Confidence, charisma and charm characterise the hottest young actors in the UK. Patricia Dobson profiles the emerging talent. (Click on contact names for links)


Having made his mark on the small screen, Tom Payne has taken his first steps into feature films. He stars alongside Frances McDormand, Ciaran Hinds and Amy Adams in Bharat Nalluri’s period comedy Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.

Payne relished the opportunity to show his versatility as an actor and his work impressed producer Stephen Garrett: ‘Tom plays a rather dim young man and he brought great charm and charisma to a part that could have been dull,’ says Garrett.

Payne, who graduated from the Central School of Speech and Drama in 2005, is now filming a second series of the BBC’s Waterloo Road, which will take him up to October.
Contact: ARG Talent, (44) 20 7436 6400,


Matt Smith was already attracting attention for his subtle and intelligent performances in two BBC dramas, the period thriller Ruby In The Smoke and contemporary twentysomething ensemble piece Party Animals, when his compelling turn in That Face at London’s Royal Court, alongside Felicity Jones and Lindsay Duncan, proved Smith to be a versatile and watchable young actor.

He is winning illustrious fans - David Hare and Jane Campion are just two names to have singled him out. Smith has recently had his first experience of film work, playing the young version of Ralph Fiennes’ character in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, and is now filming the second series of the acclaimed Bafta-winning BBC series The Street.
Contact: Troika, (44) 20 7336 7868


Manjinder Virk has recently completed the biggest challenge of her career. As the lead in Peter Kosminsky’s Britz, opposite Riz Ahmed and fellow Star Of Tomorrow Arsher Ali, Virk plays a British Asian woman who is forced to make some tough choices after political events and her personal life unexpectedly collide. The film will screen on UK TV on Channel 4 in October.

Frustrated by the lack of roles for Asian actors, Virk has also turned to screenwriting. ‘There are so many different Asian communities and those complexities are just not explored in films,’ Virk says. She has certainly proved her versatility, with an impressive list of credits in theatre and television, including the acclaimed one-woman show Autobiography Of A Face, which she wrote and performed.
Contact: Hamilton Hodell, (44) 20 7636 1221


Expect to hear a lot more of Charity Wakefield over the comings months. She plays Marianne Dashwood in the BBC’s prestigious autumn series Sense And Sensibility, and the role is likely to propel her right into the spotlight. It comes after several solid performances on the stage, including the verbatim play about the London bombings, Yesterday Was A Weird Day, which played at the Edinburgh festival to wide critical acclaim, and the Old Vic’s 24 Hour Plays last year.

On Sense And Sensibility, Wakefield and her co-star Hattie Morahan, who plays her sister Elinor, were encouraged to make their characters real people, ‘not historical figurines stuck in corsets’. A fan of Dogme films - which she says ‘bridge the gap between theatre and film’ - Wakefield is now filming the BBC’s modern retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale, in which she plays the lead.
Contact: PFD, (44) 20 7344 1010


Ken Loach has a good track record when it comes to talent spotting. Robert Carlyle, Peter Mullan and Martin Compston were given their breaks thanks to the director, and Loach has made another discovery in Kierston Wareing. She stars as a ruthless employment agent in his new film, It’s A Free World.

‘She’s very imaginative, very sharp and focused, and she managed to expose the character’s vulnerability, toughness and sentimentality,’ says Loach of the actor, whose background includes three years at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York, a smattering of television parts and a period as a court recorder in the High Courts.

Working with Loach - even his tendency to spring surprises on his unsuspecting cast - has whetted Wareing’s appetite for more film work: ‘Before, I’d have been happy with a soap; now film is my main ambition.’
Contact: Elaine Murphy Associates, (44) 20 8989 4122,