It’s difficult to imagine now, but there was a time—not even two years ago—when most people were unfamiliar with Timothée Chalamet. Unless you were a very perceptive Interstellar viewer or your hate of Finn Walden on Homeland morphed into an unhealthy obsession, the young actor had a relatively anonymous start to his fledgling career. But then he shared an intimate moment with a peach and thought Saoirse Ronan was hella tight (same), and, by the end of 2017, Chalamet was riding a wave of hype and critical adoration on the way to a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Call Me by Your Name. Chalamet looked like a generational talent—the millennial answer to Leonardo DiCaprio.
Suffice to say, Chalamet was perhaps the biggest breakout star of last year. But with a new year in pop culture came new breakouts—new Timmys, if you will. That’s why we’re pleased to announce the Timmy Awards, honoring the people, performances, and trends that came out of nowhere to make a lasting impression. Ladies and gentlemen, here are your 2018 Timmys.
The Breakout Netflix Star of the Year: Noah Centineo
In Netflix’s hugely popular summer rom-com To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we’re supposed to feel like Lara Jean (Lana Condor) is stuck a romantic bind because she has to choose between two crushes. The “problem” in the movie is that it’s not much of a choice: One of those boys, Peter Kavinsky, is just perfect. The Kavinsky Hive absolutely trounces Team Josh, if such a group even exists. (Sorry Josh, you’re like the Harvey Kinkle of teen rom-coms, and that isn’t as good, no matter what Cosmo tries to say.) And the biggest reason for Peter’s irresistible charm is the charismatic performance of Noah Centineo.
Centineo, who before 2018 was best known for playing a kid named Jesus on Freeform’s The Fosters, was promptly christened as the next great Internet Boyfriend. He played with puppies for BuzzFeed, as if we needed further evidence of his appeal. And if Centineo’s fans eventually grew tired of rewatching To All the Boys for the umpteenth time, they could turn to Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, another high school rom-com from Netflix that debuted in 2018, in which he plays the romantic interest of Shannon Purser—a.k.a. Barb from Stranger Things—which sounds like a film manufactured from Tumblr fanfiction. Centineo’s appeal as a teen heartthrob perhaps overshadows his credible merits as an actor, but given the immense internet following he’s accrued after these movies, I doubt he’ll mind. And neither will Netflix.
The Breakout Star of the Year, Non-Netflix: Stephan James
Julia Roberts. Regina King. Barry Jenkins. Sam Esmail. That’s the kind of company Stephan James had this year, in what was a dual breakout on TV and film. First, James starred in Homecoming, Amazon Prime’s Hitchcockian thriller, as Walter Cruz, a soldier returning from war who goes to the titular facility intended to help transition him back to domestic life. James mostly shares the screen with Roberts—who plays his case worker and quasi-therapist, Heidi Bergman—and the two develop a compelling, low-key dynamic that feels less like two people having the hots for each other than kindred spirits making a connection. While Roberts is the star attraction and lives up to her sterling reputation, James makes a lasting impression and turns Homecoming into a two-hander rather than solely a Roberts vehicle.
If that wasn’t enough, James also starred in If Beale Street Could Talk, Jenkins’s first, highly anticipated post-Moonlight project. Based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name, James plays Fonny Hunt, who is ripped away from his young lover, Tish (KiKi Layne, another breakout star) after being falsely accused of rape. In the movie, he’s warm and powerful and displaying all kinds of range—but most of all, he makes Fonny seem human, just as he made Cruz seem. James had some TV and film roles before 2018—he starred in the Fox miniseries Shots Fired in 2017 and played Jesse Owens in the 2016 film Race—but this one-two punch solidified him as more than just a dependable actor, rather as a budding star in his own right.
The Breakout Director of the Year: Chloé Zhao
In both her feature films—the second of which, The Rider, was released in the States this year—Zhao has leaned heavily on nonprofessional actors. (The Rider, for instance, features an actual rodeo rider, Brady Jandreau, playing the lead cowboy, also named Brady.) It’s a smart way for an indie film to work within the constraints of a modest budget, but it also allows Zhao to to craft a cinematic world that feels truly lived-in. The Rider is full of Jandreau’s actual family and friends and was shot at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where they live.
The Rider was a huge hit for Zhao, winning Best Feature at the Gotham Awards this year and earning her a Best Director nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards. It also made enough waves for Marvel to give Zhao a shot. As announced in September, she will be directing The Eternals, a potential MCU franchise-starter focusing on a group of fictional, advanced humans and their cosmic counterparts called the Celestials. While it remains to be seen whether Zhao can make the (admittedly big) leap from indie work to multimillion-dollar blockbuster, The Rider provided the groundwork this year for bigger—and hopefully, equally evocative—things in the future.
The Breakout TV Trend of the Year: Empathy for Hired Killers
Is it possible to humanize a hired gun? That was more or less the crux of three different shows that premiered in 2018—Killing Eve, Barry, and Mr Inbetween—and focused on very different types of hired killers. Barry’s Barry (Bill Hader) believes he’s found his true calling as an actor and tries to separate himself from his morally reprehensible profession; Mr Inbetween’s Ray (Scott Ryan) treats his job in the same apathetic manner you’d expect an accountant would while crunching numbers; and Killing Eve’s Villanelle (Jodie Comer) is a self-described psychopath who relishes a good kill and shares a mutual attraction with the MI5 officer trying to hunt her down. If we extend this exercise to The Americans—which aired its sixth and final season this year and whose leading spies were frequently required to kill people on the job—that makes four shows juggling killers who ask the audience to root for them. More often than not, we do.
It’s a fascinating trend—born out of not just a surplus of Peak TV shows stepping on each other’s toes, but perhaps a natural extension of the Golden Age’s antihero era established by characters like Tony Soprano and Walter White. Now, we’re just hanging out with straight-up villains and considering the characters on these terms. All three of these shows have been renewed for second seasons, so we’ll see how the killers might evolve over time—and whether our perceptions of them will change along with it.
The Breakout Old Person of the Year: Lutz Ebersdorf
It’s never too late to pursue your dream. That’s what I learned from Lutz Ebersdorf, the 82-year-old psychologist who made his acting debut in the Suspiria remake as Dr. Josef Klemperer, who begins suspecting something strange is happening at the Markos Dance Academy in Berlin. Luca Guadagnino found a diamond in the rough here.
The newcomer commands scenes opposite seasoned performers like Dakota Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz, as if Ebersdorf’s been acting since the early ’80s. His eyes convey a slightly younger disposition, yet somehow carry the weight of decades-long trauma. It would be an absolute travesty if the Academy doesn’t recognize Ebersdorf for his incredible work—especially since the Oscars have yet to establish a Breakthrough Performance category. (Surely, if they do, he’ll be the oldest actor to win the award no matter how long this category is in existence.) I just hope Ebersdorf would be able to make it down to Los Angeles for the ceremony were he deservedly nominated; traveling halfway across the world is difficult at any age, let alone at 82.
[Ed. note: We have informed Miles that Lutz Ebersdorf was actually Tilda Swinton in old-person makeup. He stormed off shouting, “Fake news! Ebersdorf erasure!” ]
The Breakout Rich Person Meal of the Year: Ortolan
The two shows most interested in expressing the vacuousness of extravagance and limitless checking accounts —that would be Billions and Succession—both did ortolan-eating scenes this year. What is ortolan? It’s a tiny songbird that is captured, tortured, force-fed, and drowned in a vat of Armagnac brandy until it’s four times its original size. Then, of course, it’s eaten.
This sounds inhumane—which is why eating ortolan is controversial and, in most countries, illegal—but it is exactly the type of cuisine rich dudes would luxuriate in. On Billions, it was Axe (Damian Lewis) and Wags (David Costabile) who partook in several servings of ortolan, while on Succession, Tom (Matthew MacFadyen) treated perpetually awkward Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) to the decadent dish. Cousin Greg was the only aforementioned character who wasn’t a fan—he prefers a good Cajun chicken linguini from California Pizza Kitchen—furthering the case that Cousin Greg is the only pure soul on either of these lavish shows.
The Breakout Basketball Player Who Just Decided He’d Produce Everything in Hollywood Now: LeBron James
LeBron James might’ve joined a meme team this summer, but he’s really been taking his talents to Hollywood. He’s got executive producer credits on just about everything—an NBC sitcom, an athletic competition series, a Netflix limited series about Madam C.J. Walker, a Lean on Me television adaptation—and has been holding barbershop-style conversations with other influential figures on HBO. Oh, and as of Wednesday, LeBron is still leading the Los Angeles Lakers in points (28.4), rebounds (7.6), assists (6.6), and is tied for the lead in steals (1.3), en route to a 15-9 start to the season.
Most exciting of all, a LeBron-led Space Jam sequel is really happening—from director Terence Nance and producer Ryan Coogler. People will have the LeBron–Michael Jordan GOAT debate in perpetuity, but there’s no denying it: LeBron is one of the hottest producers in Hollywood, moonlighting as the best current basketball player on the planet.