NBFF and Variety Celebrate 10 Actors to Watch, Three Artists of Distinction and an Icon

Nine of the 10 Actors to Watch gathered Nov. 11 at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach. (Photos by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Visit Newport Beach)

“Entertainment industry bible” Variety, the city-contracted marketing nonprofit Visit Newport Beach and the Newport Beach Film Festival recently partnered for the 20th anniversary 10 Actors to Watch honors.

The watchable actors, additional NBFF “Artists of Distinction” and a Hollywood icon were feted Nov. 11 during a swank reception at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach.

“It’s serendipitous timing that this year marks the 10 Actors to Watch 20th anniversary and coincides with the kick-off of Newport Beach Film Festival’s year-long celebration of its own 20th anniversary,” remarked Gregg Schwenk, CEO and president of the NBFF, which for the past five years has also partnered with Variety and Visit Newport Beach to host the publication’s 10 Cinematographers to Watch and 10 Brits to Watch.

The 2018 10 Actors to Watch are:

From right, Zazie Beetz, Gemma Chan, Elsie Fisher and Henry Golden do panel (and wine).

Zazie Beetz, the baby momma and on-again/off-again girlfriend of Donald Glover’s Earnest on FX’s Atlanta (which earned her an Emmy nomination) and Domino from Deadpool 2 (which is a role she will reprise in the X-Force spin-off that reportedly began production in October). The Berlin-born actress will next be seen in Todd Phillips’ Joker and Noah Hawley’s feature film directorial debut that is currently untitled but had been known as Pale Blue Dot and then Life on Earth.

Gemma Chan, who is Mia on AMC/Channel 4’s Humans and will be seen opposite Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie when Mary Queen of Scots hits theaters in December. The Brit, who is also cast as Minn-Erva in next year’s Captain Marvel, starred in Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians as Astrid Young Teo, the sympathetic cousin of the lead male character played by …

Henry Golding, who made his film debut as Nick Young. He followed his Crazy Rich Asians role with A Simple Favor, which co-stars Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick and is barely hanging on in Southern California theaters following its September release. The Malaysian-born actor has three films in post-production.

Elsie Fisher, the breakout star of Bo Burnham’s indie hit Eighth Grade. The voice of Agnes in Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 is also working the sound booth for the animated take on The Addams Family due next year.

From left: Letitia Wright, John David Washington and Marina De Tavira being watched.

Letitia Wright, who played  fan favorite Shuri in the Marvel films Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War and was Emmy-nominated for her role in the Black Mirror episode “Black Museum.”

John David Washington, the star of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansmen (and Ricky Jerret from HBO’s Ballers), who has had a monster 2018 on the big screen when you consider he’s also been in Monster, Monsters and Man and The Old Man and the Gun (pointed at monsters?) this year.

Marina de Tavira, who will be seen in Alfonso Cuarón’s much-buzzed-about Roma when it hits theaters and Netflix in mid-December. (Fun fact: OC Film Fiesta audiences got a sneak peek last month.) The streaming siren also recently appeared in Netflix’s Ingobernable and Amazon’s Falco.

Cailee Spaeny watches fellow watchable actor Russell Hornsby.

Cailee Spaeny, the actress-singer who made her feature film debut earlier this year in Pacific Rim: Uprising, fills out the star-studded cast of Bad Times at the El Royale that is still hanging on in a couple local theaters and appears in a couple high profile, politically charged films premiering in theaters next month: On the Basis of Sex, where she plays the teen daughter of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) and Vice, where she is cast as the young Lynn Cheney, a.k.a. wife of Dick (Christian Bale).

Russell Hornsby, the only Actor to Watch with film and television credits stretching back to the very early 1990s. He appeared on Broadway and in Denzel Washington’s 2016 film adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences, is currently in theaters with The Hate U Give and hits the big screen again next week in Creed 2.

Anthony Ramos, a member of the original Hamilton Broadway cast, is in theaters now with the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga A Star is Born remake. He previously hung around with Washington at the Monsters and Men craft services table.

Need longer talent profiles? Hunt down the Feb. 13 Variety or go that day to Variety.com.

Meanwhile, the Newport Beach Film Festival used the same party to honor its Fall Honorees, who are:

From left: Artists of Distinction Topher Grace, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Colman Domingo with a crashing Actor to Watch Zazie Beetz.

Colman Domingo (Artist of Distinction), the If Beale Street Could Talk and Fear the Walking Dead actor who is also a writer, director and producer. He hangs around with Beetz at the unnamed Noah Hawley project craft services table. Speaking of hanging, Domingo’s early career included a stint in the circus as an aerial web artist.

Topher Grace (Artist of Distinction), who was the foe of an aerial web artist as Eddie Brock/Venon in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. Grace got raved reviews this year for his portrayal of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke in BlacKkKlansman, where he broke crackers with Washington at the craft services table. Grace is, of course, forever be a generation’s Eric Forman from That ’70s Show.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Artist of Distinction), who was the lead in the criminally underappreciated and canceled CBS comedy BrainDead and this year took on the challenging role of a rising stand-up comic with a personal life falling apart in All About Nina. She’ll be on the big screen next year in Gemini Man (with Will Smith and Clive Owen) and Birds of Prey (with Aaron Paul and Scoot McNairy), while 2020 brings the DC superhero franchise flick Birds of Prey.

From left: Newport Beach Film Fest CEO Gregg Schwenk, actor Robert Forster and Newport Beach & Co. CEO Gary C. Sherwin try valiantly to hold off the actresses.

Robert Forster (Icon), the veteran actor who has been directed by the likes of John Huston, Quentin Tarantino, Alexander Payne and David Lynch and recently played Tim Allen’s father on the sitcom Last Man Standing. Forster scored an Oscar nomination for QT’s Jackie Brown, but he considers his role opposite Hilary Swank in next year’s What They Had a standout.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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