oscars 2019

Your Guide to the Nobodies Who Will Be Somebodies This Awards Season

Yalitza Aparicio, KiKi Layne, and Jonas Strand Gravli. Photo: Netflix and Annapurna Pictures

When it comes to the fall movie season, Ally Campana isn’t the only star being born. This year, a few of our favorite auteurs have eschewed working with established Hollywood stars in favor of bringing new faces to the screen. Some of them have never acted professionally before, while others are merely unfamiliar to American audiences, but they all have one thing in common: They may be nobodies now, but they’ll be somebodies soon.

Yalitza Aparicio

Photo: Netflix

Movie: Roma.
Role: Cleo, a live-in housekeeper for an upper-middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City.
Percentage of the Movie That’s Just Her Face: 60 percent.
Critical Raves: “At the heart of [Roma] is a wonderful performance from Aparicio, who brings to the role something gentle, delicate, stoic and selfless. She is the jewel of this outstanding film.”
Where She’s From: Mexico.
Prior Acting Experience: None. According to the Toronto Star, Aparicio was a preschool teacher in Oaxaca before winning the role. (That experience surely came in handy, as she spends many scenes acting opposite rambunctious child actors.)
Representative Quote: “I was hesitant to go to the casting because I thought it could’ve been a trafficking scam.”
Oscar Buzz? More than a few pundits say she could sneak into the Best Actress race. But campaigning may prove difficult: Aparicio doesn’t speak English, though she’s reportedly taking lessons.
Fun Fact: Aparicio and her co-star Nancy García García were visibly agog at the sight of Alexander Skarsgård at the Roma party in Toronto — some benefits to Oscar season you don’t need to speak the language to enjoy.

Marina de Tavira

Photo: Netflix

Movie: Roma.
Role: Sofia, the family’s harried mother, who attempts to shelter her children through a trying time.
Percentage of the Movie That’s Just Her Face: 7 percent.
Critical Raves: Indiewire calls her “scene-stealing.”
Where She’s From: Mexico.
Prior Acting Experience: De Tavira is a veteran TV and theater actress who’s twice been nominated for the Mexican film critics’ Silver Goddess Award. She’s in the Netflix family already, popping up as a special prosecutor in the streamer’s Spanish-language political drama Ingobernable.
Representative Quote: “[The film] is speaking about a very particular Mexican relationship between two women who come from different contexts. But it’s been touching people … around the world.”
Oscar Buzz? She’s considered a long shot in the Supporting Actress race.
Fun Fact: Variety recently named de Tavira one of their 10 Actors to Watch in 2018, alongside Zazie Beetz, Gemma Chan, and Henry Golding.

KiKi Layne

Photo: Annapurna Pictures

Movie: If Beale Street Could Talk
Role: Tish, a young woman in 1970s Harlem whose fiancé Fonny is in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.
Percentage of the Movie That’s Just Her Face: 55 percent.
Critical Raves: “As in Moonlight, sometimes Tish and Fonny look directly into the camera, into our eyes, daring us not to look away, letting us fall in love with them. Mixed with Nicholas Britell’s haunting score, the result is a blend of joy, compassion, and deep sadness.”
Where She’s From: Cincinnati, but she went to college in Chicago.
Prior Acting Experience: Before Beale Street her sole screen credit was playing a patient on a 2016 episode of Chicago Med. Three months after moving to L.A., she beat out 300 other actresses for the role of Tish.
Representative quote: “I’m so thankful to all these [designer] brands for being willing to work with me before the movie is even out, when I still have less than 2,000 followers on Instagram!” (She’s up to 2,600 at press time.)
Oscar Buzz? She has an outside shot of breaking into the Best Actress race.
Fun Fact: According to her résumé, Layne’s special skills include being able to burp on cue.

Stephan James

Photo: Annapurna Pictures

Movie: If Beale Street Could Talk
Role: Fonny, a young man who’s wrongfully imprisoned.
Percentage of the Movie That’s Just His Face: 41 percent.
Critical Raves: “He’s effortlessly charismatic but also gut-wrenchingly vulnerable and his tortured face will burn its way into your memory.”
Where He’s From: Canada.
Prior Acting Experience: He played Jesse Owens in the 2016 biopic Race, and has also been seen in Selma, Shots Fired, and Degrassi (of course). He’s also starring alongside Julia Roberts in the upcoming Amazon series Homecoming.
Representative Quote: “It was easy to work with KiKi. She has pure, raw energy about her that’s very natural. For her first major film, it was incredible to see.”
Oscar Buzz? There was some debate about which category he would compete in, but Annapurna has decided it’s worth the risk to run him in Best Actor.
Fun Fact: His dream role is Spider-Man.

Anders Danielsen Lie

Photo: Erik Aavatsmark/Erik Aavatsmark/Netflix

Movie: 22 July
Role: Right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in a 2011 bombing and shooting spree in Norway.
Percentage of the Movie That’s Just His Face: 9 percent.
Critical Raves: Vanity Fair calls him “great,” noting that he plays Breivik with “chilled detachment.”
Where He’s From: Norway.
Prior Acting Experience: If you enjoy European cinema, you may have seen Lie before: He’s a favorite of Joachim Trier, having starred in the director’s Reprise and Oslo, 31 August, and he also had a small role in Personal Shopper.
Representative Quote: “I knew that [the role] was going to be a huge research job. It took me a while to reflect on how this could affect me.”
Oscar Buzz? Probably not.
Fun Fact: Besides acting, he’s also a doctor and rock musician.

Jonas Strand Gravli

Photo: Erik Aavatsmark via Netflix

Movie: 22 July
Role: Viljar Hanssen, a real survivor of Breivik’s terror attacks.
Percentage of the Movie That’s Just His Face: 11 percent.
Critical Raves: “[Gravli’s] performance seems entirely unaffected despite the fact that his character undergoes such an enormous physical change.”
Where He’s From: Norway.
Prior Acting Experience: Only small roles in Norwegian TV shows. He’ll next appear in a biopic of Antarctic explorer Roald Amundsen.
Representative Quote: “The most important part for me was to really show how brave Viljar was, and how focused he was in the road to recovery.”
Oscar Buzz? Not really.
Fun Fact: His #tbt game on Instagram is pretty solid.

Sunny Suljic

Photo: Tobin Yelland/A24

Movie: Mid90s
Role: Stevie, a kid in ’90s L.A. who escapes his terrible home life by learning how to skateboard.
Percentage of the Movie That’s Just His Face: 79 percent.
Critical Raves: “Suljic is a wonder at making his smile rise through the darkness.”
Where He’s From: America.
Prior Acting Experience: He played Colin Farrell’s son in Killing of a Sacred Deer, a role that had Deadline call him the “hottest 11-year-old thesp in town.” He also did the voice-acting and motion-capture for Kratos’s son in the new God of War game.
Oscar Buzz: Deadline’s Pete Hammond says, “I would not forget him at awards time,” though voters might.
Fun Fact: He has a SoundCloud!

Your Guide to the Nobodies Who’ll Be Somebodies This Fall