Are all creative paths unique and precious unto themselves? Indeed. But to be human is to be drawn to the familiarity of a pre-existing paradigm—this is why we tend to buy something we love in multiple colours, and why Hollywood keeps making sequels even though they’re never as good as the original (Paddington 2 being the sole exception to this rule).
So as we look ahead to a year filled with fresh entertainment and pop culture talking points, we’ve mapped the emerging talents to watch against the well-trodden paths of stars that came before them—the next great comedic chronicler of a certain sort of female experience, the next athlete to bandwagon you into buying terrible Olympics merch, and so on.
We’re not saying they’ll have the exact same career, rather that their trajectory will be familiar. After all, what’s past is prologue, to quote a playwright named Bill Shakespeare (who was totally the next Christopher Marlowe).
Here are the emerging stars to watch in 2024 and beyond.
The next Chloë Sevigny: Lily McInerny
Check these indie credentials: Not only was 25-year-old Lily McInerny nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award for her first professional role, 2022’s Palm Trees and Power Lines, she followed that by debuting on the New York stage at the boundary-pushing Second Stage Theatre, in a production of playwright Bess Wohl’s Camp Siegfried. She’s done all this while honing a striking personal style that’s mod-meets-nineties, kaleidoscoped through a Gen Z lens. This year, she’ll take the It-girling up a notch with a starring role in a screen adaptation of Françoise Sagan’s angsty French-teen classic, Bonjour Tristesse. Co-starring the original cool girl, Chloë Sevigny, and directed by Montreal-born writer-turned-filmmaker Durga Chew-Bose, it’s set to be a stylish, smart springboard to big things for McInerny.
The next Rihanna: Tyla
Whether you’re scrolling TikTok or strolling the aisles of your grocery store, the track Water was an inescapable ear worm in late 2023. The globally chart-topping bop and accompanying viral dance are courtesy of Tyla, a South African singer who’s breaking records in her own country and beyond: She was the first South African artist to pass 15 million monthly listeners on Spotify, the first South African on the Billboard chart in five decades and the most streamed Afrobeats artist of the year in 2023. She’s been nominated for a Grammy, which is adding to the buzz around her debut album, dropping in March. Barbados national Rihanna was similarly unknown internationally when Pon De Replay became a massive hit in 2005, and this charismatic newcomer feels similarly full of stratospheric possibility.
The next Nora Ephron: Dolly Alderton
British wit Dolly Alderton has yet to meet a medium she couldn’t charm: The newspaper columnist’s much-missed podcast, The High Low, was a chart-topping favourite, and she adapted her best-selling memoir Everything I Know About Love into a delightful television show. She’s also written two novels about the pursuit of love in the time of Tinder, both bestsellers, the second of which, Good Material, comes out in Canada on Jan. 30. It’s droll and sharply observant with just the right amount of squishy sentimentality. If their lifetimes hadn’t overlapped, we’d be tempted to speculate that Alderton might be the reincarnation of the late literary-cinematic double threat, Nora Ephron, who would have made a great podcast. If anyone is going to write a Heartburn or When Harry Met Sally for the swiping generation, it’s Alderton.
The next Martin Scorsese: Celine Song
Past Lives, a story of childhood friends who reunite as adults, was the film that simultaneously broke and healed our hearts last year. Produced by consistently cool studio A24, it was written and directed by Canada’s own Celine Song, a playwright who made her directorial debut with this delicate, nuanced millennial love story. It’s had no shortage of critical kudos and recognition: So far, a Golden Globe nomination (and acting awards for the cast) and she’s a strong contender for writing, directing and best picture categories at the Oscars, too. While she’s 45 years younger than Martin Scorsese—she’s barely in her mid-thirties!—an equally impressive directorial career seems inevitable.
The next Taylor Swift: Tate McRae
Calgary-born Tate McRae has more than one thing in common with the reigning queen of pop: Like Taylor Swift, she found her spotlight young, becoming the first Canadian finalist on So You Think You Can Dance when she was just 13. As Swift did with Tumblr and Twitter, McRae has used social media to her advantage, scoring a series of viral TikTok hits (Greedy, You Broke Me First) and translating them into global chart success and an Instagram following 3 million strong. Depressingly, just like Swift, one of her top Google search terms is “Who has Tate McRae dated?” Just 20, McRae’s music chronicles love through a Gen Z lens, with her latest album, 2023’s Think Later, earning her a top-five chart spot in several countries. Global stardom awaits.
The next Jennifer Lawrence: Nicola Coughlan
After two seasons of pulling the dramatic strings as Lady Whistledown on Bridgerton, Penelope Featherington is stepping out from behind the scandal sheet for “her” season of the hit period romance. (Will Colin finally see the gem who’s been in love with him for years? Or will Pen ditch this ingrate and find someone actually worthy of her?) This means, at last, a proper star turn for Irish actor Nicola Coughlan, who first charmed us all in the hilarious Derry Girls and is long overdue for her catapult onto the global A-list, like the deeply funny, equally buttery blonde Jennifer Lawrence. That jump will be boosted by Big Mood, a comedy series she’s also in this year, which is garnering excellent buzz.
The next Chris Hemsworth: Aaron Pierre
To win a role in a Marvel film is huge for any actor. But to do that on top of playing an iconic murderous feline uncle? Safe to say, between Blade and the Barry Jenkins-directed Mufasa: The Lion King, Aaron Pierre is set to have a career-transforming few months. Pierre, who’s a Londoner but has spent time training in Canada, has had a slow burn over the past few years, stealing scenes in 2021’s The Underground Railroad; winning a 2023 Canadian Screen Award for his role in Brother. Needless to say, he’s about to fly to superhero status, a la Avengers mainstay Chris Hemsworth.
The next Alex Cooper: Kelsey McKinney
All signs point to journalist and podcaster Kelsey McKinney finding the same sort of broad success as Alex Cooper of Call Her Daddy fame, even though her pod doesn’t quite have the same raunch factor. McKinney’s Normal Gossip podcast bills itself as “juicy, strange, funny, utterly banal gossip about people you’ll never know and never meet,” and it’s like eavesdropping on someone’s conversation at the next table over. Each episode, a guest comes on to share their best real-life tittle-tattle—think bridal-party dramas and group-trip meltdowns. Four seasons in, the show co-created by producer Alex Sujong Laughlin has a passionate following, appeared on several “best podcasts of the year” lists, and generated a tour of live shows last summer and millions of downloads.
The next Tessa Virtue: Piper Gilles
This time last year, Toronto-based champion figure skater Piper Gilles was recovering from surgery for stage one ovarian cancer. Fast forward to October 2023, and the two-time Olympian made a triumphant return to the ice, winning gold at the Canadian championships alongside her partner, Paul Poirier. Though she has long been a sweetheart of the ice dancing world, Gilles is now ready to set her skates firmly on blade-based world domination. With their mesmerizing choreography, Gilles and Poirier are set to be a top-billed Tessa and Scott for 2024-5, competing in the upcoming world championships in Montreal and taking a starring role in Stars on Ice—not to mention they’re tipped for big things at next year’s Winter Olympics in Italy.
The next Tom Cruise: Paul Mescal
Yes, he’s already A Name, not to mention an Oscar nominee, but this year Paul Mescal will capture the hearts of the remaining percentage of Earth’s population who haven’t been nursing a crush on him since he (and his chain necklace) bewitched us in Normal People. That’s because the Irish heartthrob will be donning a leather tabard to star in Gladiator 2, the sequel to the 2000 blockbuster that propelled Russell Crowe to global superstardom. (Fingers crossed Mescal’s journey won’t involve throwing a phone at a hotel employee.) It’s the kind of launchpad that spawns A-listers and franchises, and the all-encompassing name recognition Tom Cruise has enjoyed for decades. See you in the ring in November.
The next E.L. James: Rebecca Yarros
If you’re not already spending your weekends immersed in dragon-centric drama or sexy faerie intrigue, you need to hop aboard the “romantasy” bandwagon ASAP. This portmanteau genre—romance, frequently very spicy, set in fantasy realms—is a BookTok phenomenon that’s steaming up the bestseller charts. Its leading light is Rebecca Yarros, an American author whose Empyrean series, set in an academy for dragon riders, has sold millions of copies, and we’re only one year and two installments into a five-book series. Perhaps you’ve heard of book one, Fourth Wing? Yarros is set for blockbuster territory akin to E.L. James’s Fifty Shades, as her books are set to be adapted into a show for Amazon, by none other than movie star Michael B. Jordan’s production company.