It’s definitely inspirational to look back at how some of the world’s most successful actors got started on their journey to success. Achieving sustained success in the entertainment industry is extremely difficult, but these 12 inspiring individuals have definitely earned the bragging rights.
Some of these actors have taken big risks to build their brands but now they’re reaping what they sowed. And, in establishing these amazing careers, they have flourished and turned themselves into some of the most sought-after people in their field. But who are they? So without further ado let’s get to know these 12 rising actors who had to claw their way to the top.
Breakout actress Kayleigh-Paige Rees stars in the upcoming coming-of-age drama “Faulty Roots.” The plot of the movie revolves around two teens with different genetic conditions who are forced to form a friendship. Rees is set to play the lead character of Lola, a teen diagnosed with depression. If she looks familiar you’re right, she recently played the role of Julia Beaufort in the ITV/PBS primetime period drama ‘Sanditon’, adapted from an unfinished manuscript by Jane Austen, and as Ann in the indie feature ‘Ann Rolls Green’. Kayleigh-Paige also has her own popular podcast ‘Real Talk with Kayleigh’ and she has over 10,000 followers on Instagram.
Joy Osmanski, the alluring, graceful and jovial actor, dancer and mother of three has established herself as one of Hollywood’s hardest-working entertainers with her new series “Stargirl” (recently renewed for a second season) now streaming with new episodes every Monday on the DC Universe streaming app, as well as Tuesdays, on The CW. Joy can also be seen in FOX’s newest Animation Domination series “Duncanville,” which has already been renewed for a second season.
Earning stellar reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, The New York Times, and Collider, the action-packed DC Universe & CW’s “Stargirl” has won the hearts of superhero fanatics, and viewers across the country. Joy portrays the infamous villainess ‘Paula Brooks,” aka Tigress. Best known for her skills in hand-to-hand combat and extensive weapons background, ‘Tigress’ is one of DC Universe’s deadliest non-superpower villains. CW’s “Stargirl” tells the story of high school sophomore ‘Courtney Whitmore,’ who discovers a powerful cosmic staff. After learning that her stepfather Pat Dugan used to be a hero sidekick, she becomes the inspiration for a new generation of superheroes. The new hard-hitting superhero drama also includes Luke Wilson, Amy Smart, and Brec Bassinger.
“Duncanville” centers around the life of ‘Duncan Harris’ (Poehler) an average 15-year-old boy, who is always one step away from making a bad decision. Along with Duncan lives his mom ‘Annie’ (Poehler), a parking enforcement officer, who dreams of being a detective someday and always has to watch Duncan, his dad ‘Jack; (Burrell), who tries to be a better father figure to Duncan than his father was to him, his sister Kimberly (Lindhome), who is a normal teenager going through normal teen-phases, and his other adopted sister Jing (Osmanski). ‘Jing’ is also known as the moral compass of the family at 5 years old.
Born in South Korea, and brought to the United States when she was adopted at a young age by her American parents, Joy had a drive and appreciation for the arts from the age of 3 when she began ballet lessons in her hometown of Olympia, Washington. From the very beginning of school, Joy was moved up from kindergarten to first grade after a few weeks and would be hyper-competitive academically throughout her entire school career. After taking multiple college courses in her senior year of high school, Joy would continue on to university at Principia College and graduate within 3 years with a degree in creative writing and studio art. She would then begin her career as a graphic designer and moved to Boston. After a year on the east coast, Joy moved to San Francisco where she created her own graphic design company. Having continued to dance through both high school and college, Joy continued to work on her ballet and dance skills and would book professional gigs on the side. After seeing a notice for auditions for a local production of “Our Town,” and missing her performing arts side, she auditioned for the play and was cast in the lead role. Following her performance, Joy auditioned and received her MFA from UC San Diego, one of the top three professional actor training programs in the country. After relocating to Los Angeles, with her husband Corey Brill, Joy has continued worked steadily in theater, television, and film, booking roles in hit projects including FOX’s “The Loop,” Netflix’s “Santa Clarita Diet,” Freeform’s “The Fosters, FIRED UP, and ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL, to name a few.
Atlanta-based actor and model Mahdi Cocci currently stars in the new BET+ series “Bruh,” a 30-min comedy series from powerhouse producer Tyler Perry which celebrates black male brotherhood. Cocci is also co-starring in the Netflix romantic comedy feature The Lovebirds opposite Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani.
His BET+ series “Bruh” examines the contemporary world of dating, career, and friendship through the lens of four African American men with a brother-like bond. ‘Tom’ (Cocci), ‘John’, ‘Mike’ and ‘Bill’ are four college friends now in their thirties. Tom is a doctor with lady problems, but he is also the glue that holds the group together. As they navigate life, they are learning to stand on their own two feet, while relying on each other for support. Sometimes the love is tough, and the honesty brutal, but no matter the situation they see each other through with levity and laughter. In a society where companionship between men of color is often misjudged and misrepresented, the show depicts a healthy image of black brotherhood, embracing vulnerability without playing on stereotypical hyper-masculinity.
The Lovebirds is a new rom-com from Paramount/Netflix that tells the story of couple ‘Jibran’ (Kumail) and ‘Leilani’ (Issa), who on the brink of breaking up, get unintentionally embroiled in a bizarre murder mystery. As they get closer to clearing their names and solving the case, they need to figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night. Cocci portrays ‘Keith,’ a potential love interest to Leilani who gets in the way of her relationship with Jibran.
Cocci was born in Minneapolis, MN, and was raised by his mother, Stephanie. Education was always emphasized growing up, and Mahdi earned a full Navy ROTC scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. He put his burgeoning modeling career on hold to serve as an officer in the Navy upon graduation. After serving honorably, Mahdi shifted gears and pursued a career in acting. His first professional credit was earned on the TV series, Dynasty, in 2018, and soon followed by roles on other network shows, including The Gifted, The Resident, MacGyver, and more! He currently resides in Atlanta, GA, where he works tirelessly to build his career.
Multi-faceted actor Bahara Golestani is definitely the new fresh face to watch on the new season of NBC’s smash hit series “This Is Us.” A graduate of the world-renowned Stella Adler Academy of Acting & Theatre, Golestani is best known for her roles in TNT’s “Animal Kingdom,” Jason Koch-directed indie film Beneath The Black Veil and Michael Bay’s blockbuster film 6 Underground.
Charismatic and multi-talented television and film actor, Sloane Siegel (Amazon’s Emmy-nominated “Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street”) returns to television yet again, leading as “Dwight,” opposite Caitlin Carmichael (Life Itself) and Joel McCrary (American Beauty) in the third season of “Dwight in Shining Armor,” (Season 4 coming soon) the hilarious, campy family adventure-comedy.
Recently picked up for seasons 3 & 4, Sloane plays “Dwight,” a modem, 21st-century teen, while taking photographs in the forest, accidentally falls face-first into an ancient, underground chamber, and lands on ‘Gretta’ (Carmichael) a medieval sleeping princess, planting a kiss on her and waking up not only her and her loyal court magician, ‘Baldric’ (McCrary) but all of the medieval villains that have been asleep like her for the past 1000 years. Together, the trio must defeat her hordes of enemies.
Born in Washington, DC, and raised on a Rescue Farm in West Virginia, Sloane began his career dancing hip hop but made the transition to acting at age eight after a chance casting call. At 10, he came to Hollywood to pursue his dreams and just 2 short years later, Sloane booked his best-known role as “Gortimer” in AMAZON’s award-winning “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street”. He has been awarded the Best Actor Award as the Lead in a TV Series by the Young Artists Awards 3 years in a row, has earned the Best Leading Young Actor in TV Award from the Young Entertainer Awards, and has won 16 awards through the film festival circuit. Audiences may also recognize Sloane from dozens of appearances on other top shows including CBS’ “Pure Genius,” & “Partners,” ABC’s “Modern Family,” and NICKELODEON’s “Big Time Rush.”
Sizzling hot Havana, Cuba-born bilingual actor Carlo Arrechea is a star on the rise in Hollywood, recently making his U.S. prime time debut in the CBS hit TV series S.W.A.T. where he portrayed ‘Gio Torres’, a middleweight Cuban boxer, aka “The Caribbean King.” In the series, Torres is a prizefighter set to win a huge upcoming match when his pregnant wife is kidnapped and held for ransom. He enlists the S.W.A.T. team and works with them to retrieve his wife right in time for the delivery of their first child. The heartfelt role has garnered him much media attention and was one that was especially significant to him as it tied back to his Cuban roots.
A third-generation actor, Arrechea’s career began at the age of 6 when he played the son to his biological mother in a telenovela in his home country of Cuba. He fell in love with the craft and was selected as one of the stars of the children’s show “Los Chicos Altura” (“The High Kids”). In 2002 his family moved to Miami when he was 12 years old and he faced a culture shock that made him rethink acting. He decided to study psychology in college but dropped out after only one semester to return to his true passion. It was during this time that he got into theater and started receiving a lot of attention for his stage performances including “El Solar de la Palangana de Oro” by Raúl de Cárdenas, a work that opened many doors for him and earned him press coverage as the “new face of acting” by People en Español.
From theater, he jumped into television where he began with small roles in well-known Telemundo and Univision telenovelas such as “Más saber el diablo”, “El Cartel 2” and “Alguien te Mira”. He also starred in two short films, “Fate’s Decree” directed by Michael Ruiz and the super production “El Manantial”, with renowned Sam Bradley as director. His career thus began to roll, and his name to be known on the Miami scene. Not long after he was cast in the successful Nickelodeon Latin America series “Grachi” which he starred in for three seasons (152 episodes). It was during this time that he also starred in his first leading film role in the romantic comedy LA REBÚSQUEDA, the highest-grossing Salvadoran film in the country’s history.
After his success in Latin America, Arrechea decided to move to Los Angeles to begin his crossover into the U.S. market. Throughout his acting career, he has starred in several television commercials, including the Johnnie Walker campaign which toasts to immigrants and highlights their grueling path towards citizenship. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA and is an alumnus of the Stella Adler Academy of Acting. As a Cuban-born actor, Arrechea has always looked up to the original Latin Comedy star Desi Arnaz and a dream role for him would be to reprise the role of ‘Ricky Ricardo’ in a comedy series or film.
In his free time, Arrechea enjoys reading, meditating, and exercising, and sees every day the opportunity to grow and improve in all aspects. He also enjoys volunteering for The Ronald McDonald House, where he feeds, plays games, and speaks with children and parents who have seriously ill children or family members in the hospital.
Kirsty Mckenzie is an actress, with Scottish blood, causing mischief in Sydney with an accent that no one can place. She was originally supposed to be a veterinarian – possibly even a surgeon/doctor or a scientist. However, starting her adventure in Sydney changed all of her plans, and she has never looked back.
After literally stumbling onto the set of Mad Max Fury Road as a featured extra, she discovered a world of creativity and limitless imagination and she has been hooked on film ever since. She has won acting awards (Best Actress for Rearview and Best Supporting Actress for Brainless Killers), completed two indie feature films, survived as a lead in a Shakespeare stage play and she’s even had her ass kicked in stunt and fight training (more than once). Through it all, she has been rejected, she has been accepted, and she’s made the most incredible friends and have experienced things she never thought possible while constantly being amazed at opportunities she didn’t think existed.
What she lacks in skill, she makes up with an endless tenacity and a thirst for knowledge (as well as a dark sense of humour). She has been so incredibly lucky in her acting career and she’s grateful to all of those who have been part of the adventure thus far.
Anis Maknojia’s road to success didn’t start with glamour and glitz. It started in Texas, built on a lifetime of hard work, and overcoming personal hardship.
Anis grew up in oil-centric Houston, the son of Indian immigrants. Throughout his childhood, his parents worked hard to provide for their family through their retail business. Anis soon worked with them, taking the time to become an alum at the University of Houston. Eventually, he took over the business, allowing his parents to retire.
Anis has always been interested in photography. He began to take photographs, as a way to express his emotions, as a way to let the pain out. Framing an image became an escape from the hopelessness and depression. Like a bright flash lighting the shadows, the art form became the spark, igniting the path to his future.
In late 2019 and early 2020, he completed numerous advertising projects, supporting Mercedes-Benz, Don Julio Tequila, and Armani Code.
With the mission statement, ‘We are stronger together,’ Land Ahoy! Films were formed at the beginning of 2019. Land Ahoy! aims to showcase multicultural talent from around the world and to bring up-and-coming creators together to create inspiring and thought-provoking works of art. Anis calls the company an extension of his passion for photography, this time with moving pictures and the birth of his desire to become an actor and produce films.
Collaborating with Phoenix 4 Productions and Land Ahoy!, Anis starred as Tony in the short crime drama Artifice while also taking on the responsibilities of executive producer. He pursued the lead role because he saw an opportunity to bring an unexpected quality – his race – to what could have been a cookie-cutter presentation.
Anis is the executive producer for Breathe, which is currently in post-production. The short film connects several stories exploring the darker side of drugs, violence, and religion, again he takes the lead role in the film. Additionally, the two companies are currently in pre-production for With Intere$t, a short film following a mob debt collector into his rising interest in stand-up comedy. Anis will both act in and executive produce the project.
Besides being passionate about creating art, Anis is an advocate for animal rights, world poverty and climate change, LGBTQ rights, and more diversity in film. He holds mental health awareness and finding a cure for multiple sclerosis close to his heart because he has family and friends who suffer from these issues.
Breakout movie star Jason Collett makes a statement in the upcoming star-packed midwestern gothic drama THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME opposite Tom Holland, Haley Bennett, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Jason Clarke, and Riley Keough, written and directed by Antonio Campos (THE SINNER). Collett is also featured in HBO’s hit series “Watchman” in the episode “This Extraordinary Being” episode, the critically acclaimed episode which was just nominated for eight Emmy awards.
Collett has been acting on film and stage for over 15 years and is also a trained stunt professional. His appearances in television include HBO’s “Watchmen,” in an episode that was just nominated for eight Emmy awards, he’s also appeared HBO’s “Hung,” and NBC’s “Chuck.” His film credits include “Stay at Condor Beach,” the action-thriller “Military State,” and the faith-based film “Inheritance”, starring alongside legendary actor Robert Miano. Jason also played the lead role of Jamie Nabozny in the documentary “Bullied: A Student, A School, and a Case That Made History” for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program. Jason has studied under some of the most influential teachers in Hollywood, including Alice Carter, Joseph Pearlman, Robert D’Avanzo, Sandra Merril, and Sara Mornell.
Collett has extensive stunt experience and has trained in pole climbing, weapons, hand-to-hand fighting, pratfalling, bungee harness, high falling, and ATV riding. Some of his stunt experience has helped him not only in the acting industry, but he has also dressed up as Spider-Man to visit local children’s refugee camps outside of Atlanta, his current hometown, to help bring some simple joy to the children who need it most.
Melissa L. Williams
Having already made waves on BET’s currently #1 ranked new scripted series “The Oval” with dual roles, breakout star Melissa L. Williams, who has quickly become Tyler Perry’s new muse, is now set to lead Perry’s spin-off series “Ruthless,” as the title character Ruth Truesdale on BET’s new streaming platform, BET Plus, out now.
“The Oval,” tells the story of a family placed in the White House by people of power while also highlighting the personal side and everyday lives of the staff who run the inner workings of the nation’s most iconic residence. On the new hit series, Melissa portrays twin sisters ‘Denise’ and ‘Ruth,’ polar opposite roles, both with their own agenda.
Perry’s spin-off series “Ruthless” follows Ruth Truesdale as she’s forced to play nice with a scandalous religious cult of powerful sex-crazed fanatics in the hopes of freeing herself and her daughter. Williams stars opposite Stephanie Charles (“The Paynes”), Anthony Bless (“Tyler Perry’s Sistas”) and Bobbi Baker James (“House of Payne”).
Melissa actually grew up in Oklahoma City as the oldest of six and utilized her family holiday gatherings to put together and star in her own talent shows. A natural performer from an early age, she set out to do as much local theater as she could find in Oklahoma City, eventually heading to Clark University in Atlanta for college to study theater. Williams joined the CAU Players, the University’s drama club, which puts on various productions yearly ranging from classical works, musical works, children’s productions, and one-act play festivals. Melissa starred as Carmen in F.A.M.E. during her time in the CAU Players. Even after finishing her degree, she went to get additional technical training so that he could produce projects herself and applied it to several music videos she produced when she moved to LA.
To say that actress and writer Tonya Cornelisse has had an illustrious career in theatre, film, and television is an understatement. From acting in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf on Broadway, to winning the audience award for her writing at Sundance, to working along with such notable talent as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nick Cassavettes, Riley Keough, and Kelly AuCoin, Cornelisse has worked in over 40 films big and small. The award-winning actress can now be seen in NBC Peacock’s new comedy series “Hitmen” (SKY ONE) alongside the British comedy duo Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins (“The Great British Breaking Show”) which the New York Times has just included in their “Watching” newsletter as a must-see (“Hitmen” is currently streaming). She also co-stars in the 2020 Sundance FF feature film MOPE, currently streaming on VOD and is also set to co-star alongside Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci in the upcoming Showtime series “Yellowjackets”.
“Hitmen” is the latest comedy series that NBC’s Peacock has acquired from overseas, and the UK dark comedy mixes pitch-black humor with rapid, dry banter between the all-star duo of Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins who star as professional hitmen ‘Jaime’ and ‘Fran’ respectively. Cornelisse stars as the gravel-voiced, ultra-intense American rival ‘Liz’ whom lesbian ‘Fran’ is smitten with. ‘Liz’ occasionally drops by the duo in her hitman-esque black SUV to keep their beef going and to fluster ‘Fran’. The show’s six episodes are each structured around an individual kill and find their comedy in the workaday tedium of contract killing, from debating who is the sexiest character in The Lion King to pranking fellow hired guns. The series has been praised by critics, with The AV Club saying “This tonal fusion of slapstick silliness and wry heart is a welcome re-imagining of the lady assassin trope, which often demands that an anti-heroine look impossibly hot as she pulls a trigger and affects a constant, unflappable cool even in the most dire circumstances.” The series is currently streaming on NBC’s Peacock.
The 2020 Sundance Film Festival indie film MOPE is the true-crime story of the 2010 salacious and gruesome murder of Herbert Hin Wong by his best friend and colleague Steven Clancy Hill by samurai sword on a pornography set. The two friends worked as “mopes” on porn productions – someone willing to do the most degrading acts in the industry – with dreams of one-day becoming stars. Cornelisse stars as the female lead in the film, a porn star named ‘Tampa’. MOPE examines the psychology behind such a bizarre and twisted event and where it goes leaves you rattled. The upcoming Showtime series “Yellowjackets” follows the survivors of a plane crash deep in the Ontario wilderness – both in the immediate aftermath of the disaster and decades later. Created by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson (“Narcos: Mexico” and “The Originals”) the series also co-stars Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci and will air on Showtime.
Born in NYC and raised in Michigan, Cornelisse fell in dance at a young age, ultimately taking center stage as a ballerina for the Chicago Ballet’s Jr. Dance Company. Growing up in a family that believed in taking many extracurricular activities, she began taking drama and when asked by her teacher to pick a play to act out, she decided on The Odd Couple with her in the leading Jack Lemmon role. The acting bug had a bit, and before she knew it, at the age of 16 she was admitted by early action to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she went on to double major in Psychology. In three short years, Cornelisse found herself working Off-Broadway with some of the best in New York including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Arkin, and Thomas Sadowski. She also understudied in the Broadway revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, performed in a handful of indie feature films, and won “Best Supporting Actress” at the prestigious Humana Festival at The Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. Her career in film began taking off and she decided to move to Los Angeles where she also began focusing on writing. Soon after the move, her comedic short film DOG LOVERS that she wrote, produced, and starred in, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, ultimately taking home the short film award and earning her a deal with FOX Searchlight Digital.
Cornelisse then booked a co-starring role in Nick Cassavetes’ indie dramedy feature YELLOW alongside Riley Keough, Sienna Miller, Melanie Griffith, and Ray Liotta which went on to compete at TIFF and SXSW, winning the audience award at the latter. Next came a role alongside Sofia Vergara and Andy Garcia in the feature film BENT, as well as tv roles in hit shows such as “Parks and Recreation”, “Scandal”, “How to Get Away with Murder”, and Amazon’s “Catastrophe”. Beyond acting, she is an active writer having written two animated projects and two pilots during quarantine alone. She is also a writer, producer, and sketch comedian for the half-hour digital sketch comedy series “The Homemade Sketch Show” which was just picked up to series by Tubi TV.
Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard
Mexican-born actor Alberto Zeni has just made his way to the small screen in the second season of Netflix’s crime drama “Narcos: Mexico.” Heis starring alongside Diego Luna (Gallardo), Scoot McNairy (the narrator), and Teresa Ruiz (Bautista).
It has been over a year since the Season 1 release of “Narcos: Mexico”, which effectively shifted the long-running drug cartel drama into new territory. The first season of “Narcos: Mexico”, was the fourth season of “Narcos” overall and it reset the Netflix series when it traveled back to 1980s Mexico to show the birth of the Guadalajara cartel and trace the origins of the Mexican drug war, beginning at the time when Mexican traffickers were a loose and disorganized confederation of small-time independent cannabis growers and dealers.
Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Alberto first caught the acting bug when he was 14 years old while working for Parque Plaza Sesamo in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico; a family-friendly destination with a Sesame Street theme featuring rides, games and a water park. Singing, dancing, and playing characters at the park wasn’t his only direction as he had goals of becoming an inventor and even received a degree in Engineering.
After completing his studies, Alberto continued working in the entertainment industry starring in telenovelas such as “Hoy Soy Nadie,” “Trillizas de Colores,” “Bajo el Alma,” “XY. La Revista” and the web series “Vidas Cruzadas” starring Kate del Castillo.
It wasn’t until his mid-twenties, where he decided to make a drastic change, pack up his bags and move to Los Angeles, CA to continue his acting journey. While in LA, Alberto immersed himself in the craft – training in the Meisner Technique and teaching himself English.