In Hollywood’s Golden Age, the proverbial trip to stardom was immortalized in movies like A Star Is Born: a chance meeting with a talent agent at a notions counter, an appearance as an unscheduled understudy, a standout player in a movie’s bit part. But today’s new crop of famous people come from a wide variety of different outlets far beyond the classic studio system. As GQ’s Zach Baron reports, outlets like streaming services, YouTube channels, and social media avenues are now as important to future stars as a turn at the Strasberg Institute once might have been. Baron interviews a variety of young starlets, like Disney Channel stars Paris Berelc and the recently ousted Jake Paul, as well as TV’s Kid Flash, Keiynan Lonsdale, Glee’s Harry Shum Jr., and Dear White People’s Antoinette Robertson. They all offer insight on how radically the Hollywood game has changed.
Paul, for example, became famous on YouTube for stunts like lighting furniture on fire in an empty swimming pool, racking up almost 9 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, which helped him land his (now-canceled) role on Disney. Young actor Beau Mirchoff auditions for productions from Crackle, Seeso, and Amazon over traditional studios or networks, telling Baron: “I feel like there are less big-studio auditions, for sure… now it’s the lower-budget movies, but there’s a lot more of them. You have these smaller movies, which the non-Brad Pitts of the world get to do. And they’re more human stories, which I think is really cool.”
Berelc reports getting asked how many social media followers she has at auditions, as those numbers could indicate how popular any project she’s in will eventually be: “For someone like Meryl Streep, it didn’t matter—I mean, they didn’t have to worry about followers or anything before. It was purely about their acting. And I guess I just kind of missed that part.” But Robertson enthuses that the more specific media markets enables projects like her Netflix series to come to fruition without a ton of corporate interference, becoming “the first show she’s ever been on where it felt like she, and everyone around her, was making exactly the thing they wanted to make. ‘We hold no punches,’ she says.”
To chart today’s tangled trip to stardom, find out more at GQ today.