Thanks to Brian Byrd, I’ve just about finished binge watching UK Channel 4’s brilliant Utopia (not to be confused with the Fox reality series), and while every single actor involved is pretty perfect, I was especially impressed by the kids. The younger one(s) spoke not a single word and still managed to be an utterly compelling version of an older character, the other young actor — a series regular — does speak, but it’s his face that does the real talking. It’s one thing to be a great adult actor who can blow us away; even more impressive when a kid knows how to tug at our emotions. Here, in no particular order, are ten amazing 18-or-unders who are already expertly treading the boards.
1. Oliver Woollford (Utopia)
This kid. This kid has owned his every scene, which in a series like Utopia is really saying something. At only 11, he won a film festival award for his first acting role, and with his portrayal of scrappy-smart, death-cheater Grant, Oliver proves that was no fluke.
2. Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones)
From the moment she stole our hearts as George R. R. Martin’s young Arya, we could picture no other for the role. Watching Williams transform from strong-willed tomboy and Syrio’s determined student into the most cunning and clever Stark has been our privilege.
3. Jacob Lofland (Justified, Mud)
After practically stealing Mud out from under Matthew McConaughey, Lofland seamlessly slipped into Justified’s fifth season and blew right by featured guest actor, Michael Rapaport. Olyphantypants had better watch out.
4. Adam Wilson (Broadchurch, Mr. Selfridge)
As family and school chum of Broadchurch’s Danny Latimer, Wilson’s Tom Miller was as broken-hearted as a kid could be…hiding secrets and regret everywhere but on his face.
5. Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead)
Yeah, yeah, for a long time The Walking Dead’s Carl Grimes did nothing but sulk and annoy, a victim of terrible parenting and poor choices in mentoring. But Carl’s been forced to grow up very quickly, and from the emotional moments of delivering his baby sister, Riggs infused Carl with visible strength and maturity — his season 4 scenes put Riggs right up there with Lincoln and Reedus.
6. Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men)
Sally Draper is the most interesting combination of both Don and Betty, and Shipka’s brilliant delivery throwing back her parents’ worst traits is Emmy-worthy any day of the week. An actress well beyond her years, there’s no doubt this girl’s going to be a major player.
7. David Mazouz (Gotham, Touch)
Though I didn’t stick with Fox’s Touch, there was no denying Mazouz’s intensity — even up against a Sutherland. Handling the role of an autistic kid is no small feat, but portraying him wordless…let’s just call him mind-bogglingly good. This explains why NBC’s upcoming Gotham quickly snatched up Mazouz to take on another quietly intense role, that of a certain young man who grows up to be…the Batman.
8. Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones)
Keep your Sansa hate to yourself; Turner’s proven she can take the underrated sister Stark to new heights. Turner’s ability to transform Sansa from naive victim of circumstance to beguiling survivor — manipulator — will take her far in Westeros and beyond.
9. Tyree Brown (Parenthood)
Against a backdrop of grown-up fellow actors and a huge series extended family, amid the hugging and fighting and temper-tantrums of siblings and cousins, Tyree Brown’s bright face lights up the whole show. His perennially cheery Jabbar is smart and delightful, the kind of kid you always want to be around.
10. Harley and Mason Rooney (Utopia)
No words. These twins who portray mini-Arby say absolutely no words, and somehow manage to perfectly encapsulate everything about grown Arby with only their adorably accurate expressions and upraised arms. The Academy Awards are coming…