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The Best Break-Out Actors Of 2022

2022 has been a whirlwind for an endless number of reasons. One of the more positive things to look back on this year are the sheer movies and TV shows worth caring about. "Andor" closes out the year strong, but it's easy to forget that landmark releases from the year like "Everything Everywhere All at Once" and the two-part season of "Stranger Things" were pop culture phenomenons. With so many excellent 2022 releases, there have naturally been more than a handful of actors and actresses who have taken our breath away on screen. And some of them — a great deal in fact — are relative newcomers to Hollywood.

Of all the great performances of the year, many of the most memorable come actors whose names you might not be familiar with. But we are betting that for each one of these breakthrough actors, you give it a year or two and they will be household names. These talents were standouts on screen this year. These are the best breakthrough actors and their performances from 2022.  

Iman Vellani

20-year-old Iman Vellani is the youngest actress with the biggest year in 2022. The young Pakistani-born Canadian actress was cast into the MCU right out of high school and this year she finally made her Disney+ debut as Kamala Khan on the acclaimed "Ms. Marvel." In this origin story for Marvel's first on-screen Muslim superhero, Vellani plays a geeky, relatable Marvel fan who already struggles to balance her family and personal lives before getting superpowers. 

Vellani was praised for her performance as Kamala/Ms. Marvel. She brought a lot of charm and personality to a role very important to a large underrepresented crowd of Marvel fans. It is an impressive gamble to take on a brand-new actress but it seems to have paid off so far for the MCU. Next year, Vellani is set to star as Kamala in "The Marvels," alongside Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris. Beyond that, it is listed that Kamala Khan is rumored to be in both the upcoming "Avengers" movies, but there is not much casting information for either of those releases as of yet.  

Melissa Barrera

Technically, Melissa Barrera made her American movie debut last year in Jon Chu's "In the Heights." But it was in 2022 that Barrera branched out to share her range and potential with movie and TV audiences worldwide. The Mexican-American actress made her major franchise debut in January in the 2022 "Scream" reboot. As Sam Carpenter, Barrera was handed down the final girl torch by Neve Campbell, who has confirmed she won't be returning for "Scream 6." On the other hand, Barrera is scheduled to star in the sequel, setting her up to be the new protagonist of one of the biggest slasher horror franchises. 

Barrera first found acting success doing Spanish language telenovelas, of which she starred in a multitude between 2012 and 2020. After "In the Heights" was her first English-language movie, each new role Barrera has taken on has felt like an exciting step in a new direction. This year, the actress also took another pivot away from her established range to star in the Netflix miniseries "Keep Breathing," where she played a lawyer who gets stranded in the wilderness and must cling to her wits for survival.

Austin Butler

While Baz Lurhman's outrageous Elvis biopic was met with mixed reception, there was one constant to the reviews. Austin Butler was a knockout as Elvis Presley (per Rotten Tomatoes). The young actor gave the performance of a lifetime in "Elvis," his near-perfect rendition of the King was more than just a mere imitation. "I was all about 'how do I become identical and not just a copy,'" Butler said in an interview with NME, "'How do I let his soul meet my soul?'"

The 31-year-old Butler gave what is sure to be remembered as his breakthrough performance in "Elvis" this year. But in 2019, after years of TV work, he just started to make a name for himself in film. That year he was in Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," an ode a Los Angeles that Anaheim-born Butler never got to see. He also had a role in 2019's "The Dead Don't Die," a comedic stab at the zombie genre from arthouse legend Jim Jarmusch.

And it seems like Austin Butler is just getting started. He is set to play a major role in the upcoming "Dune Part 2" as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. 

Joseph Quinn

One of 2022's new breakout TV characters was without a doubt Joseph Quinn's Eddie Munson. A new addition to the fourth season of "Stranger Things," Eddie struck the perfect balance between metalhead and board game nerd, making him immediately likable. This role instantly put Quinn on the map for the massive audience of one of Netflix's biggest shows. Eddie's epic send-off at the end of the latest "Stranger Things" season cemented Quinn as a performer worth talking about. Even now, as Season 5 gets teased, fans are speculating about the return of this beloved character (via Inverse).

Before "Stranger Things" blew up his spot, the English actor had done a decent amount of U.K. television. He made his film debut in the Nazi zombie action romp "Overlord" in 2018. Now with "Stranger Things" officially behind him, Quinn has a lot of opportunities in front of him given how beloved Eddie has already become. The next confirmed project for the actor is starring in the indie movie "Hoard" by writer-director Luna Cameroon.

Stephanie Hsu

The multiverse is officially the new hotness, but no movie has taken advantage of the moment the way "Everything Everywhere All at Once" does. The heartwarming and original take on the multiverse concept was a career boost for Ke Huy Quan and Micelle Yeoh, but the biggest breakout star from the hit of the summer is Stephanie Hsu.

In her first leading role, Hsu managed to pull off playing both the hero and the villain of "Everything Everywhere All At Once." The character of Joy takes the struggles of a troubled teen and amplifies them to cataclysmic proportions, but when it comes down to the film's emotional core Hsu sells it with grace.

In addition to "Everything Everywhere All At Once," Hsu played a large supporting role in the most recent season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" on Amazon Prime. Marvel fans might also remember Hsu from her small role in last year's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." Between TV and film, Stephanie Hsu certainly established herself in 2022 and it would be a shame if we didn't see more of her comedic and dramatic talents in the years to come.

Amber Midthunder

Dan Trachtenberg's "Prey" is one of the biggest surprises of the year and so is the movie's star. Native New Mexican actress Amber Midthunder plays Naru in the latest high-concept "Predator" sequel. The action of what is ultimately a prequel takes place in the early 1700s and centers around Naru and the tribe of Comanches that is her family. Not only is "Prey" the best-reviewed "Predator" movie, but it is also a great action movie in its own right and Midthunder gives a physical, expressive performance as Naru. With a fraction of the lines that a star of a prestige drama would have, Midthunder's performance still shines as one of the year's best. 

With "Prey" Midthunder has finally achieved a breakthrough role after years of being in Hollywood. You may have seen her in a minor role in the 2016 Oscar-nominated "Hell or High Water." Or more likely you remember Midthunder as the mutant Kerry Loudermilk in Noah Hawley's mind-bending FX superhero series "Legion." In addition to "Prey," Midthunder also has TV credits for 2022, continuing her long-time role on "Roswell, New Mexico" in the most recent season and showing up as a featured guest in an episode of "Reservation Dogs" on Hulu.

Ayo Edebiri

Comedian Ayo Edebiri is a rising star of her scene — voice acting in "Big Mouth" while taking on writing duties for "What We do in the Shadows" — but 2022 brought her to something entirely new. One of the most talked about TV shows of the year was "The Bear," presented on FX on Hulu, and Edebiri is quite arguably the show's biggest breakout star. While audiences might have been familiar with chaotic "The Bear" centerpiece Carmy from actor Jeremy Allen White's decade-long run on "Shameless," Edebiri is a fresh face, one that brings vital energy to the kitchen drama. 

As Sydney, Edebiri brought the much-needed perspective of a young, Black, female chef to the male-dominated industry the "The Bear" is all about. Most of all, she proved she could balance humor and seriousness on a knife's edge and wrap it all into one coherent, charismatic character. Going forward into 2023 we know that Edebiri is returning for Season 2 of "The Bear" and the next season of "Big Mouth." 

Kyle Soller

"Andor" is one of the most exciting and critically acclaimed TV shows of the year. Even if you don't consider yourself a "Star Wars" fan anymore, it's well worth watching as a standalone piece of science fiction. The prequel to "Rouge One" is grounded by its complex characters, especially on the Empire side. One of the (multiple) breakthrough performances from the show comes from Kyle Soller, as the down-on-his-luck bootlicker Syril Karn. 

As Karn, Soller shows off an increasingly manic side of a character struggling to be recognized by his superiors. He wears his desires on his sleeve, but Karn's determination gives him endless fuel for tracking down Cassian Andor. This nuanced performance of a layered character in a "Star Wars" story has gained the previously small-time actor some major attention. 

Soller's previous movie roles include minor parts in "Fury" and 2012's "Anna Karenina." In addition to film and TV work, Soller has been providing voices for video games for his entire career, appearing in titles such as "Alien: Isolation," "Dragon Quest XI," and "Horizon: Forbidden West."

Denise Gough

It's worth noting that while Irish actress Denise Gough had her international Disney franchise debut in 2022, she is anything but a newcomer. Gough has had a great deal of success on stage, winning herself two Olivier awards for her performances in two different plays. The rising star of the British stage was no stranger to digital media before "Andor," though. She appeared in numerous 2010s movies and TV shows, but might be most recognizable as the voice of Yennefer in the hit video game "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt."

It is her ever-evolving role as Dedra Meero in "Andor" that lands Gough on this list of actors to watch going into the rest of the decade. A power-hungry Imperial Security officer, Dedra is sympathetic at first as we see her struggling for legitimacy in a man's world. But as she gains power and recognition, Gough makes the character one of the most frightening villains in "Star Wars," despite the lack of any mystical powers. We don't yet know Dedra's fate but we hope to be seeing a lot more of Gough in "Andor" Season 2.

Emma D'Arcy

The debut season of "Game of Thrones" prequel "House of the Dragon" was one of the biggest and best shows of the year. While Matt Smith certainly killed it as Prince Daemon Targaryen, it was Emma D'Arcy's turn as the adult version of Rhaenyra Targaryen who is the heart of the show. They made quite the impression, too, considering D'Arcy only portrayed the character in the last five episodes of the season after taking over from Milly Alcock. But if it wasn't clear from the start, it is after the character becomes crowned queen at the end of the first season. "House of the Dragon" is Rhaenyra's story, and D'Arcy is here to stay. 

The non-binary actor has made their breakthrough in Westeros after a number of years on various TV and streaming shows. D'Arcy starred in the BBC drama "Wanderlust," as well as in the Amazon Prime paranormal parody "Truth Seekers" before getting cast in HBO's next biggest series. While "House of the Dragon" is certain to be a major part of their life and career for a number of years to come, D'Arcy is also set to star in the upcoming film "Mother Russia" alongside other U.K. actors Ciarán Hinds and Jason Isaacs. 

Morfydd Clark

Spanning numerous races and factions across Middle-Earth, the cast of "The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power" was large and diverse. The series sported a large cast of mostly unknown actors for a majority of Amazon's global audience. The highlight performance of "Rings of Power" was the one that tied it all together. That would of course be Morfydd Clark as the series' Galadriel, who the first season set up to be the protagonist of the series going forward. 

Clark is a Welsch actress whose breakthrough actually launched softly in 2019. In this banner year for the actress, Clark played the titular Maud in "Saint Maud," proving that when Galadriel starts to act scary she will be able to sell the performance. She was also in the first season of the "His Dark Materials" series on HBO that same year. 

There is no question, however, that Clark's debut as Galadriel — who is here to stay for the next few years — has the potential to be a career-defining role. But if fantasy isn't your thing worry you not, there will be something for you soon enough. Clark is slated to star in the upcoming horror series "Starve Acre" and the cinematic thriller "The Duchess of Malfi."

Thuso Mbedu

At this point, South African actress Thuso Mbedu is just shy of an international sensation, but American audiences might not have known her name before this year. Well, that all changed in 2022 with the release of "The Woman King" and the acclaim and positive reviews (per Rotten Tomatoes) the drama has received. Alongside Viola Davis, Mbedu stars in this action-packed historic drama as one of the female warriors set to protect the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s. Sure to be an awards season favorite, "The Woman King" is a victory lap for Davis and a breakthrough for Thuso Mbedu. 

This role comes off the back of Mbedu's striking and emotional performance as Cora in Barry Jenkins' historical mini-series, "The Underground Railroad." This was the first production the actress had done outside of South Africa, where she had previously gotten her start in TV. Here she first earned critical acclaim for the series "Is'Thunzi," which earned her international recognition and a nomination for best performance by an actress at the International Emmy Awards.