Georgia Groome made her big-screen debut aged 14 in Paul Andrew Williams' festival hit London To Brighton, in which she played a young homeless girl. She is about to prove her versatility as an actor in Gurinder Chadha's comedy Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging which opens at the end of the month in the UK and which also stars Aaron Johnson. "I wanted to try something different," says Groome, who plays a typical teenager grappling with typical teenage issues. "That's what Paul (Andrew Williams) advised me to do. Acting is about testing yourself."

No wonder casting directors are praising this 16-year-old's commitment, appeal and formidable talent. Groome will soon be seen in Johnny Kevorkian's supernatural horror The Disappeared.

Contact: United Agents, (44) 20 7166 5266


Richard Linklater spent the best part of a decade looking for an actor to play the eponymous actor and director in Me And Orson Welles. When he saw Christian McKay in his one-man show Rosebud: The Lives Of Orson Welles last year, his search was over. Starring opposite Zac Efron and Claire Danes in the film about the stage production that made Welles a star, this Rada-trained actor is being tipped as a future award-winner.

"This is not just an impersonation of Welles," says Marc Samuelson, who is producing the film with Linklater and Anne Carli. "Christian gives a modulated, carefully thought-out performance. This will be the breakthrough for this hugely accomplished actor." But McKay - who is also a concert-level classical pianist - is not just about Welles. "At drama school, my peers said they'd never want to be a character actor," he says. "But I can't think of anything better because of the range and possibility it affords."

Contact: Ken McReddie Associates, (44) 20 7439 1456


Edward Hogg has been steadily building a name as someone to watch. His lead role in Woyzeck on stage at London's Gate Theatre won him an Ian Charleson Award nomination in 2006 but two films due for release next year are likely to propel him into the limelight.

First off is White Lightnin' from director Dominic Murphy. Starring alongside Carrie Fisher, Hogg takes on the role of Appalachian dancer and entertainer Jesco White, whose life story includes stays in a mental institution, a bit part in Roseanne and copious drug use. "He's larger than life in real life," says Hogg of White, "but I take it up a notch or two in the film." No surprise, then, that there was so much buzz over this charismatic actor at Cannes, where Salt was selling the film. Meanwhile, Paul King's comedy Bunny And The Bull for Warp X has just cranked up and gives Hogg the chance to shift gears, playing straight man to his eccentric best friend played by Simon Farnaby.

Contact: Hamilton Hodell, (44) 20 7636 1221


She made a splash as the tortured adolescent grappling with her emerging sexuality in the Emmy-winning Channel 4 TV series Sugar Rush in 2006, but Olivia Hallinan has really shown her range in the BBC's Lark Rise To Candleford based on Flora Thompson's 19th-century autobiography. She dons bonnet and corsets to take the lead as the strong-willed post-office apprentice opposite UK television stalwarts including Julia Sawalha, Dawn French and Liz Smith. Now in its second series, Lark Rise will occupy Hallinan until mid-November.

While it has satisfied her desire to do a period piece, Hallinan is keen to hone her craft both in the theatre and on film. "I've acted since I was a child so it's very normal for me," she says. "Compelling characters and interesting writing is what attracts me - that, and working with great British directors."

Contact: Conway van Gelder Grant, (44) 20 7287 0077


Having graced several high-quality television productions such as Bleak House and My Boy Jack, Carey Mulligan is about to hit the big time with the lead in Lone Scherfig's An Education. Set in the 1960s, the film is a coming-of-age drama in which she plays a 17-year-old who abandons her suburban life for the heady whirl of London's artistic set. Her co-stars include Rosamund Pike, Peter Sarsgaard and Emma Thompson.

She has also completed supporting roles in Michael Mann's Public Enemies and Jim Sheridan's Brothers. "She's a completely natural talent, charming, fragile but strong," says Lucy Bevan, who cast her in An Education after seeing "masses of girls". Now Mulligan is following the advice given her by Pike: "Go for the best material, wherever it is."

Contact: Julian Belfrage Associates, (44) 20 7287 8544


One year after graduating from Lamda and the buzz around Charlotte Riley is growing. She has just finished Stephan Elliott's adaptation of Noel Coward's Easy Virtue in which she plays the main character's down-to-earth childhood sweetheart. Riley may have felt intimidated before starting the job - hardly surprising given a cast including Ben Barnes, Jessica Biel, Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth - but her fears were unfounded.

"We were told by our teachers at drama school never to bother anyone with questions but I found the opposite, everyone was full of advice," she says. "Working with actors of that calibre really made me step up my game." She now has the biggest challenge of her career so far in Coky Giedroyc's Wuthering Heights for ITV, in which she stars as Catherine Earnshaw opposite Tom Hardy's Heathcliffe. "I wanted to do a period piece this year and playing Cathy is a dream come true," says Riley.

Contact: Conway Van Gelder Grant, (44) 20 7287 0077


It is a sign of her blossoming talent that Kaya Scodelario has graduated from minor character in the first two series of Channel 4's teen series Skins to a lead. But if she is fazed by the transition, this 16-year-old does not show it. "It's very exciting and a big responsibility, but I like pushing myself," says the actor, who is shooting the series until November. That confidence got her noticed during her first audition two years ago. "She had a striking, photogenic look and a bubbly personality," recalls Skins producer Chris Clough, "but also a mature outlook even at 14." Scodelario has also completed Duncan Jones' Moon, with Sam Rockwell. "It was a massive learning experience and showed me how different film is to TV," she says.

Contact: Curtis Brown, (44) 20 7393 4400


"I wanted to be an actor but I never thought I'd be given the opportunity," says Dev Patel. The producers of Channel 4's cult teen drama Skins took the chance on the then 16-year-old and cast him as the goofy Muslim boy who does not think much beyond girls, sex, music and drugs. Patel has not looked back. He came straight off the second series and took the lead role in Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire which, he says, will show what he is capable of as an actor. "My character was the comic relief in Skins," he says, "but in Slumdog I play an illiterate slum kid who has just lost his mother. It was incredibly emotionally draining but the experience really helped me mature, as a person and as an actor."

Contact: Curtis Brown, (44) 20 7393 4400


Hailed as the most exciting drama-school graduate since Ben Whishaw, Colin Morgan dazzled the critics with his electrifying stage debut in last year's Vernon God Little at the Young Vic. He followed it with All About My Mother at the Old Vic and A Prayer For My Daughter at the Young Vic. Morgan is now taking the lead in the BBC's high-profile series Merlin, to air later this year.

Not afraid of waiting until the right film project comes his way, he says he wanted a strong grounding in the theatre but is now enjoying being in front of the cameras. "Screen work is more unnerving," he says, "because the end result is so far down the line; you're never quite sure you've got it completely right." Reactions from film insiders suggest he has nothing to worry about.

Contact, United Agents, (44) 20 7166 5266.