Ones To Watch: 9 Young Hollywod Stars To Look Out For

Ones To Watch: 9 Young Hollywood Stars To Look Out For

Think that summertime means movies with big stars like Will Smith, Christian Bale and Johnny Depp? Well, of course it does. But that doesn't mean that this summer's cinematic slate is without its breakout stars, young actors and actresses trying to elbow their way into the spotlight amidst the big budgets and bigger explosions.

Check out these 10 aspiring thespians -- from a "Step Up" star to a certain Barbadian pop singer -- and remember their names, so you can act like you were hip to their game way before they became famous.

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DIEGO BONETA
Movie: Rock of Ages (June 15)
Resume: Mostly teen fare like "Pretty Little Liars," "90210" and "Mean Girls 2"
Why You Should Care: Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand may get the top billing, but Boneta is the center of the 80s-loving Broadway hit-turned-film adaptation, as a star-crossed lover (along with Julianne Hough) trying to make it big. Boneta, who also has a Spanish-language music career, is featured on 9 classic covers on the film's soundtrack.

ZOE KAZAN
Movie: Ruby Sparks (July 25)
Resume: Supporting roles in flashy dramas like "Revolutionary Road" and "Fracture," as well as a recurring role on HBO's "Bored To Death"
Why You Should Care: As the writer and star of "Ruby Sparks," which focuses on a make-believe literary character somehow brought to life by a struggling writer, Kazan has snagged a flashy female role in a quirky comedy -- somewhere, Zooey Deschanel is seething. "Ruby Sparks" is the first film from Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris since "Little Miss Sunshine," so all our eyes will be on their follow-up -- and, in turn, Kazan.

RICHARD AYOADE
Movie: Neighborhood Watch (July 27)
Resume: Loads of British TV, most notably the comedies "The IT Crowd" and "The Mighty Boosh"
Why You Should Care: If you've seen the "Neighborhood Watch" poster or trailer, you might think, "Wow, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and... some other guy! What a cast!" In fact, that fourth guy is this 34-year-old U.K. native who is a master of awkward comedy and now gets to pal around with three U.S. all-stars. Don't expect many scenes to be stolen from Stiller, Vaughn or Hill, but Ayoade possesses the well-rounded talent that Sacha Baron Cohen brought over to the States last decade.

BENJAMIN WALKER
Movie: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22)
Resume: Minor gigs in "Kinsey" and "Flags of our Fathers," and a starring role in Broadway's "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson"
Why You Should Care: Because he's playing Abraham Lincoln as a vampire slayer, that's why! The 29-year-old leads this strange, possibly-not-historically-accurate action flick from director Timur Bekmambetov, who helmed "Wanted." Rumor has it that playing a vampire-killing president is a good career move, so score one for Walker.

RIHANNA/JORDIN SPARKS
Movies: Battleship (May 18), Sparkle (Aug. 17)
Resume: A slew of superb pop songs and sold-out concerts
Why You Should Care: Sure, Rihanna and Jordin Sparks aren't necessarily "unknowns," but both music titans are making their acting debuts this summer in what could prove to be their breakout films. Rihanna helps battle an extraterrestrial takeover at sea in Peter Berg's big-budget "Battleship," while Sparks gets to show off her musical chops in "Sparkle," which doubled as Whitney Houston's final film role. After this summer, Rihanna and Sparks might be better known for their silver screen prowess than their radio play. Probably not, but hey, you never know what can happen when big boats or Whitney Houston is involved.

KATHRYN MCCORMICK
Movie: Step Up Revolution (July 27)
Resume: The little-loved remake of "Fame" and "So You Think You Can Dance"
Why You Should Care: Don't forget, nobody knew who Channing Tatum was before he shimmied into our hearts in the original "Step Up." As the star of the latest installment in the dance-happy franchise, which this time focuses on a professional dancer learning to tear up the streets of Miami with her moves, McCormick is given her best chance yet to take the audience's breath away and leave an indelible impression.

AARON JOHNSON
Movie: Savages (July 6)
Resume: The starring role in "Kick-Ass" after nearly a decade in supporting gigs
Why You Should Care: Johnson startled a lot of superhero fans as the title hero in "Kick-Ass," and now he gets to play Oliver Stone's muse in the director's high-octane drama about a kidnaping by the Mexican drug cartel. As a pot enthusiast who has to win his (shared) girlfriend back alongside Taylor Kitsch, the 21-year-old gets to share the screen with John Travolta, Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro.

TIKA SUMPTER
Movie: Sparkle (Aug. 17)
Resume: A whole lot of "One Life To Live" and arcs on TV shows like "The Game" and "Gossip Girl"
Why You Should Care: After scoring a small role in "Think Like a Man," Sumpter is ready to keep the summer rolling in "Sparkle," where she plays one of Jordin Sparks' character's sister and forms a girl group with the prospective star. Sure, 99% of the "Sparkle" audience will be there to see Whitney Houston's last performance and Jordin Sparks' first one, but Sumpter could finally earn the film breakthrough she deserves.

CHLOE GRACE MORETZ
Movie: Dark Shadows (May 11)
Resume: The foul-mouthed Hit-Girl in "Kick-Ass," and the lovely Isabelle in the Oscar darling "Hugo"
Why You Should Care: At only 15 years old, Moretz has demonstrated a remarkable range, whether as the warm heart of "Hugo" or a 12-year-old vampire in "Let Me In." Before she takes on the title role in the remake of "Carrie," Moretz will increase her profile as Michelle Pfeiffer's daughter in the Johnny Depp vehicle "Dark Shadows."

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Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae in 'The Photograph'.
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Opinion: Black Romance Films Are Having A Moment

It began with a kiss. Just one decade after the birth of cinema, vaudeville actors and dancers Gertie Brown and Saint Suttle gleefully embraced one another on film. They held hands and locked lips, giving the world its very first image of Black romance and intimacy on-screen. 1898's Something Good-Negro Kiss proved that love and affection was at the center of Black life. More than that, intimacy has always been essential to the survival of our people. Now, some 120 plus years later— cinema has finally reached the point where it has expanded to allow complex images of Black love, across time periods, between same-sex couples, and more recently, without being bogged down in trauma and pain.

Before Good-Negro Kiss was discovered in 2018, one of the earliest versions of Black romance in cinema was 1954's Carmen Jones starring Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge. Filmed in sweeping cinemascope, Carmen Jones follows a soldier named Joe (Belafonte) who gets so enamored with Carmen (Dandridge) that he becomes obsessive, even going AWOL to be with her. Though the film is sexy, and the tension between the actors is palpable — the romance in Carmen Jones is stilted to make white audiences comfortable. Hollywood was only willing to see Black intimacy through the lens of a renowned musical, wrapped in what ultimately becomes a tragedy. By the end of the film, Joe murders Carmen out of obsession and jealousy. Despite Belafonte and Dandridge's determination to showcase their sensuality, the material only allowed them to go so far. This sort of restraint would become the blueprint for generations of Black romance films.

Considering the utter chaos of the 1960s, it's a wonder that 1964's Nothing But A Man was ever made. A decade after Carmen Jones, Hollywood felt it was time to roll the dice on something different. Starring Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln as Duff Anderson, a railroad worker, and Josie Dawson, a Birmingham school teacher, respectively, Nothing But A Man isn't packaged for white audiences like the musicals of the previous decades. However, the burdens and pains of the couple's relationship, namely Duff's flakiness about commitment and the rage he feels as a Black man living in the South, fall on Josie's shoulders. Moving into the 1970s with films like Claudine and Mahogany, and certainly, in the 1990s and early 2000s, Black romance on-screen would either be shrouded in comedic relief, or the relationships became the sole burden of the Black woman to bear. Often, both tropes were present.

Still, Black romance stories were always evolving. The 1980s sparked something new for Black sensuality in the movies. Though these were still heteronormative depictions, (aside from 1984's The Color Purple), films made significant steps forward in terms of diverse images of Black people. However, they still held on to sexist ideals. 1986's She's Gotta Have It used a Black woman's rape as a form of character development while 1988's Coming to America — billed as a comedy, rewarded its protagonist for lying to his love interest. This would become the formula for the many Black romance movies that came to fruition in the 1990s. Cheating, lies, abandonment, lack of accountability, and trauma are all very present in some of our most beloved films. Poetic Justice, Love Jones, Jason's Lyric, The Best Man, and Love & Basketball, all have some form of struggle love embedded within the narrative — typically leaving Black women wielding the shorter end of the stick.

Poetic Justice is riddled in misogyny, The Best Man has a serial cheater as a leading man, and in Love Jones, the lack of communication and accountability from both partners is dizzying. Moreover, women are often asked to overlook cheating, lying, manipulation, or being friend-zoned to present themselves as worthy of their male partner by the film's conclusion. Yet, in our quest to connect and see brown bodies sensually and romantically in cinema, we hold these films close to our hearts, overlooking many of the toxic traits of the characters.

Despite the mega success of Black films in the 1990s— following the debut of Gina Prince-Bythewood's Love & Basketball in 2000, Black stories in cinema, aside from a few here and there, were all but erased in Hollywood. Throughout this near decade-long drought, prolific director Tyler Perry was one of the only voices in the game. However, the quality of Perry's storylines, as well as the portrayal of his female characters, have proven to be problematic. These characters are often emotionally broken, angry, and at times unhinged. If and when they do find love in movies like 2005's Diary of An Angry Black Woman, 2008's The Family That Preys and 2009's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, it's after they suffer some dire consequence or horrific punishment. This was particularly jarring during a time when there were hardly any other mainstream film images of Black people on-screen.

Thankfully, as we pressed forward into the second decade of the 21st century, Black filmmakers, writers, and producers were knocking down doors in Hollywood once again. In 2012, Ava DuVernay stepped onto the scene with her stellar film, Middle of Nowhere. The film follows Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) grappling with the choice to leave her incarcerated husband, Derek (Omari Hardwick), to follow her dreams and possibly find new love with a bus driver named Brian (David Oyelowo). Though this was a significant shift in the way Black intimacy, sensuality, and romance was depicted in movies, the real transformation happened in 2016, with Barry Jenkins' Academy Award-winning, Moonlight.

Loosely based on screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney's real life, Moonlight puts the Black male coming-of-age story center stage. However, instead of honing in on the violence and despair of the inner city, like the hood homeboy films of the 1990s — Moonlight focuses on Black love between Black men. First, there is the relationship protagonist Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) has with his father-figure, Juan (Mahershala Ali). Later, Chiron explores his queer identity with his classmate Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). The film is a sumptuous duality of hypermasculinity against lush sensuality. With this film, Jenkins effectively shattered our expectations regarding Black intimacy on-screen, while unraveling why Black love in all of its varied prisms deserves a spotlight in cinema.

Moonlight would pave the way for 2019's Queen & Slim and 2020's The Photograph. Two vastly different films, one— a harrowing dramatic thriller, centering Queen (Joe Turner-Smith ) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) who are forced together by circumstance. A dull Tinder date paves the way for a standoff with a racist police officer who eventually lays dead, prompting our leads to run for their lives.

Penned by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas — the film is almost an antithesis of what we've seen before when it comes to Black romance in the movies. Instead of the tried and true formula of a meet-cute, conflict, and resolution, Queen & Slim unites a Black man and a Black woman through Black radicalism. They come to lean on one another, inadvertently building a foundation when there is no one else either of them can trust or turn to. The weight of their relationship rests equally on both of their shoulders, as they become each other’s ride or die.

In contrast to Queen & Slim, writer/director Stella Meghie's The Photograph, is a much-deserved presentation of soft Black romance, without the trauma or brutality. The film follows Mae (Issa Rae), an art curator grappling with the death of her estranged mother, and Michael (Lakeith Stanfield) — a journalist who crosses paths with Mae's late mother's work. The film follows the typical romance formula, but the conflict and resolution aren't gut-wrenching or emotionally tumultuous. Mae and Micheal deal with real-life issues without being battered or broken. Both parties —like the lead characters in Queen & Slim, share the weight of their missteps and miscommunication. The Photograph is a recognition of straight-forward Black sensuality and love without the heaviness of Black pain. Despite all of this, the film has garnered mixed reviews. Since there isn’t any toxicity between the main characters or much comedy in The Photograph, it appears foreign to us. As a community, we’ve been conditioned to only recognize Black Love shrouded in chaos. Presently, Black women in particular, are asking Black people to look beyond archaic examples of love that are rooted in sexism, misogynoir, and rigid gender roles. Instead, Meghie presents two grown people who must hold themselves and each other accountable to have a chance at a loving and modern relationship.

Black women are also getting the opportunity to be seen as romantic leading women, in the broader scope of cinema alongside leading men from different cultures. Following the footsteps of the 2006 film Something New, where Sanaa Lathan's leading man was Australian actor Simon Baker, Issa Rae will become a leading lady once more in Netflix's The Lovebirds. The Insecure actress stars as Leilani, opposite Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani. Rae is a woman who is grappling with her strained relationship with her boyfriend, Jibran (Nanjiani). The couple's commitment to one another is hilariously put to the test when they suddenly find themselves in the middle of a chaotic murder mystery.

Black film, and undoubtedly Black romance film, has come a long way since that very first kiss was captured on-screen in 1898. With more women filmmakers at the helm, diverse projects, and the current wave of Black cinema in Hollywood, Black romance movies have the opportunity to give the next generations more nuanced depictions of connection, sensuality, sex, and intimacy. With films like Queen & Slim, Moonlight, The Photograph, and The Lovebirds — we have witnessed Black people from all walks of life and sexualities dive into romantic relationships with love, accountability, and self-awareness, which are truly the ultimate relationship goals.

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Black Thought And Questlove Secure First-Look Deal With Universal

Amir “Questlove” Thompson and Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter landed a three-year first-look deal with Universal. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the founders of the Legendary Roots Crew will create scripted and unscripted content for Universal Television Alternative Studio and Universal TV under the duo's Two One Five Entertainment imprint.

“This deal is very important to us as we've been content producers and storytellers for our entire career,” Questlove said in a statement on Wednesday (May 13). “A significant investment from Universal Television Alternative Studio and Universal Television in our vision allows us to share these stories on a much larger scale. Tarik and I see this as the next chapter to our careers, and we are very involved in the entire process. I'm directing, Tarik is writing and we both are producing.”

The deal extends the Roots decade-long relationship with NBC, first on Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night talk show in 2009, and serving as the house band for NBC’s Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, which premiered in 2014. Questlove is also music director for the Tonight Show.

“Many of our initial projects have been music-centric content, and one of our goals is to become the premiere hub for music storytelling — a safe space for these stories to be shared across a variety of platforms,” added Black Thought. “Eventually we will expand outside of music with our stories. However, as we all know, every story has a rhythm and Two One Five Entertainment will harness that rhythm and create well-produced, compelling content.”

Two One Five Entertainment's roster of projects include the AMC docuseries, Hip Hop Songs that Shook America, along with Black Woodstock, chronicling the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The company has also had a hand in the Broadway productions, Black No More and Soul Train the Musical.

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Actor, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda performs on stage during "Hamilton" GRAMMY performance for The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Richard Rodgers Theater on February 15, 2016 in New York City.
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Lin-Manuel Miranda's Original 'Hamilton' Play Heading To Disney+ This Summer

If you've been trying to get a hold of tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway since 2015, you're in luck. Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Walt Disney Company decided to release the movie of the original Broadway production, just in time for Independence Day weekend.

The live stage filming—featuring the original cast of the insanely sold-out show and direction by Thomas Kail—was initially scheduled to premiere in theaters in October 2021 but will be streamable in two months on Disney+. Miranda and Disney's executive chairman Bob Iger delivered the announcement on Tuesday morning (May 12) on ABC's Good Morning America.

“We filmed this over three days in June of 2016," said Miranda. "It was the week before the principals started to leave, I think it was the week before Pippa (Phillipa Soo), Leslie (Odom Jr.) and I left, and Ariana DeBose from the ensemble… And it just captures that moment in time so beautifully. Watching it brings me right back there with that incredible, once-in-a-lifetime company, and I just can’t wait for you to see it."

JUST IN: @RobertIger and @Lin_Manuel Miranda announce the filmed version of “Hamilton” coming to @DisneyPlus July 3rd! https://t.co/hhsPclrwpn pic.twitter.com/XcrfdxGOJR

— Good Morning America (@GMA) May 12, 2020

After it's off-broadway premiere and popularity in 2015, Hamilton went on to win numerous accolades including a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 11 Tony awards, and a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Hamilton was still playing in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London with plans of premiering in Australia.

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