Variety’s 10 Europeans to Watch TV spotlights actors and content creators poised for a 2022 breakthrough. At Series Mania television drama festival, kicking off March 18 in Lille, France, Variety will present its selection of the most promising up-and-coming talent working in the European television business.
Madrid-based Costafreda directed and co-created “Cardo,” hailed by Variety as one of best international shows of 2021. It was the second such accolade for Costafreda — she was previously a script writer on “Veneno,” tapped by Variety as one of the best international series of 2020. Starring co-creator Ana Rujas as a woman about to hit 30, who tries to turn her life around, “Cardo” was a critical hit for local streamer Atresplayer. “It is the most ambitious project that I was faced with and the most intense on many levels,” says Costafreda, describing it as “an emotional journey where we all grew and learned a lot.” Looking ahead, Costafreda says she would like to create her own projects, both series and films, and to collaborate with creators and artists she admires. “I like to focus on things that happen to me and my friends. … This doesn’t mean that you have to talk about your life, but what you perceive about the world. You can tell that story in a thousand different ways and the magic of cinema lies in that.”
“Riot Police,” “Money Heist”
Born in Madrid in 1995, Criado is a young Spanish actor who already has a lengthy curriculum vitae. After appearing in several TV projects as a youngster, he starred in popular Spanish series “Águila Roja” at the age of 10. Since then, he hasn’t stopped working, appearing in acclaimed series such as Antena 3’s “Plastic Sea” and Movistar Plus’ “Riot Police,” and, most recently, the fifth season of Netflix’s “Money Heist.” In film, he won a Goya nomination for “Family United,” and is soon to be seen in the Spanish-language spinoff of “Bird Box” for Netflix. His theater debut came in the play “Cronología de las Bestias,” which premiered at the Teatro Español in Madrid. Given his long acting experience, it’s little wonder that Criado says: “Acting is my life, my work and my passion. I give my all in every project.” Looking ahead, he says he wants to be able to choose “interesting projects which contribute to me and make me grow, and which represent a personal and professional challenge.”
Quoc Dang Tran
A French writer with Vietnamese heritage, Dang Tran spent several years in the corporate world before what he describes as “a wonderful mid-life crisis” led him to become a screenwriter. Dang Tran says “a taste for diversity, but also a reluctance to be labelled” has seen him explore different TV genres: his credits include France Télévisions and Netflix comedy “Call My Agent,” Canal Plus thrillers “The Bureau” and “Nox,” Arte supernatural thriller “Intrusion” and Netflix horror show “Marianne.” He recently created Disney Plus’ first French original drama “Parallels,” a teen sci-fi show, and “The Drops of God,” an adaptation of the manga about oenology — the study of wines — for France Télévisions and Hulu Japan. Despite the mix of genres, Dang Tran recently realized that he had a central theme to his work: “No matter what I write I always come back to it: ‘Love before it’s too late.’” Looking ahead, he wants to create ambitious TV shows with global appeal, either in French or English.
“Lateish Show With Mo Gilligan”
Gilligan was working as a retail assistant in a Levi’s store in London when his comedy career started to take off. Clips he uploaded to social media started going viral, landing him a Channel 4 primetime series, “The Lateish Show With Mo Gilligan,” in 2019, and earning him a BAFTA. He has since co-hosted hit entertainment series “The Big Narstie Show,” which also won a BAFTA, released two Netflix specials and embarked on a successful stand-up comedy tour. He says his two career highlights have been selling out the O2 Arena with a crowd of 20,000 people (“They even renamed the building the Mo2 last year”) and his Netflix specials, which allowed him to showcase his comedy around the world. “It’s hard to choose between both,” Gilligan says. “But both are probably things I once daydreamed about when I was folding jeans in Levi’s.” Gilligan is eyeing the U.S. next: “I’ve always been inspired by how America has exported entertainment across the globe since I was a kid, watching Eddie Murphy movies. My ambition is to bring my brand of entertainment to the U.S. and bring transatlantic links even closer.”
This is going to be a big year for rising British actor Hainsworth, with a trio of high-profile projects hitting the screen. Next month, she can be seen in Netflix’s coming-of-age comedy “Metal Lords,” from “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Hainsworth also stars in upcoming BBC and Netflix horror series “Red Rose,” and the Lena Dunham written and directed feature “Catherine, Called Birdy” for Amazon, which is set in 13th century England. “I’ve been very lucky with my jobs so far,” acknowledges Hainsworth, who also has a raft of BBC drama credits to her name, including “The Victim,” “Wanderlust” and “Les Misérables.” To work with actors and directors I’ve idolized since I was a kid is pretty special. I still have to pinch myself!” Hainsworth speaks of “the feeling of freedom, the feeling of release, the intensity” that inspires her as an actor, and says there’s also an anger inside that drives her craft: “I’ll always remember the quote from Christopher Plummer — ‘I think anger does fuel a successful acting career. To play the great roles, you have to learn how to blaze.’”
Expect to hear much more about Londoner Lecky in 2022. Her drama “Mood” launched to critical acclaim on BBC3 this month. The project originated as one-woman show “Superhoe,” written and performed by Lecky at the Royal Court Theatre in 2019, with the BBC commissioning an adaptation even before it opened on stage. “Mood” also features original music by Lecky, who stars as a young woman with big dreams but empty pockets. “For me, writing an authentic and nuanced portrayal of someone like her is necessary,” says Lecky. “I’m passionate about stories which propel characters into the spotlight in a real way and show their humanness, whether likeable or not.” Last year, Lecky not only starred in Sky One’s “Bloods,” but was also part of the writers’ room on the comedy. She also wrote and starred in 2020 ITV miniseries “Unsaid Stories.” Lecky is now developing an original TV project with Firebird Pictures, working on feature ideas, and says she will continue creating music. “I’m inspired to create bold and distinctive work that says something about society today,” she says.
A breakout role alongside Penélope Cruz in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Parallel Mothers” has propelled Spanish actor Smit to international recognition. Amazingly, it is one of only two films Smit has starred in that have so far been released. Her first starring role, in thriller “No Matarás” by David Victori, earned her a newcomer nomination at Spain’s Goya Awards. She picked up a consecutive Goya nomination for “Parallel Mothers,” something no other Spanish actor has achieved. Behind the scenes, Smit has been busy: She will be seen in upcoming Netflix Spanish original thriller “Alma,” and the feature films “Libélulas” and “Tin y Tina.” Right now, she is playing the lead role in Netflix series “La Chica de Nieve.” Smit says all these projects have been “very important to me, for the learning I have been able to get from each of them,” but she clearly appreciates the “national and international visibility” that “Parallel Mothers” has given her. Smit seems determined not to let success go to her head; her ambition, she says, is “to continue living in the present and not to set expectations for the future.”
Steenstrup is the versatile Norwegian creator, writer and star of Viaplay’s dramedy hit “Pørni,” about a struggling single mother. It’s just started production on its third season. After training at the Norwegian National Theater School, Steenstrup performed Ibsen and Shakespeare at the National Theater before becoming a successful comedian. “I’m driven by an urge to try new things, and to try to be good at it,” she says. She has also starred in several movies, including Dag Johan Haugerud’s acclaimed “Beware of Children,” which won her the actor prize at the Göteborg Film Festival. Steenstrup has hosted numerous TV shows, appeared in some of Norway’s biggest comedy series, and can also be seen in “Lilyhammer” and “Ragnarok” on Netflix. Additionally, she is developing two TV series in Norway. “The ultimate highlight for me is being allowed to switch between so many genres from early on. I’ve been allowed to do dead serious roles and pure comedy without being boxed in,” she says.
Chas Appeti and Junior Okoli
Appeti and Okoli look set for a much higher profile when their musical drama “Jungle” debuts on Amazon Prime Video. Viewed through the prism of U.K. grime and drill music, the six-parter promises to give a unique perspective on the often-unseen worlds of inner-city London, where the two grew up — Okoli in Streatham and Appeti in Peckham and Margate. The pair met five years ago, and soon formed creative partnership Nothing Lost. Appeti has established himself as a music video director and DOP, while Okoli is a director, writer and storyteller. “We aim to create more unusual and inspiring films of art. Art that moves people and stirs emotion, leaves an imprint,” they say. “We’re not interested in ‘safe’ or ‘conventional’ because life isn’t always that, it’s not always safe and conventional. Not for some people anyway … and those are people whose stories we want to tell.” Shortlisted in the Saatchi & Saatchi New Creators Class of 2019 for their piece “Woke,” “Jungle” is their first TV project.
Sian Robins Grace and Lucy Gaymer
Robins Grace and Gaymer are the co-creators of HBO and Sky comedy horror series “The Baby,” which world premieres in the international competition section at this month’s Series Mania TV Festival. Billed as a darkly comic examination of motherhood as an institution through a genre lens, the series shot last year with Nicole Kassell (“Watchmen”) as lead director. Showrunner Robins Grace worked at Eleven as head of development, where she was a co-executive producer on Netflix hit “Sex Education,” which she developed with creator Laurie Nunn. She also developed through to greenlight Netflix’s upcoming political thriller “White Stork,” written by Chris Dunlop with Tom Hiddleston set to star. Producer Gaymer, meanwhile, has worked extensively across genres including documentary, horror, comedy and high-end drama as a production manager. Her credits include ITV’s “Liar,” Sky Atlantic’s “Gangs of London” and BBC2’s “The Witchfinder.”