ELLE’s 2024 Hollywood Rising Portfolio

Posted on May 31, 2024


ELLE’s annual Hollywood Rising package is a proving ground for future stars. On a recent weekend in the heart of Los Angeles, at the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, ELLE’s 2024 class—12 of the entertainment industry’s most exciting young talents—gathered to pose for the camera and discuss their breakout projects. ELLE’s 2024 Hollywood Rising honorees are: Aaron Moten, Anna Sawai, Brandon Perea, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Ella Purnell, Emma Laird, Freya Allan, Havana Rose Liu, Molly Gordon, Nicholas Galitzine, Ryan Destiny and Sophie Thatcher.



Aaron MotenThe Fallout star is using his talents to redefine Blackness in Hollywood.


On how expanding roles for Black actors like Moten leads to a broader perspective on Blackness onscreen: “People really want to connect with the characters that they see, so it’s a personal goal of mine to continue to redefine what Blackness is for audiences and not overplay something that we’ve heard before. There’s a certain aspect of Blackness that is overproduced by Hollywood. As a Black man, sometimes I have been asked to sound like I would when talking to my cousins or my family for the camera and in a situation where I wouldn’t speak that way.

On how his commitment to acting and the focus it requires is a large reason why he often doesn’t use social media: “I used to love Instagram, and then it started to clash with what I want out of life, which is to be very present,” he says… He prefers the interactions be IRL: “I want to see people. If you see me, come talk to me. I’m a very open person.”


Anna Sawai: The Shōgun star on the buzz around her recent projects and what lies ahead.


On how prior to joining the star-studded cast of Shōgun, Sawai met with co-creator Justin Marks to ensure the story was being told accurately: “As a Japanese woman, it was really important to me that we weren’t just perpetuating this image that Westerners have of us,” she explains. She walked away feeling reassured, and with a part she could sink her teeth into. “I felt like she was a character that I had never really seen before,” Sawai says. “To be able to play someone who is so layered and who’s so broken and sensitive, but also having that unbelievably strong core and finding her voice and really taking action—that meant a lot to me.”

On her clear vision of what’s ahead for her career and how she is wary of being typecast: “I love doing action, but I don’t want to be labeled as the ‘action actress,’” Sawai says. “I’m confident doing it, but I’m very selective, because I know that it’s easy for people to have this image of an Asian person doing action, and we are so much more than that.” She says that when she’s evaluating new roles, she considers whether the action makes sense and if the character has a richly detailed story in addition to the fighting.


Brandon Perea: The actor is starring appearing alongside Daisy Edgar-Jones and Glen Powell in Twisters, a follow up to the hit 1996 storm-chasing thriller, Twister.


On how before pursuing a career as an actor, Perea spent some of his early teen years traveling across America for skate shows, and how that prepared him for being in the public sphere: “It was almost like being a pop star of roller skating. Wherever I’d go, there would be a poster of me in a roller rink, and I’d sign it and take photos.” The experience “bred me to be ready for a place like Hollywood,” he adds. “I got a taste of craziness.”

On his relationship with his costar Glen Powell: [We] went from costars to bonding “as humans, rather than just actors, on a brotherhood level.” It also helped that Twisters was filmed on location in Oklahoma, where “no one knew anyone, so you really relied on each other to be social,” Perea says. “Those are the best experiences, because you craft memories that no one else will ever understand, except for the people that were there for it.”


D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai: The Reservation Dogs and Warfare star on making Indigenous stories more visible in Hollywood.


On how as Woon-A-Tai reaches new heights, he wants to bring other Indigenous actors up with him: “I tell Native kids all the time, ‘If you’re interested in acting, try it out.’ If you do well in this industry, you can gain a whole new life, like I have.” … In the future, Woon-A-Tai wants to write, direct, produce, expand his modeling career, and, of course, continue uplifting his community: “My goal is, honestly, to get Natives paid.”

On what it means to ‘get it right’ with Native representation: “if you want to make a story regarding Native people, it should definitely be mandatory, in my opinion, to have a Native director, Native writer, and Native casting director,” he says. To any non-Indigenous casting directors thinking there are “not enough Native actors” out there, Woon-A-Tai calls BS. “I just feel like they’re not looking; [they’re only looking in certain places]….We’re everywhere. We’re in cities, rural areas, reservations. You can look anywhere, and you’ll definitely find Natives who are willing to try to act.”


Ella PurnellThe Fallout and Yellowjackets star likes roles that “get down and dirty.”


On how the widespread praise for Yellowjackets proves that audiences crave more complex stories about women: “We shouldn’t shy away from showing women in a survivalist drama or showing women in something quite violent,” Purnell says. “We should tell these stories, because they do exist. Women obviously have the same emotional capacity that men do.”

On her theory as to why she’s drawn to survival roles: Maybe they’re a subconscious response to growing up in the industry and reading far too many scripts featuring women with the same stereotypical traits. “And I can almost predict the line she’s going to say, and what’s going to happen,” she says. Purnell has nothing against those roles; sometimes they turn out to be amazing or catapult an actor’s career. “But at this point in my life, I really just want to get down and dirty,” she says, her face scrunching up with feeling. “I want to play gritty roles, I want to get violent and ugly and desperate.…I want to see what’s inside, not just surface level.”


Emma LairdIt took a trip across the pond for the British star’s career to bloom.


On how she felt a freedom and an optimism in the U.S. that she hadn’t experienced before in the UK: “I felt very at home in America. I felt like there were more opportunities in terms of what I wanted to achieve. I felt like people in America believed it. In England, I think if I turned around and said, ‘Oh, I want to win an Oscar,’ I’d get laughed at. But in America, it felt like I was starting with a clean slate, and nobody knew who I was or where I’d studied.”


Freya AllanThe Witcher and Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes star is comfortable with the woman she’s becoming.


On advocating for her characters in enormous productions like The Witcher and Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes“There’s always a slight essence of having to fight for the story, and the character building, which is what interests us as actors. And so my dream now is to do something where it’s completely stripped back, and it’s all about the acting, and there are no big sets or costumes to hide behind.”

On The Witcher season 4: Allan teases that Ciri’s storyline in The Witcher’s next chapter will take “the biggest shift we’ve seen. It’s so unbelievably different from anything that I’ve ever played with her,” she says. “She has her first experience with romance, if you can even call it that, because it’s not a good relationship. She goes into a very dark part of herself that I think is going to be terrifying to look at.” … Allan will also debut her first scenes with Liam Hemsworth, newly cast in the role of Ciri’s adoptive father, Geralt, after Cavill’s exit. Some fans weren’t thrilled when the transition was first announced, but Allan dismisses the vitriol. Fans “just love to hate on something,” she says. “We’ve made it clear that we’re welcoming him with open arms.”


Havana Rose LiuHow the 25-year-old star is approaching her budding Hollywood career.



On how her path once looked very different and her current approach to acting: In college, she was studying the intersection of art with activism and wellness and “didn’t touch acting with a 10-foot pole,” she says. But since that fateful day in the park, she’s gone on to star in several films, every role bolstering her confidence further. “I’m constantly learning and very hungry for knowledge,” she says. She keeps what she calls “a Ratatouille mindset,” she adds. Meaning, “If anyone can cook, anyone can act.”

On how because she’s had such a great experience with her career thus far, there’s also a part of her that’s bracing for the eventual comedown: “I now keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. This has been such an incredibly beautiful high moment of my life that I will never forget, and, also, now I’m like, ‘It’s only downhill from here.’” But, in true Liu fashion, she’s remaining open to the sweetness of life’s possibilities. “There are always new adventures to have. There’s something about feeling the bliss of how much I loved all the people on Bottoms and how it ended up creating a big community of love in the world. I think it’s just a tender moment, so I’m just appreciating and feeling very grateful for it as it’s here. I’m excited to see what’s to come. And hopefully, it’s not a shoe dropping.”


Molly GordonIn the wake of her directorial debut, and with The Bear season 3 looming, the actress, screenwriter, and director proves that success is better shared.


On working on Theater Camp with Ben Platt: Many of the characters were partly inspired by her own prepubescent experiences at camp with her childhood friend, Ben Platt, whom she admits having had a huge crush on. “Friendship love is just as important as romantic love,” Gordon muses. “My relationship with Ben is one of the great loves of my life. Though he doesn’t want to sleep with me romantically, we still have an intimacy that’s very powerful.”

On growing up with parents in the industry: Comedy was her “religion” growing up. She recalls being raised on Robert Altman movies and watching The Graduate repeatedly. But her career path wasn’t so clear. “I grew up with a mom as a director and still didn’t believe it could happen for me, because it was so hard for her,” Gordon says. “The statistics are still so low, it’s embarrassing. We need to continue to push for more opportunities.”

On joining The Bear on season 2: “It still feels so pinch-me that I’m even on the show at all. To even have played a dishrag would have been crazy, so to play opposite Jeremy was amazing. He is such a good actor. It’s my favorite job I’ve ever had.”

On her network of friends that includes fellow Hollywood cool girls including Emma Seligman, Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri and Chase Sui Wonders: “It’s not like there’s a narrative being thrust upon us that we’re friends—these are actually my really good friends. I can call one of them and be like, ‘What do I do?’ or ‘Have you worked for this person?’ Having these women to lean on has really been such an important part of my journey.”


Nicholas GalitzineThe Idea of You and Mary & George star talks his two recent projects, The Devil Wears Prada, and his secret wood-carving hobby.


On how he is determined to be regarded as a multihyphenate: While he’s an actor, yes, he’s also a singer when his fingers ache for the guitar. Galitzine is also a Fendi ambassador, occasionally writes scripts in his free time, and has plans to produce and direct one day. “Since I was a kid, I never wanted to be one thing—it felt suffocating and paralyzing. It’s funny that I ended up becoming an actor, because, by nature, I get to play so many different fun characters. I love being able to learn and add strings to my bow. I only feel creatively nourished when I feel the many facets of myself are being utilized.”

 On working with A-list stars on so many of his projects: In addition to Moore and Hathaway, he’s shared the screen with Uma Thurman in Red, White & Royal Blue. “I got sent a tweet one day that I am collecting award-winning actors like Infinity Stones. I’ve got a few of them. I need to collect a few more before I have the complete gamut,” he jokes, mentioning Viola Davis, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, and Emily Blunt. “Listen, if Annie’s down for it, if they want to do a sequel to The Devil Wears Prada, I’ll be someone. I’ll be the assistant who runs and gets coffee for everyone.”


Ryan DestinyThe 29-year-old actress on making her silver screen debut in The Fire Inside and the road it took to get there.


On her career and what she looks for in roles: “I want to be a part of projects that mean something,” says Ryan Destiny, who began acting as a teen. “Whether or not they win awards, I want to be a part of things that push the culture forward and touch people. I also would like to say that I want to keep my mindset on winning awards and all of that, but I don’t think that’s healthy.”

On working on The Fire Inside which tells the real-life story of Claressa Shields, the first American female boxer to win a gold medal at the Olympics: “I’ve had roles before, but nothing where I had to actually carry a film,” Destiny says. “I had all these dreams of seeing myself in this way, on the big screen, so to actually see it unfold is very trippy.”… Shields, like Destiny, is from Michigan (Flint and Detroit, respectively), and Destiny was initially nervous about portraying a real person, especially one so close to home. “It was very nerve-racking. The whole time I was filming, I was thinking about what Claressa would think. She’s not a person who sugarcoats what she says and how she feels, so I knew once she saw the film, she would tell me how she felt.” (Thankfully, Shields loved it: “I was so grateful for that, because she was in my brain the entire time,” Destiny says.)


Sophie ThatcherFollowing her breakout role in Yellowjackets, the actor is starring in a pair of highly anticipated films: Heretic and Companion.


On her breakout role as Natalie in Yellowjackets: “Playing Natalie for years, it’s interesting how it psychologically affects you and how Natalie is similar to me in some ways, but also very different. It’s an escape, but then it’s also facing yourself head on,” she says. “Natalie is bleeding into me to some extent.”

On keeping busy with different projects: Not one to ever slow down—“I’m the type of person who wants to be working nonstop, because I want to be anywhere but in my own head,” she says—Thatcher took a break from filming this winter to focus on her first love: music. Growing up, she was constantly surrounded by music at church, singing in the choir while her mom played the organ. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on it, because music is such a therapeutic release,” she says, explaining that she plans to release an EP. “I have a lot more control with music, whereas with acting, there are so many people involved.” She dreams of one day finishing the short film she’s writing and also creating the score—and then maybe one day writing and directing a feature.


[Photo Credit: Courtesy of ELLE]

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