Hollywood's Next Gen: Ashton Sanders, Lucas Zumann, and More

Hollywood's Next Gen: Ashton Sanders, Lucas Zumann, and More

There's been a lament of late that, when it comes to casting in Hollywood, a bulging social media presence will often win over craft. Captured by Hedi Slimane back in November for the new issue of VMAN, these wildly talented young actors are raising the bar back up where it belongs.

There's been a lament of late that, when it comes to casting in Hollywood, a bulging social media presence will often win over craft. Captured by Hedi Slimane back in November for the new issue of VMAN, these wildly talented young actors are raising the bar back up where it belongs.

Photography: Hedi Slimane

Ashton Sanders

“Just like Chiron, I was bullied and had dealt with drug addiction within my family...those experiences allowed me to understand the character,” says Ashton Sanders of his breakout role in the 2016 film Moonlight. An adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, the Berry Jenkins-directed movie won Best Picture at the Oscars. This is largely thanks to Sanders, who delicately portrays the main character as a teenager struggling to accept his sexual attraction to men and his mother’s crack addiction. The 20-year-old actor is hopeful about the impact of the film: “I want people to walk away with the want to empathize and understand that everybody is going through something. But at times like these we all just need love. I want people to love.” —William Defebaugh

Miles Heizer

“Lately I’ve been sleeping in really late and watching Project Runway,” says Miles Heizer. While 2017 might be relaxed so far, the actor spent 2016 filming a Netflix series adaption of the 2007 YA novel Thirteen Reasons Why. (Selena Gomez is an executive producer.) He plays high schooler Alex Standall, whose immaturity brings unwanted attention to the protagonist, Hannah, played by Katherine Langford. Heizer got his start at 14 playing Drew Holt on NBC’s Parenthood. Departing from his family-friendly image, Heizer notes, “I think a role in a horror movie would be really fun.” While plenty in life has changed for the young actor, one thing hasn’t: “I still live with Mae [Whitman], who played my sister on Parenthood, so maybe I haven’t grown at all!”Ian David Monroe

Keir Gilchrist

When Keir Gilchrist’s mother enrolled him in drama classes as a kid to enhance his public speaking skills, it turned out she had no cause for concern—he was so good that his teacher encouraged him to start trying out for roles. “Auditions became a big part of my life,” he says. His big break came when he landed a part on United States of Tara as Marshall Gregson, a gay teen grappling with his identity while caring for a mom with many, thanks to her dissociative disorder. Next up for the Brit is the Netflix series Atypical, in which he plays someone on the autism spectrum. “There’s an expert who works with us constantly to make sure the character feels real,” says the 24-year-old. “In no way is it a portrayal of all people on the spectrum. Every person is unique.” Joshua Lyon

Austin McKenzie

While Austin McKenzie was studying to become a special education teacher at Columbia College Chicago, he sent a tape to the Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles, hoping to land a job as a sign language interpreter; instead, he got cast as a lead in their critically acclaimed revival of Spring Awakening. “I didn’t think they were serious,” McKenzie remembers. “Next thing I knew, I was moving to L.A.” Since then, the 23-year-old has landed parts in the film version of Stephen Karam’s play Speech & Debate, and the new miniseries When We Rise. In the latter, McKenzie plays a young Cleve Jones, the LGBT and AIDS activist. “It was really something else,” he says. “It’s so important to tell this story about freedom and equal rights.” Priya Rao

Dacre Montgomery

Dacre Montgomery came by his childhood fascination with the film industry naturally. “My mum was a first AD and my dad a sound technician,” the Aussie says. “I think my love of acting stemmed from being on set. The atmosphere it generates—the intensity and adrenaline.” Those are two things the 22-year-old needed in spades when he was cast in the big-screen adaptation of Power Rangers as Jason (otherwise known as the red one). “All of us had to jump across a 40-foot-wide chasm one day, suspended on wires. It was incredible!” He reveals much less about his new role in the secrecy-shrouded second season of Stranger Things, though. “All I can say is my character is a complete contrast to that of Jason,” he teases. “I play the antagonist.” Well, we tried! Joshua Lyon

Lucas Zumann

For actor Lucas Jade Zumann, news that he would be starring opposite film legend Annette Bening came as something of a surprise. Zumann, who plays Bening’s angsty teenage son in director Mike Mills’s semiautobiographical ode to motherhood, 20th Century Women, waited some four months between auditioning for the part and clinching the role. “I had been outside building a greenhouse at the time when he rang,” Zumann notes of the fateful call. “I was a little stunned and it hadn’t quite hit me.” Only 14 at the time of filming, Zumann grew close with his leading costar, describing Bening as “very much a second mother.” When pressed as to what’s next for the rising star, Zumann demurs, “I think there is a chance you might see me directing one day.” Joseph Akel

Credits: Production Kim Pollock Equipment Milk DGTL

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