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Why Chester From Generation Looks So Familiar

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Every group of friends needs someone like Chester.

Chester is, as he puts it in the trailer for the upcoming HBO Max series Generation, a water polo star with a 4.1 GPA. "I'm like, a lot," he tells the new guidance counselor (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). A lot might be just what his friends need in the new dramedy, set to debut on March 11, 2021. Generation follows a group of high school students who learn about themselves and explore their varied sexualities –– and the parents who just don't understand –– in their conservative community. Someone with his confidence, someone with his attitude could be a valuable ally on any journey of self-discovery.

You might not realize it at first, not with the assortment of multi-colored sunglasses he wears and the bleached hair, but chances are you've seen Justice Smith before. The young actor's career has already been a mix of big blockbusters and buzzed-about streaming fare.

Justice Smith played a teenaged MC on The Get Down

Smith's big breakout came when he landed the lead role of Ezekiel Figuero in Baz Luhrmann's musical historical drama about the rise of hip-hop culture in New York in the 1970's, The Get Down. Zeke is a teenage poet, quick-witted and attuned to the rhythm and rhyme of language, all handy skills to have when you live at the time and place where rap was born.

Zeke teams up with aspiring DJ Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore) and some of his friends to form the musical group The Get Down Brothers. But their ambitions are tied up with Zeke's love for the young disco singer Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola), Shaolin's involvement with the gangster and disco dancer supreme Cadillac Caldwell (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), and Zeke's own goals outside of his music: an internship with a big shot in city government and the possibility of getting into an Ivy League school.

The Get Down only lasted a single, two-part season on Netflix, and was cancelled due to either its expensive budget or Luhrmann's desire to go back to making movies. But one look at its cast –– which also included Giancarlo Esposito, Daveed Diggs, and Julia Garner –– and what they've done since makes it obvious that Smith could have done a lot worse as a launching point.

Justice Smith tracked dinosaurs in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

In 2018, Smith joined the cast of the sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as tech expert Franklin Webb, who is recruited to visit the dinosaur-infested Isla Nublar along with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and others. The group intends to locate and capture Jurassic World's specimens, particularly the velociraptor Blue, and Webb is needed to reactivate the park's dinosaur tracking system.

Otherwise, it's unlikely anyone would have picked him for any sort of adventure. Franklin is a nervous type, prone to panic, which gives him a unique emotional role in the cast of characters he journeys to Isla Nublar with. Claire and Owen have already been through one dinosaur disaster. His friend, the paleoveterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda), is hard-bitten, a former Marine. The team of mercenaries are typical movie mercenaries.

This being a movie in the Jurassic Park franchise, it turns out Franklin is right to worry. He's attacked by dinosaurs, nearly engulfed in lava, and double-crossed by those mercenaries. But he survives their adventure both on the island and back on the mainland, and even manages to rise to the occasion some of the time. Smith is confirmed to be appearing in the next movie, Jurassic World: Dominion, and Franklin will be an old hand at dinosaur adventures by that point.

Justice Smith was on the case in Detective Pikachu

Not content with appearing in a movie about fantastical creatures that actually once lived on the Earth, Smith's next film role was in 2019's Pokemon Detective Pikachu, where CGI versions of the money-printing franchise's eponymous monsters coexist alongside humans in their everyday life.

Smith plays Tim Goodman, an insurance adjuster investigating the disappearance of his father Harry, a police detective, with the help of his father's Pokémon partner, a deerstalker-wearing Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) whose speech onl Tim can understand. The pair soon find themselves on the trail of Harry's last case, figuring out who's behind the mysterious chemical R that sends Pokémon into fits of violent rage and how it's connected to the powerful psychic Pokémon Mewtwo and the powerful industrialist Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy).

Tim is very much the straight man to his furry little partner, the Roger Murtaugh of this particular buddy-cop relationship, but he grows into the investigation, and the partnership, over the course of the movie. There was movement toward a potential sequel in 2019, but in 2020 Smith told ComingSoon that he didn't have any details as to whether the project was going forward.

Justice Smith played a troubled teen in All the Bright Places

Even as he's graduated to roles as young adults in blockbusters, Smith proved in 2020 that he's still able to pull off younger characters like Chester when he starred alongside Elle Fanning in the Netflix romantic drama All the Bright Places, about a pair of teens helping each other heal from their respective traumas.

Theodore Finch meets Violet Markey on the bridge where she and her sister got into a car accident less than a year before. Her sister died in the crash, and she can't bear the fact that she survived and her sister didn't. But Finch talks her down, and the pair embark on a friendship, and eventually a romance, helped by a school project that sends them journeying all over their home state of Indiana in search of interesting places.

But even as he's come back to playing teenagers in smaller, more character-based projects, Smith's career is getting ready to swing the other way again. In addition to one blockbuster sequel, and possibly a second, he recently joined the big-name cast of the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons movie, where he'll be working alongside Chris Pine, Hugh Grant, Michelle Rodriguez and more. It's like a lot, but he seems like he can handle it.