Ones to Watch: Actors

Ones to Watch: Actors

By Michael Pickard
March 24, 2021


DQ casts its eye over a range of upcoming series from around the world and picks out 20 actors to tune in for, from Natalie Portman’s first TV role to the Uzo Aduba-led return of In Treatment and the Peaky Blinder turning spy.

20. Sienna Miller
Last seen on television in 2019 Fox News drama The Loudest Voice, Miller heads an ensemble cast in Anatomy of a Scandal, Netflix’s adaptation of Sarah Vaughan’s bestselling thriller. Described as an insightful and suspenseful series about sexual consent and privilege set in London, the show stars Miller as Sophie, the wife of Westminster politician James (Rupert Friend) who is accused of raping his aide, Olivia. While Sophie is convinced he is innocent, prosecutor Kate (Michelle Dockery) is equally assured of his guilt.

19. Ben Miller
As well as being a comedian, Miller has starred in numerous dramas throughout his career. He notably played the first British detective posted to the Caribbean island of Saint Marie in BBC series Death in Paradise, and has also had roles in Moving Wallpaper, Primeval and, more recently, Bridgerton. Miller will now take up the role of Professor Jasper Tempest in Professor T, an ITV remake of the hit Belgian series of the same name. In the show, which is set against the backdrop of Cambridge University, Tempest is an eccentric but brilliant criminology professor who suffers with OCD, has a tortured past and becomes an advisor to the police, with viewers privy to the daydreams and fantasies that help him solve crimes.

18. Natalie Portman
Oscar-winning film star Portman has been in the screen business for almost 30 years, having made her feature debut opposite Jean Reno in 1994’s Léon. She has since gone on to star in the three Star Wars prequels and a pair of Thor movies, as well as playing Jackie Kennedy in Jackie and a ballet dancer in Black Swan – a performance that earned her the Academy Award for best actress in 2011. Portman is now set to make her highly anticipated TV debut opposite fellow Oscar winner Lupin Nyong’o in Apple TV+’s Lady in the Lake, an adaptation of Laura Lippman’s novel set in 1960s Baltimore, where an unsolved murder pushes housewife and mother Maddie (Portman) to reinvent herself as an investigative journalist, putting her on a collision course with Cleo (Nyong’o), a woman juggling motherhood, multiple jobs and a commitment to advancing the city’s black progressive agenda.

17. Connor Swindells
Recognisable to fans of Netflix’s Sex Education as headmaster’s son and bully Adam Groff (pictured), Swindells will be put through his paces as the star of SAS: Rogue Heroes, the upcoming series from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, set in Cairo in 1941. Swindells plays David Stirling, an eccentric young officer who is hospitalised after a training exercise went wrong. Convinced traditional commando units don’t work, he creates a radical plan to recruit the toughest, boldest and brightest soldiers for a small undercover unit that will create mayhem behind enemy lines.

16. Uzo Aduba
The Mrs America and Orange is the New Black star will be appointment viewing in the HBO reboot of In Treatment, which returns for a fourth season with Aduba as the therapist at the centre of the story, Dr Brooke Taylor. Described as observant and empathetic, Taylor will meet patients in her LA office and help them navigate a variety of concerns set against the backdrop of the global pandemic and recent major social and cultural shifts – all while she deals with complications in her personal life. Based on the Israeli series BeTipul, In Treatment first aired on HBO between 2008 and 2010 starring Gabriel Byrne.

15. Helena Af Sandeberg
Swedish actor Sandeberg recently starred in crime drama Alex and played a role in Netflix series Quicksand. She will next star in Deg (Dough), an eight-part SVT series in which she plays Malou, a divorced mother on the verge of a personal and financial breakdown who starts to lead a double life after stumbling upon €5m from a botched robbery. Clueless about how to launder the money, she buys a failing bakery and unwittingly hires the robber’s wife, who has no idea her boss has the money that put her husband behind bars.

14. Rose Byrne
The Australian actor, who has starred in TV series such as Damages and Mrs America as well as many hit films, will front Apple TV+’s upcoming dark comedy Physical, a throwback to the 1980s where Sheila Rubin (Byrne) is a quietly tortured, seemingly dutiful housewife supporting her smart but controversial husband’s political ambitions. But behind closed doors, she battles a complex set of demons relating to her self-image. That is until she finds a new release – aerobics – and starts a journey to become a lifestyle guru.

13. Chiwetel Ejiofor
The Oscar-nominated actor has had several notable film roles, including 12 Years a Slave, Kinky Boots, Dirty Pretty Things, The Martian, Doctor Strange and Children of Men, while also appearing in TV series such as Dancing on the Edge, The Shadow Line and Trust. For his latest small-screen role, Ejiofor stars in Showtime drama The Man Who Fell to Earth, which is based on the Walter Tevis novel of the same name and the 1976 film that starred David Bowie. The story follows a new alien character who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution and must confront his own past to determine our future.

12. Cristin Milioti
When long-running sitcom How I Met Your Mother finally answered the story behind its title, it was Milioti who was revealed to be playing ‘Mother.’ The actor also appeared in The Sopranos, Fargo and The Mindy Project before she took the lead role in acclaimed Black Mirror episode USS Callister. From one sci-fi dystopia to another, Milioti will now head the cast of HBO Max’s Made for Love, a darkly absurd comedy series based on Alissa Nutting’s novel in which the actor plays Hazel Green, a woman on the run after 10 years in a suffocating marriage to a controlling tech billionaire. It’s only once she escapes that she discovers her husband has implanted a monitoring chip in her head that allows him to track her, watch her and know her ‘emotional date’ as she tries to gain her independence, taking refuge with her father Herbert (Ray Romano) and his synthetic partner Diane.

11. Carsten Bjørnlund
The Danish actor will be no stranger to fans of Nordic series, with Forbrydelsen (The Killing), Liberty (pictured), Rita and Avingerne (The Legacy) among his numerous credits. He next stars in White Sands as a Danish-German cop from Hamburg who travels to the eponymous tourist paradise on the Jutlandic west coast to help solve the brutal murder of a young German surfer. To solve the case, he and Danish police officer Helene (Marie Bach Hansen) must pose as a happily married couple to get under the skin of the close-knit community.

10. Kasia Smutniak
Polish-born Italian actor Smutniak takes the lead role in upcoming Sky Original series Domina (pictured). She plays Livia Drusilla, who viewers will see journey from a naïve young girl whose world crumbles in the wake of Julius Caesar’s assassination, to Rome’s most powerful and influential empress, driven by a deep desire to avenge her father and secure power for her sons. But she will soon discover that seizing power is not enough: you must be able to keep it when everyone else wants it. Smutniak’s previous credits include another Sky drama, Devils, and 2016 feature Perfect Strangers.

9. David Oyelowo
Selma and Les Misérables star Oyelowo will star opposite Gugu Mbatha-Raw in a BBC and HBO Max adaptation of JP Delaney’s psychological thriller The Girl Before. When Jane (Mbatha-Raw) gets the chance to move into a beautiful, ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect (Oyelowo), she finds she must abide by his exacting list of rules. She later discovers unnerving similarities to a previous occupant and starts to wonder whether she will face the same fate.

8. Kerry Godliman
While Godliman has become noted for her partnership with fellow comedian Ricky Gervais on his series Derek and Afterlife, she has an extensive CV that runs from Adult Material and Save Me to Our Girl and Jack Dee series Bad Move. She will now headline Whitstable Pearl (pictured), an adaptation of Julie Gassmer’s novels about Pearl Nolan, who divides her time between serving up tasty seafood delicacies in her restaurant and solving the crimes, debauchery and murder that the tide regularly brings to the titular English seaside town.

7. Emily Hampshire
After six seasons of the awards-laden Canadian comedy Schitt’s Creek, Hampshire is turning her hand to something completely different: a thriller set on an isolated oil rig. In Amazon Prime Video’s The Rig, she plays Rose Mason, a scientist and oil company rep who joins the crew of the Kinloch Bravo oil rig, located off the coast of the Scottish coast in the North Sea. But when they are due to return to the mainland, a mysterious and all-enveloping fog rolls through, the rig is hit by massive tremors and all communication with the outside world is cut off. As the crew attempt to uncover what forces are at work, a major accident leads them to question who they can trust.

6. Adam Lundgren
On the back of roles in Blå ögon (Blue Eyes), Sthlm Rekviem (Stockholm Requiem) and Vår did är nu (The Restaurant), Swedish actor Lundgren takes the title role in upcoming Viaplay series Max Anger – With One Eye Open (pictured). Based on the book trilogy created by Martin Österdahl, the eight-part thriller follows former police officer Anger as he goes in search of his Russian colleague and lover after she disappears, leading to the discovery of a conspiracy that could change the world.

5. Thuso Mbedu
The TV newcomer will lead the cast of Amazon Prime Video’s eagerly anticipated series The Underground Railroad, an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from director Barry Jenkins. Mbedu plays Cora Randall, with the story following her desperate bid for freedom from slavery after escaping a Georgia plantation for the rumoured Underground Railroad, which she discovers is not a metaphor but a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Through her journey, Cora contends with the legacy of the mother who left her behind and her own struggles to realise a life she never thought possible.

4. Ine Marie Wilmann
Fresh from series such as financial drama Exit and young comedy drama Zombielars, Wilmann is set to go undercover in Norwegian drama Furia (pictured). She plays Ragna, a cop who infiltrates a nationalistic subculture following a shocking killing in an idyllic Norwegian town. But her journey into a horrifying underworld of hatred leads to a terrorist plot that reaches from Norway’s mountains to the heart of Europe.

3. Pedro Pascal
For the most part, Pascal has been unrecognisable in his leading role on Disney+’s Star Wars series The Mandalorian, owing to the fact he is usually wearing a face-covering helmet. In his next role, the former Game of Thrones and Narcos (pictured) star will headline The Last of Us, HBO’s adaptation of the hit video game set 20 years after modern civilisation has been destroyed. Joel (Pascal), a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. But what starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey as they traverse across the US and depend on each other for survival.

2. Jodie Turner-Smith
On the back of roles in The Last Ship, Nightflyers, Jett and feature film Queen & Slim, Turner-Smith is set to front two upcoming series. The first sees her step into the world of Henry VIII, playing the title role in Channel 5’s three-part psychological thriller Anne Boleyn. The drama explores the final months in the life of Henry’s second wife as she struggles to secure a future for her daughter and to challenge the powerful patriarchy closing in around her. The actor will then take the lead in The Witcher: Blood Origin, a prequel to Netflix’s fantasy series The Witcher, in which she plays Éile, an elite warrior blessed with the voice of a goddess who has left her clan and position as Queen’s guardian to follow her heart as a nomadic musician. But a grand reckoning forces her to return to her old ways in her quest for vengeance and redemption.

1. Joe Cole
Gangs of London and Peaky Blinders actor Cole is stepping into the iconic role of Harry Palmer for The Ipcress File (pictured), a 1960s-set espionage thriller based on the Len Deighton novel that first introduced the British spy. As the Cold War rages between East and West, British army sergeant Palmer is on the make in Berlin until the law catches up with him and he is sentenced to eight years in a military jail. But his impressive network and efficiency have not gone unnoticed and he receives a proposal from British intelligence: avoid jail and become a spy. His first case is The Ipcress File, where his links to the man suspected of kidnapping a missing British nuclear scientist result in him being conscripted for a dangerous undercover mission that takes him from the Beatles’ London to the Berlin Wall; and from the back alleys of Beirut to the white-hot sand of a Nuclear Atoll in the Pacific.

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