Meet the 2018 Bafta Breakthrough Brits: the ones to watch in TV, film and gaming

From the star of The End of the F***ing World to the creator of Timewasters, the UK’s most promising rising stars speak to RadioTimes.com about what the future holds

Breakthrough Brits (wdw, EH)

The Bafta Breakthrough Brits for 2018 have been revealed.

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Arts charity Bafta has announced its annual list of rising stars in the British TV, movie and gaming industries.

In the past the award has helped launch the careers of some of the UK’s hottest talent, including Black Panther actor Letitia Wright and This Country writers Daisy May and Charlie Cooper.

This year’s line-up includes the stars of The End of the F***ing World, The Young Offenders and Three Girls, to name a few.

Meet the up-and-coming on screen talent below.

Paapa Essiedu, actor

Essiedu has starred in BBC1’s The Miniaturist and Press, as well as Channel 4’s Kiri and the movie Murder on the Orient Express

Paapa Essiedu, Breakthrough Brits (BAFTA/Phil Fisk, EH)
BAFTA/Phil Fisk

What roles do you have coming up that we should look out for?

I’m doing a play at the Young Vic called The Convert with Letitia Wright. We started rehearsing that yesterday and it’s very difficult but it’s very good and juicy.

Who is your industry idol?

Riz Ahmed. I think he’s a really great middle-ground of someone who is a phenomenal performer, writer and director as well as being politically active. He actually puts his money where his mouth is and moves the industry forward in terms of where we want to be, so that’s a similar space that I’d like to occupy. He’s shaking the conversation.


Jessica Barden, actor

Barden is best known for playing co-lead Alyssa in the Channel 4 and Netflix teen series The End of the F***ing World. She has also starred in Coronation Street and on stage in Jerusalem at the Royal Court Theatre

Jessica Barden (BAFTA/Phil Fisk, EH)
BAFTA/Phil Fisk

What roles do you have coming up that we should look out for?

I haven’t read anything for The End of the F***ing World series two, I don’t even know if I’m in it. I did an Australian mini-series which I think is going to be on HBO in April called Lambs of God, where I play a nun. I absolutely loved it, it was so good. And then I’ve just finished an American film called Jungleland, then I’m going to film another American movie in January.

What kind of parts do you love?

The things I like doing are when you turn up on the first day and you’re like, ‘I’m going to die. Why am I doing this job? It’s so hard.’ They’re the best ones. Challenging yourself to stick with something and then at the end learning so much from it.

Who is your industry idol?

Isabelle Huppert. She’s always had quite vulgar roles and there’s always been a lot of sex in them and they’ve been quite violent, which I think is really interesting. Her film Elle genuinely changed the way I saw myself as an actress, because she looks very young and she’s quite petite and people always send you things where the character is ‘really nice’ – and I’m not interested in playing roles that are really nice!


Chris Walley, actor

Irish actor Walley plays Jock in BBC3’s The Young Offenders. He also starred in The Lieutenant or Inishmore opposite Aiden Turner in London’s West End

Chris Walley (BAFTA/Phil Fisk, EH)
BAFTA/Phil Fisk

When can we expect series two of The Young Offenders to air?

We did a bit of filming recently, it was only ten days filming for a – I don’t think I can actually say what it is even though you can probably read between the lines – it filmed recently and there’s something seasonal coming up so… yeah.

We’ll be shooting season two and three next summer I think.

You previously said you wanted Cillian Murphy to star in it, and he said he’d like to: is this happening?

He said it would have to be a good part. Peter Foott’s the writer-director and we’re obviously all very close, we’re definitely getting him to try and sort Cillian out with a part. I think he probably needs it as well, his career is on the down!


Daniel Lawrence Taylor, actor-writer

Taylor is the creator and star of the Bafta-nominated ITV2 scripted comedy series Timewasters

Daniel Lawrence Taylor, Breakthrough Brits (BAFTA/Phil Fisk, EH)
BAFTA/Phil Fisk

When writing Timewasters, did you always see yourself starring in it?

I did purposefully write myself into it because I saw a lot of shows like Drifters and The Inbetweeners and there weren’t many shows with black leads in them. As an actor I definitely wanted to write something for myself, but I also wanted to write things where I got to hang out with a group of people who look like me and sound like me. That was the reason why I wrote Timewasters: I wanted a black group show.

Who is your industry idol?

Michaela Coel – I’m a massive fan of hers. Not only her shows but her as a person and what she’s doing and how she’s moving the conversation forward for diversity. When she did her McTaggart speech it was just incredible how she talked about transparency and diversity and being other and a misfit within the industry.

She’s so outspoken and so confident about these things, and it’s really inspiring for someone like me from a similar background, seeing someone like that being so honest and open. I think it’s great for all the people that are coming behind her. She’s having to work extra hard to get to where she’s going but she’s clearing a path so much for everyone else.


Ria Zmitrowicz, actor

Zmitrowicz is best known for starring in the BAFTA-winning BBC drama Three Girls. She also played Miss Ellis in ITV drama Mr Selfridge

Ria Zmitrowicz, Breakthrough Brits (BAFTA/Phil Fisk, EH)
BAFTA/Phil Fisk

Were you nervous about tackling the subject of the Rochdale sex abuse scandal in Three Girls?

I leapt at the chance because I think it’s really important to tell stories for people that don’t usually have a voice and are under-represented. I just felt incredibly moved as soon as I read the script. I remember at the end of the audition, we were talking about the scene I’d just done and I just burst into tears. Not even through the acting; just from talking about it.

What would you change about the TV industry if you could?

Accessibility to the industry is something that I would change. Drama school prices are going through the roof, theatre tickets are really expensive – if I could change something it would be that, and representation is really important. I’d like to see more work from underrepresented groups.


Luisa Omielan, comedian

Omielan’s stand-up shows What Would Beyonce Do? and Am I Right Ladies? were smash hits, and now her new series Politics for Bitches is airing on BBC1

Luisa Omielan, Breakthrough Brits (BAFTA/Phil Fisk, EH)
BAFTA/Phil Fisk

What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?

I would like my work to be accessed by a lot more people than it currently is. I’d like to get my stand-up specials on an international platform whether that be Netflix or Amazon or Apple, and I just want to keep doing what I’ve been doing the last ten years but on a bigger scale. I’d also love to turn What Would Beyonce Do? into a film.

What would you change about the comedy industry if you could?

Make it more accessible for women. They say they support women in comedy and I’ve been doing comedy for ten years and it’s taken a really long time to get anywhere. It’s only now, after having this Bafta name behind me, that I’m like, ‘Hopefully now they’ll let me in.’ Because I don’t know what else I’ve got to do. If I was a dude and I spoke to men the way I speak to women, I would have been on everything by now, no doubt about it.


Michael Pearce, director

Pearce’s first feature film, Beast, came out in 2017 and starred Johnny Flynn and Jessie Buckley

Ellena Wood, director

Wood directed one episode of BBC1’s Life and Death Row and directed and produced Louis Theroux: Talking to Anorexia

Lucy Cohen, writer-director

Cohen’s Netflix documentary Kingdom of Us, about the story of a family dealing with a traumatic past, was nominated for a BAFTA

Annie Price, presenter

Annie has made numerous documentaries for BBC3 including Out of the Ashes, Plastic Surgery Capital of the World and Tiredness, Tears and Tantrums: Diary of a New Mum

Daniel Kokotajlo, writer-director

Kokotajlo’s first feature film, Apostasy, inspired by his life growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, was released in cinemas earlier this year

Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, producer

Cronin O’Reilly’s Lady Macbeth, starring Florence Pugh, was nominated for a BAFTA. She also made My Generation, a documentary film starring Sir Michael Caine

Vanessa Whyte, cinematographer

Whyte worked on the BAFTA-winning BBC drama Murdered for Being Different, her recent projects include BBC4 comedy There She Goes with David Tennant and BBC3 comedy series Enterprise

Adrienne Law, games producer

Law has worked on accessible VR game Land’s End and puzzle game Monument Valley 2

Harry Nesbitt , artist and game developer

Nesbitt launched his own game Alto’s Adventure in 2015, an endless snowboarding story with simple game play. He also released a sequel, Alto’s Odyssey, earlier this year

Jay Armstrong, game developer

Jay’s first release Adventure Pals will soon be followed by his next game, Never Give Up

John Campbell and Katie Goode, technical director and creative director

The couple co-founded Triangular Pixels in 2014. Last year, their spy game Unseen Diplomacy was nominated for a BAFTA for Game Innovation and they have just released their latest game Smash Hit Plunder

Lottie Bevan, co-founder & COO

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Bevan co-founded the narrative studio Weather Factory, which released its first game Cultist Simulator in May