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Why Colin from Black Mirror: Bandersnatch looks so familiar

Netflix's British dystopian series Black Mirror kicked off 2019 with the release of Bandersnatch, an interactive, choose-your-own adventure film with several exceedingly dark twists and turns. Telling the story of Stefan, a young game designer who finds himself losing control of his everyday life, the film has been extremely popular with viewers and critics, with fans obsessively laying out each ending and mapping out every existing pathway. Viewers tried over and over again to "win" the game-like film, coming away with the exact message Black Mirror intended — free will is often an illusion, and our choices are usually made for us.

Though the film is seen through the perspective of Stefan (Dunkirk's Fionn Whitehead), early in the story, we meet perhaps the most important character that Stefan encounters: Colin Ritman (Will Poulter), a skilled game designer who has seemingly mastered the craft and is able to introduce Stefan to a new way of thinking. Viewers may have recognized Poulter, who has been acting since a young age, from any number of projects that have been popular in the U.K., the States, and beyond. Here's where you might have seen Colin from Black Mirror's Bandersnatch pop up before.

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From Son of Rambow to School of Comedy

Born in 1993 in the Hammersmith area of London, Poulter studied at the Harrodian School in the city and caught the acting bug, booking smaller roles until his film debut in 2007. At the age of 14, he played Lee Carter, the lead role in Son of Rambow, directed and written by Garth Jennings (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). A coming-of-age story about two young boys and their attempt to remake the Rambo film First Blood, the film premiered to positive reviews, especially for Poulter and his co-star Bill Milner.

Soon after, Poulter booked a television series in England called School of Comedy, which began airing in 2008. Previously a youth-based sketch show based out of Poulter's school, it premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was soon picked up by E4, where it ran for two years. Poulter played several recurring roles, including a parody of Gordon Gekko, a politically incorrect schoolteacher, and a 1970s "copper," among others, and the show is largely credited with launching his career.

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A fateful Voyage

2009 saw Poulter's biggest break yet — he was cast a featured role in the third film based on C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. In 2010's Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Poulter's character, Eustace Scrubb, debuted as a bookish, often irritating cousin of the Pevensie family (which is made up of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, the main characters of the first two novels and films), with whom Edmund and Lucy are temporarily staying. Because Eustace wasn't transported to Narnia before the events of this film, he doesn't have the best attitude about the whole situation, but once he's cursed and transformed into a dragon, he becomes kinder and more patient, eventually saving his cousins and the crew of the Dawn Treader from an evil serpent. At the end of the film, Aslan tells Eustace that, because he has changed for the better, he'll be allowed to return to Narnia when he wishes.

The film performed well at the box office, but didn't fare as well critically, with a 50% average on Rotten Tomatoes. However, some critics singled out Poulter's performance, with Luke Y. Thompson from E! saying that "Poulter's turn as Eustace injects a welcome note of comedic cynicism into the sea of sentimentality."

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Getting Wild

After his blockbuster year in 2010, Poulter took on a smaller project, appearing in the 2011 British independent film Wild Bill. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, the crime comedy tells the story of Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles), who has recently been released from prison after serving under a vicious drug lord (played by Andy Serkis). Poulter took on the role of Dean, Bill's 15-year-old son who Bill discovers has dropped out of school and is now working on a construction site. Throughout the film, Bill attempts to deal with the ramifications of his past, inadvertently getting Dean involved in his troubles with his former gang and a number of other drug lords. Dean begins a troubled relationship with Steph (Charlotte Spencer), ultimately finding himself a part of a number of fairly frightening mishaps, but at the end of the film, though his father is sent back to jail, he and his younger brother Jimmy (Sammy Williams) escape with no consequences.

Though the film was certainly a smaller production than the Chronicles of Narnia, it fared much better critically, with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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The family that smuggles together rules the box office together

In 2013, Poulter appeared in We're the Millers, a big-budget Hollywood comedy starring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Ed Helms, and more. In the film, David Clark (Sudeikis), a low-level pot dealer,  is forced to transport drugs across the U.S. border and into Mexico. Figuring he can fly under the radar if he looks like an average Joe, he enlists a stripper (Aniston) to pose as his wife and two teenage runaways who are actually siblings (Roberts and Poulter) to pose as his two children. As Kenny, Poulter plays a socially awkward teen juxtaposed against his criminally inclined, confident sister, and it gave him the chance to show off his broad comedy chops (including a scene when he gets a spider bite where no man would want a spider bite) as well as his American accent.

The film was successful at the box office, and though critical response was tepid at best, Poulter's career was given an invaluable jump start. He was singled out by critics, including one who labeled him a "true find," and won the BAFTA Rising Star Award, which is voted for by the public, as well as two MTV Movie Awards, both for We're the Millers (specifically, Best Breakthrough Performance and Best Kiss, which he shared with Roberts and Aniston).

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Maze running

Though Poulter missed out on the lead role of Augustus Waters in The Fault in Our Stars (which went to Ansel Elgort), his career after We're the Millers wasn't any less successful for it. He went on to star in the 2014 crime indie Plastic, which was critically panned upon its release, and Poulter even recognized that, saying the film was "bad" and that he regretted being a part of it entirely.

However, he didn't rest for long, signing on to the film adaptation of The Maze Runner, based on a popular set of young adult novels. Starring alongside Dylan O'Brien and Patricia Clarkson, among others, Poulter took on the role of Gally, a boy who is in direct competition with Thomas (O'Brien). He described the film as a "turning point" for his career, and it was yet another blockbuster notch to add to his belt, with an excellent box office turnout in the United States and an even better one abroad. That year, he was chosen as one of 23 actors in a Vanity Fair feature entitled "Hollywood's Next Wave," alongside young stars like O'Brien, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, and Jaden Smith.

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Glassland

Poulter's next project was another indie — Glassland, written and directed by Gerard Barrett. The film stars Jack Reynor as John, who must help his troubled mother Jean (Toni Collette) as she struggles with severe alcoholism. Raised without a father, John must look after both his mother and his brother (who has Down syndrome) alone, and though he constantly fights with his mother to keep her safe and to keep her from drinking, they deeply care for each other. Poulter plays John's friend Shane, who lives with his mother as well, but who has a much angrier and much more fraught relationship with her, in which he often verbally abuses her for minor offenses, though the film reveals that this is partly due to his own issues with his absent father.

Glassland premiered to positive reviews, and Poulter was often singled out as a standout, holding his own against veteran talents Reynor and Collette. Poulter noted that he was extremely proud of the film, marking a serious artistic achievement after a string of more mainstream efforts.

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Suffering for art pays off sometimes

In 2015, Alejandro González Iñárritu followed up his Best Picture winner Birdman or (The Unexpected Virture of Ignorance) with the stark western drama The Revenant. The film, which focuses on Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) struggling to survive on the frozen frontier after he's abandoned by his group of fellow trappers, was highly lauded, earning numerous awards and nominations, and brought in more than $530 million at the worldwide box office.

The film was notoriously difficult to shoot, with Iñárritu and Lubezki refusing to film unless they could shoot in natural light, and thanks to bad weather conditions and filming locations in multiple countries, the budget ballooned. Poulter stuck through it, playing the role of Jim Bridger, who remains loyal to Glass even though he is repeatedly tricked by the other trappers as they try to leave him for dead. Some critics described his part as the most morally difficult in the entire film, and Poulter himself described the experience as pushing himself to the absolute limit, but in terms of prestige, it certainly paid off.

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A reality-inspired critical favorite

Poulter nearly had two huge roles in 2017, but one prevented the other from happening: though he was originally cast as Pennywise the Clown in It, he was replaced by Bill Skarsgård, and he exited with the original director, Cary Fukunaga (who rose to fame during the first season of True Detective) thanks to a conflict with another film. Poulter chose to appear in Detroit in that same year, which was directed by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow and told the story of the 1967 12th Street Riots in Detroit, and was released on the 50th anniversary of the event. Poulter starred alongside a cast that included John Boyega (fresh off of Star Wars: The Force Awakens), John Krasinski, and Anthony Mackie, part of a talented ensemble in a gritty, period crime film telling a dark story from America's history.

Poulter played sadistic policeman Philip Krauss, who kills a suspected looter on sight and spends the remainder of the film framing innocent people for crimes that he committed. After perpetrating numerous abusive acts throughout the film, he and his men are removed from active duty. Poulter's performance received numerous accolades, and some critics even believed he could earn an Oscar nomination for his difficult, polarizing role.

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Bandersnatched

2018 proved to be a banner year for Poulter, who racked up more blockbuster credits alongside prestige dramas. Delayed by a year to give star Dylan O'Brien time to recover from injuries he sustained on set, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, the third film in the series, was released in early 2018, and Poulter reprised his role as Gally, Thomas' enemy, who survived his deadly attack in the first film. In this installment, he works with Thomas to take down the WCKD, an organization that kidnaps and tortures children, and the two of them work together to find a serum that can cure the Flare, a sickness infecting much of the population.

In the same year, he also starred in The Little Stranger, based on Sarah Waters' novel of the same name and directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Room) and starring Domhnall Gleeson (who co-starred with Poulter in The Revenant) and Ruth Wilson, playing a disfigured war veteran haunted by his past. His final big role in 2018 came courtesy of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, as the mysterious and brilliant yet doomed game designer Colin Ritman, who guides main character Stefan through a number of challenges. Though Bandersnatch was a critical success, Poulter received so much negative online feedback that he decided to take some time off from social media — though he told fans not to consider it the end, but an "alternate path."