On The Rise 2014: 13 (3) Actresses To Watch

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I'm only including three actresses because indiewire requested me to copy three paragraphs in the last actor post.


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Tang Wei
Seven years on from a remarkable performance in Ang Lee’s erotic thriller “Lust, Caution,” and having spent much of the intervening time becoming one of China’s biggest stars, Tang Wei could be about to conquer the U.S. as well. The 35-year-old actress from Hangzhou, who trained at the Central Academy Of China, started off her career in television, before beating over 10,000 rivals to the part of Wong Chia-chi, a young woman who’s tasked with seducing and planning the assassination of a Japanese collaborator, in “Lust, Caution.” The film drew attention both for being Lee’s follow-up to his acclaimed “Brokeback Mountain,” and for its explicit sex scenes, but Tang rightly drew enormous praise (and an Independent Spirit Award nomination) for her performance, even if the sex scenes caused her to be banned from acting for a year by the Chinese government. Once she returned, it was with great success, with a starring role in rom-com “Crossing Hennessy” (a remake of obscure 1988 Amy Irving vehicle “Crossing Delancey”), which earned her a nomination from the Golden Horse Awards for Best Actress. Actioners “Dragon” and “Speed Angels” followed, before another monster rom-com hit with “Finding Mr. Right” (a riff on “Sleepless In Seattle”), co-starring Wu Xiubo. But it’s the next few months that should win her an even wider following: she’s starring in Ann Hui’s Venice closer “The Golden Era,” and in January will be seen in her first American movie, as the female lead in Michael Mann’s “Blackhat,” opposite Chris Hemsworth. It’s potentially a very big deal indeed, at home and abroad, but she’s got big arthouse plans as well as blockbusters: she’s seguing from Mann to Wong Kar-Wai, with a major role in the director’s next film, “The Ferryman.”

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Jillian Bell
Even those who didn’t like “22 Jump Street,” should such people exist, came away from Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s comedy adoring at least one part of it: Mercedes, the sarcastic, smart-mouthed roommate of Amber Stevens’ character, who spends the film bombarding Jonah Hill with insults about his age. Actress Jillian Bell, who played the role, has been familiar to comedy fans for a while thanks to her regular gig on Comedy Central’s popular show “Workaholics,” but post-'Jump Street,' looks to be set to break out to an even wider fanbase. The 30-year-old, who presumably has showbusiness in her blood after growing up in Vegas, went from improv troupe the Groundlings to writing for “Saturday Night Live” in the show’s 2009/2010 season. Though Lorne Michaels had turned her down for on-screen appearances, she was soon landing small roles on TV, including stints on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Franklin & Bash,” and had a bit part in “Bridesmaids,” before “Workaholics” began in 2011, with Bell standing out immediately as socially awkward assistant Jillian Belk. But it’s in the last twelve months that she’s started to cross over even further to the mainstream, first with a regular role as neighbor Dixie in the fourth season of HBO’s “Eastbound & Down,” then with her scene-stealing ‘Jump Street’ appearance, where she comes up with most of the movie’s most quotable moments, and shares a hall-of-fame fight scene with Jonah Hill. It looks like she’s going to be borderline-inescapable in the next few years: she’s sticking with Comedy Central for her own show, “Idiotsitter,” co-created with and starring Charlotte Newhouse, based on their web-series about a young woman hired to act as a live-in nanny to a spoilt rich girl under house arrest, and has booked upcoming gigs in horror-comedy tentpole “Goosebumps,” and alongside Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Jonathan Levine’s untitled Christmas movie. And Paul Thomas Anderson is a fan: after a supporting role in “The Master,” Bell’s returning for “Inherent Vice” later in the year.

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Nazanin Boniadi
After a great first season, “Homeland” has kind of been spinning its wheels ever since, but after the major and overdue development at the end of the last series that we won’t spoil here, hopes are high that the upcoming fourth season, which begins next month, will see a critical rejuvenation of the series. And in part, we’re holding on to that hope because Nazanin Boniadi is going to be playing a key part in it. The 34-year-old actress was born in Tehran, but moved to London with her parents as a young child. Initially, acting wasn’t the plan: she actually studied biological sciences at UC Irvine, and was en route to a career in medicine when she decided to switch tracks and pick up acting in 2006, almost immediately landing a regular job on long-running soap “General Hospital,” making her the first Middle Eastern character on a U.S. daytime soap. Within a couple of years, she’s appeared in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the original “Iron Man,” and Paul Haggis’ “The Next Three Days,” but she’s probably most recognizable from TV. She played Barney Stinson’s near-love Nora in “How I Met Your Mother,” has appeared in the likes of “24,” “Suits” and ‘Grey’s Anatomy,” and only this year was a terrorist on “Scandal.” Happily, she’s been able to show much more range than ‘terrorist’; she was very good in the lead role of otherwise forgettable indie rom-com “Shirin In Love,” and was a highlight of the last season of “Homeland” as CIA analyst Fara Sherazi. She’s been bumped up to a regular for the upcoming fourth season, which suggests she’ll be more crucial than ever, and will also be appearing in hotly-tipped British feature “Desert Dancer,” a biopic of persecuted real-life Iranian dancer Afshin Ghaffarian (a subject to close to her heart: she’s an outspoken activist for Amnesty International, and led their campaign to free filmmakers Jafar Panani, Mohamma Rasoulof and Behrouz Ghobadi).



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