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July 2004
Faces of Tomorrow: Ones to Watch 2004

Compiled by the writers of blackfilm.com

Every year there seems to be a batch of films that features new talent on the big screen. Some of these folks are not so new as they may have been noticed either on the small screen or through some other medium such as music or fashion, but nevertheless they are making a splash right now that will get them much more attention. Last year's list included a number of actors and directors who have since blown up and are now receiving leading roles such as Eva Mendes, Anthony Mackie, Nick Cannon, & Kerry Washington. While every actor certainly deserves their due, blackfilm.com has selected a few individuals who we feel will be the "faces of tomorrow". In no particular order, we present to you the ones to watch for in 2004:

Shola Lynch (Director)

Documentaries are not an easy sell, but thanks to Michael Moore, a lot of more folks are being noticed. Coming out in this Fall is Chisholm'72: Unbought & Unbossed, the election campagin of Shirley Chisholm. It's Shola Lynch’s directorial debut. Previously, she’s learned from and worked with Ken Burns’ Florentine Films on Frank Lloyd Wright and JAZZ; HBO Sports on Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team; and ROJA Productions on “EveryOther” as part of the Matters of Race series. Shola’s most important filmmaking skill has come from competing 15 years as a track athlete — perseverance in pursuit of a goal.

Sharon Warren (Actress)

Newcomer Sharon Warren gives a stand-out performance as Aretha Robinson, Ray Charles' fiercely independent mother, in Ray, the story of the legendary musician who passed away recently. Warren performs opposite versatile actor Jamie Foxx, who gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Charles.  In addition, Warren shares the screen with an ensemble of established stars, including Regina King, Kerry Washington, Aunjanue Ellis, Larenz Tate, Harry Lennix, Clifton Powell, Bokeem Woodbine, Curtis Armstrong and Richard Schiff.. In August 2002, Warren was performing in local theatre productions in Atlanta when she heard of auditions for the film.  After several impressive readings, her unrelenting, passion won over award-winning director Hackford and she landed the highly coveted role.  In a very short period of time, the native of Tuskegee, Alabama went from local theatre roles to a film debut in major motion picture. Welcome to the big leagues!!

Lee Thompson Young (Actor)

The South Carolina (Columbia) native will be making his film debut in Friday Night Lights, which also stars Derek Luke. Thompson starred in all 65 episodes of the Disney Channel TV show, "The Famous Jett Jackson", the teen star of a secret agent show-within-the-show called "Silverstone"  during its three-year run (as well as a spinoff feature that aired on the cable network in 2001) and wrote the episode entitled "Something to Prove"2 during the 2000 season.  His work on the program was recognized each season with a Young Artist Award nomination as Leading Actor in a Drama Series. Young also appeared in another Disney Channel feature "Johnny Tsunami" and has a recurring role on the current CBS series, "The Guardian."  He recently was featured with Jamie Foxx in another telefilm, "Redemption," which screened at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and aired on FX TV channel.

Rodney Evans (Director)

Rodney Evans is the recipient of the Independent Feature Project's Gordon Parks Award for Screenwriting for his screenplay of Brother to Brother, which is hitting theaters this Fall and stars Anthony Mackie and Aunjanue Ellis. He also recently received funding from the Jerome Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and ITVS for writing and producing his new project. His autobiographical film, Close to Home, has been shown at more than 30 film festivals worldwide. His last feature-length project, The Unveiling, opened theatrically in Los Angeles and New York in 1998.


Lee Daniels (Director)

Lee Daniels makes this list because he's constantly reinventing himself in this business of entertainment. As the producer for Monster's Ball, it gave him a big spotlight as Halle Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress. Time has gone by and now's he back with another film as a producer that may land Kevin Bacon an Oscar nomination. The film is called The Woodsman and it also features Mos Def, Eve, David Allan Grier, and Kyra Sedgwick. Not only, but Daniels is currently directing his first film called The Shadowboxer which stars Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. If he keeps at it, and has much success, you will soon see him act in a film because he has that much talent.

Terry Crews (Actor)

If there's one actor who trying to make sure you notice him this summer, it's Terry Crews. This 6'6 former pro football player, a native of Flint, Michigan, is currently on the big screen in three films (Baadasssss!, Soul Plane, and White Chicks) and is just about to start shooting "3001" with Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph. To cap it off, Terry will be going back to his old roots when he stars with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock in the remake of The Longest Yard.

Kevin Hart (Actor)

This brother came out of the blue and was the star of Soul Plane along with a cast of veteran comedians and he held his own. Not only that, but he was the lead in the short lived ABC comedy series The Big House. He had a small role in Along Came Polly, but that's ok because the film was a financial success. Expect Kevin to be on a big screen ready to tear your body up with laughter.

Tim Story (Director)

What can we say about Tim Story that hasn't been said already on the internet? This guy is going to blow up in a major way. Yes, if you look at his credits, you'll see that he directed the first Barbershop and may not be consider a new face, but we don't recall any major publication outlets talking about him and giving him his props. Well, his next film will be Taxi, starring Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon, and sources say that based on test screenings of the film, it was good enough to land him the director's gig of The Fantastic Four, due to come out next year. If Spiderman did huge numbers, imagine this one. Stay tuned.

Reagan Preston Gomez (Actress)

This young lady has worked her way up from starring with Robert Townsend on the TV show The Parent Hood to having a small role in last year's Love Don't Cost a Thing, but it was her breakout role in this year's Never Die Alone that had folks talking. Her character certainly learned a hard lesson when hanging with DMX. Later this year, Reagan will be seen along with Mo'Nique, Kellita Williams, Taraji Henson, Joe Torrey, along with Serena Williams and Vivica A. Fox in Beauty Shop.

Diego Luna (Actor)

There haven't been that many young Latino actors to land that many roles since Esai Morales was captivating in Bad Boys and La Bamba, but that was almost 20 years ago. Ever since he was known as the other boy in the critically acclaimed international film Y Tu Mama Tambien, Diego has been getting nothing but quality films and good actors to work with. He's already starred with Kevin Costner in Open Range, was the lead in this year's Dirty Dancing Havana Nights and was featured with Tom Hanks in The Terminal, but his upcoming film, Criminal, should put in a range that most young actors, especially Latino, don't get. Get ready for the A list because it's coming.

Zoe Saldana (Actress)

Zoe Saldana is another Latino actress ready to make her mark. Sure, she's been featured in a few films prior to this year, but ask yourself, did you see Crossroads, the Britney Spears film or Snipes with Nelly? Probably not, but she was amazing in Drumline with Nick Cannon, had a small role in Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp, and was Diego Luna's love interest in The Terminal with Tom Hanks. Just working with Mr. Hanks should say something about her talent. Zoe will next be seen in Haven with Orlando Bloom and Anthony Mackie, Constellation with Gabrielle Union, Hill Harper, and Billy Dee Williams, and is currently filming Dirty Deeds with Lacey Chabert of Mean Girls. After that film is completed, she's off to star with Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher in The Dinner Party.

Henry Simmons (Actor)

Henry Simmons is no stranger to many. He's been on TV these last few years as a member of NYPD Blue and has done an amazing job playing the role of Det. Baldwin Jones. But with the series coming to an end next year, it's time to look for a better paying gig and why not as a film actor. He's already been seen in the TV film "Spartacus" in which he played a gladiator, but he's stepping his game to another level as he will star with Queen Latifah in Tim Story's film, Taxi, and then be featured with Ice Cube and Nia Long in Are We There Yet?, slated to come out in early 2005.

Dania Ramirez (Actress)

Another person looking to making that transition from television to films is Dania Ramirez. After playing "Caridad" in a few episodes in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, we didn't see much of her. Hopefully, she was honing her acting skills because she has a pivotal role in Spike Lee's new film, She Hate Me playing one half of a lesbian couple. Spike has a way of discovering new talent and he has one here. She also featured in the indie film Cross Bronx, which has been in some film festivals and will later star along with Omarion Grandberry of B2K and Kenan Thompson in the film Fat Albert.

Drew Sidora (Actress)

Playing the black female role in a film dominated by males, white and black is never easy, but they do stand out and Drew Sidora certainly did with her role as the concerned wife to Marlon Wayans' character in White Chicks. Her scenes were straight to the point as one could relate with her character and Drew made the most of the short role. She was also featured along with Reagan Preston Gomez in Never Die Alone.

Rick Gonzalez (Actor)

It's not easy to change appearances for a role, but Rick Gonzalez is one of those actors who has manage to keep his afro for most of his films, and that's why he stands out. He also plays his roles with such a distinction that you don't know if he's really acting. He certainly played ball with Dennis Quaid in The Rookie, and was one of Derek Luke's Biker Boyz, and was held his laughter inside with Will Ferrell in Old School, but he recently shot Coach Carter with Samuel L. Jackson and Ashanti and is currently filming Roll Bounce with Nick Cannon and Mike Epps and directed by Malcolm D. Lee.

Billoah Greene (Actor)

Billoah Greene's film debut was last year's Levity, which starred Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter, and Billy Bob Thornton. He had a small role so he didn't stand among those heavyweights, but it must have been good to be on a film with 2 Oscar winners and a perennial nominee. Nevertheless, Billoah has upped his talent to be lead in the indie film On the One, which features Tishina Arnold, Novella Nelson and Patti LaBelle. He was also part of a great ensemble in HBO's film Everyday People, and will later be seen in the indie film by Rodney Evans, Brother to Brother, with Anthony Mackie and Aunjanue Ellis.

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