot about myself through the character, and what I was capable of as an actress.”
Doing something that’s the polar opposite to “Queen Charlotte” is of interest to Amarteifio, who’s eager to try new genres. “I’d like to do a dark and gritty thriller, and I’d love to work with Jordan Peele. I’m in awe of his films and it would be incredible to work with him.”
— Nick Clement
Influences: Frances McDormand, Andrea Arnold, “my Mom”
Reps: Agency: Hamilton Hodell
Dolly Alderton, "Everything I Know About Love"
Don’t try to pin Alderton down.
When Alderton, 34, started writing, she says, “I felt lots of pressure because people would tell me I had to choose one thing.” She proved doubters wrong with success as a newspaper columnist, memoirist (“Everything I Know About Love”), novelist (“Ghosts”) and TV writer — she adapted “Everything I Know About Love” into the show of the same name for BBC One and Peacock. Yet she still gets told to narrow her focus.
“I feel lucky that I switch,” she says. “Those three crafts activate totally different parts of my brain and challenge me in different ways. If I only did one of those things, I’d go mad.”
Now at work on her second novel, Alderton jokes “if I only wrote novels, I’d never leave the house and would forget how to speak to people and would be growing a beard in a cave. If I only wrote TV shows, I worry about losing my creative soul, the space that’s just for me. If I just did essays, I’d have no friends, no one would date me and I’d need therapy five days a week.”
TV shows require collaboration, diplomacy and compromise, not to mention a pragmatism that she calls “a huge heartbreak.”
Alderton says the novelist in her sparks detailed set directions (though she gets cautioned about going overboard and “writing in atmosphere that’s inactionable”). And while she says some reviewers thought her first novel too descriptive, TV writing has her in thrall to dialogue. “In my first novel if someone was making breakfast, they’d crack the egg and I’d write that ‘the yolk was the color of sunshine breaking through the clouds,’ now it’s ‘She made an egg’ and then she starts talking.”
— Stuart Miller
Influences: “Nora Ephron is my homegirl. No one writes dialogue and chemistry like her.”
Reps: Screenwriting agent: Curtis Brown, book agent: C&W
Benjamin Caron, "Sharper"
Caron wasn’t “one of those directors who was running around making short films with a Super Eight camera when I was 8 years old.” The director, who makes his feature film debut with the twisty (and twisted) thriller “Sharper” hitting theaters this week before debuting on Apple TV+ on Feb. 17, grew up in a pub in the Midlands and was more obsessed with magic. Most specifically Tommy Cooper, a magician-comedian who was known for his tricks going wrong — “sort of an early Penn and Teller.” Caron would eventually direct a film for ITV1, “Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This.” But it was his collaboration with another magician, Derren Brown, that helped put him on the map when they collaborated on “The Heist,” a 2006 TV special that found the mentalist persuading four ordinary people to commit armed robbery.
Directing gigs including a video for Jay-Z and on hit shows such as “Wallander,” “Sherlock,” “The Crown” and “Andor” followed. But he still struggled to think of himself as a film director, noting, “Movies were made in this faraway land and I couldn’t even see myself as part of that conversation.”
But Caron says he “inhaled” the “Sharper” script by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, about a group of interconnected people (including Julianne Moore and Sebastian Stan) who may or may not be conning one another at any given time. “Reading it was like a poker game,” Caron notes. “It was mischievous and played around with trust and betrayal.” It was also a joy to make, and fun to watch with test audiences in L.A. I love American audiences because they’re so audible. People gasped out loud in all the right places.”
— Jenelle Riley
Influences: “Harold and Maude,” Mike Nichols, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, James Bond films
Reps: Agency: WME, Independent Talent (U.K.)
Frankie Corio, "Aftersun"
“Aftersun” stars Corio as Sophie Paterson, a free-spirited yet perceptive 11-year-old who spends a weeklong vacation in the 1990s at a seaside resort with her loving but addled young father, Calum (Paul Mescal). If the latter gives the movie a quiet heartbreak, it’s Corio who is its emotional center.
Her first stab at acting began when Corio’s mother submitted a photo to an online casting notice. Several video submissions led to an audition in Glasgow and, eventually, her casting. “I’d never really been interested in it before because I never really knew that I could do acting,” says Corio.
She had calls with Mescal, but didn’t meet in person until a two-week rehearsal period prior to production. “The first time I saw him was at 12 o’clock at night in Turkey at an airport, so it was pretty weird,” Corio says. “But it was still cool. And then we went on and became besties!”
Corio accompanied “Aftersun” to its Cannes premiere (“I loved getting an excuse to wear a suit”) and counts the film’s karaoke scene as the most difficult. Her favorite memory: “When I look back, because my birthday was on set, everybody sang happy birthday to me and got me a big chocolate cake at lunch. So I love that, when I remember it. That’s the best day I had.”
A middle child who enjoys playing football and drawing, Corio, now 12, has already completed a small role in the horror movie “The Bagman,” starring Sam Claflin. She enjoyed the experience enough to convince her she’s on the right path.
“I’m definitely planning on continuing doing acting as long as I can,” Corio says. “I don’t really know how I’m going to manage with school and stuff, but so far everything is going good.”
— Brent Simon
Influences: Jenna Ortega, Joe Locke, Kit Connor
Reps: Agency: WME, the Artists Partnership (U.K.)
Yasmin Finney, "Heartstopper"
Still fresh in her blossoming career, 19-year-old Finney has starred as fan favorite Elle on the hit Netflix series “Heartstopper,” had her name praised in England’s House of Commons, and soon will play beloved character Rose on “Doctor Who.” “It’s been a whirlwind,” Finney says. Yet only a few years ago, she wasn’t sure acting would be her life’s pursuit. “I never thought of it until I got the opportunity on ‘Heartstopper,’ and saw an open casting call for a trans role that felt like a perfect moment for me to take that leap of faith.”
Part of the pleasure of playing roles not too dissimilar from herself is that it complements her tireless efforts as a Black trans activist, changing hearts and minds through art. “With more roles like Rose and Elle, it’ll create a safer space,” Finney says. “It’s representation, and that’s so powerful.” That said, she’s also ready for the challenge of performing as protagonists with whom she doesn’t directly identify. “I love tell-
ing stories, whether they’re trans or not. I’m ready to embark on new chapters.”
Though she’s gained confidence, has learned to set boundaries, and gives herself the benefit of time to reflect on her success, Finney predicts her most rewarding work is yet to come: “I’m not going to be completely happy until I’m at my end goal, which is something far greater than achieving a role. I’m out here to change the world the best way I can for my community and everyone who’s been looked at differently because of the color of their skin or gender identity.”
— Courtney Howard
Influences: Laverne Cox, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez and the entire cast of “Pose,” Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, her own mum and other empowering, self-made Black women
Reps: Agency: Curtis Brown (U.K.)
Jonah Hauer-King, "The Little Mermaid"
An encouraging word by a high school teacher led Hauer-King to the art of acting. Yet it wasn’t until later, when his friend’s play made it into the Edinburgh Festival, when he considered it his career of choice. “It was partly the performance part of it, but it was also that I was so excited to be part of this company — a creative force where we were all marching in together.”
Many of Hauer-King’s breakout turns have been in adaptations, from playing Laurie in PBS’ “Little Women” and Paul Wilcox in Starz’s “Howards End” to starring as Prince Eric in the upcoming live-action version of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” The pre-existing material acts as part of his research. “That’s a blueprint and a treasure trove of information.” The other part is pure invention. In the case of the latter role, “I couldn’t avoid the cartoon since I grew up with it. I was also trying really hard not to rely too heavily on it, because we wanted to breathe new life into it and make it our movie.”
When selecting future gigs, the Londoner gravitates toward projects that break him out of his comfort zone. “Whatever feels the furthest possible thing from the previous job,” says Hauer-King. “That might be in terms of story content, character, or the size and scale of the project.” He’s also hoping to someday sport a different hat on set. “I’d love to direct. I have so much admiration for directors.”
— Courtney Howard
Influences: Leslie Manville, Matthew Macfadyen, Art Malik and John Degleish
Reps: Agency: CAA, United Agents (U.K.)
Jenn Nkiru, "Random Acts of Flyness"
Nkiru just finished shooting a short film about the history and people of Manchester, England. While the film, such as the one she shot for the Metropolitan Museum of Art about Seneca Village in 2021, was a commission, she took it on because at least once a year, she seeks out a project where she has total freedom and final cut.
That said, while Nkiru — best known for directing Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl” video — thinks of herself as an “artist” more than just a director, she is also a pragmatist.
“I enjoy being able to flex various skills in various spaces and I move according to the terrain I’m in,” she says, noting that when given total freedom she’ll “shapeshift to that spirit.” For instance, she was able to shoot a commercial starring Dua Lipa for Yves St. Laurent on an island in just three days. “I’m quite dexterous and able to navigate different spaces well.”
Perceiving herself as an artist is more about “an approach that’s attached with my life experience and about how I process things rather than what I make,” says Nkiru, who is Nigerian British but who got her MFA in filmmaking from Howard University. “Some of my work sits in galleries, some are music videos, some are commercials.”
Now Nkiru is entering new arenas: she recently directed two episodes of HBO’s “Random Acts of Flyness,” with only four days to shoot each one. “That was a confirmation that I can do this and that the vision I have is doable,” she says.
Nkiru is shopping two TV shows and looking to direct her first feature. “I serve the story before I serve my ego or myself so I’m looking for a writer with an incredible voice that I can bring something fresh to,” she says. “And I’m confident it’s going to come soon.”
— Stuart Miller
Influences: Akira Kurosawa, Maya Deren, her Howard University professor Haile Gerima and music producer J. Dilla
Reps: Agency: UTA
Ripley Parker, "The F*ck It Bucket"
“Feeling like a stranger in your own skin is a very teenage experience that I hope doesn’t follow too far into adulthood. I’ll find out soon enough, I suppose,” says Parker, the 22-year-old creator of a new teen-oriented series with the working title “The F*ck It Bucket,” set to debut this summer on Netflix.
When she was 18, Parker contributed an essay for a curated book, “It’s Not Okay to Feel Blue (and Other Lies),” which she describes as “a series of letters to myself at different points in my life — about anxiety, queerness, loneliness, pride, love, and body image.”
During the COVID lockdown, using those themes as building blocks, Parker began giving narrative form to her ideas. At the same time, she was making lists with her sister of things they wanted to do post-pandemic. “I latched onto the list element, to ground each episode and give it a driving force and a linchpin to refer back to if I spun out, as writers do,” she says.
The result, Parker says, is “about the tightrope of youth, about trying to find an identity that can carry you across all the personas that you have to adopt throughout your day-to-day.”
The daughter of filmmaker Ol Parker and actor Thandiwe Newton, Parker is currently working on her first film commission, while also making preparations for a potential second season of her series. The next hill to conquer after that? “I really, really love writing for theater — which is a really unglamorous move, apparently — but I think it’s mostly where my passion lies.”
— Brent Simon
Influences: Maya Angelou, Nora Ephron, Otis Redding, Leonard Cohen, James Baldwin, playwright Siofra Dromgoole
Reps: Agency: Knight Hall Agency (U.K.)
Bella Ramsey, "The Last of Us"
Like a character in a video game, Ramsey keeps leveling up. The Nottingham-born costar of “The Last of Us” is having a repeat experience of getting an HBO boost, similar to first appearing on “Game of Thrones” in its sixth season as Lady Lyanna Mormont, jolting her recognizability overnight.
“My face was suddenly all over the internet, people started to recognize me when I was out and about,” recalls Ramsey. “It really was a springboard for the rest of my career. I don’t think I would be an actor if it wasn’t for ‘Game of Thrones.’”
Since then, Ramsey has worked steadily and tirelessly, including turns on series such as “His Dark Materials” and “The Worst Witch” (winning a 2019 BAFTA young performer award), and voicing the title character for the Netflix series “Hilda” and the follow-up film “Hilda and the Mountain King.”
In features, Ramsey has played opposite Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft in “Judy,” alongside Jesse Eisenberg in “Resistance” and recently starred in Lena Dunham’s “Catherine Called Birdy.”
While riding the wave of headlining Sunday night’s latest HBO must-see drama, Ramsey is also looking ahead to the future. She’s written a script she hopes to direct at some point and also seeks to help forge paths for others into the arts.
“My dream as a kid was to set up a performing arts center for young people with learning disabilities,” she says. “So maybe that’s a dream I’ll reignite at some point.”
Influences: Winona Ryder, Roberta Flack, David Peacock, Jesse Eisenberg
Reps: Agency: CAA; Conway van Gelder Grant (U.K.); Legal: Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman
Leo Woodall, "The White Lotus"
Woodall is riding high off the buzz from the second season of HBO’s hit series, “The White Lotus,” in which he played a morally bankrupt con artist who becomes integral to the many twists of the narrative. The show’s red-hot popularity is not lost on him in any sense. “I love how passionate the viewers are, and I’ve enjoyed all their random, or completely accurate, theories about the show. As far as the experience of working on the series, I can’t compare it to anything. It stands alone. I’d do it all again in a second.”
Born in Hammersmith, London, Woodall comes from an artistic family, as his father, stepfather, and grandmother all worked as actors, with the allure of performing for the camera reaching him early. “I’ve always wanted to work in film. I’ve had a love for it for as long as I can remember. At the end of the day, I just want to look back at my career, whenever it ends, and be proud of the work. I want to work with good people on good projects. That’s it. And do a movie with a dog.”
Woodall was previously seen in the Apple TV+ feature “Cherry,” from the Russo brothers, who went on to cast him in their upcoming Amazon spy series, “Citadel.” Up next are the indie film “Nomad,” which is the first narrative feature to be shot on all seven continents, as well as a lead role in the Netflix series, “One Day,” based on the David Nicholls novel.
— Nick Clement
Influences: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Denzel Washington, Florence Pugh, Zendaya
Reps: Gersh; Management: Denton Brierley; Legal: Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher