Disruption is the name of the game for the this year’s class of innovators shaking up Hollywood.
By Marisa Dellatto, Samantha Leach and Maggie McGrath
WWith the staging of his 2022 play Ain’t No Mo, 28-year-old Jordan E. Cooper became the youngest Black American playwright in Broadway history. His advice for breaking boundaries is simple: ignore the adversity. Cooper, who also serves as the showrunner on the BET+ series The Ms. Pat Show, said the key to his success has been “ignoring what people say can’t happen just because it’s never happened before,” he told Forbes in October at the Under 30 Summit in Cleveland.
Cooper is just one of the members of the 2024 30 Under 30 Hollywood & Entertainment class using his art to disrupt Tinsel Town’s status quo—during a time the industry experienced historic upheaval with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.
Actor Jenna Ortega, 21, used her platform as series lead while filming Addams Family spinoff Wednesday: Ortega spoke up against creative decisions she felt weren’t in line with her character, and her advocacy paid off. The series became the most-watched in Netflix history; for the second season, Ortega has been promoted to producer.
Many of the people on this year’s list are working behind the camera, too, and are seeking to diversify the stories that are being told across screens big and small: Jesse Light, the 29-year-old executive producer with Haymaker East, received a GLAAD nomination for her work on Bravo’s “Southern Hospitality” and actively works to promote female members of production crews. Gabe Kunda, a 29-year-old voice actor, is a first-generation Congolese American who is lending his voice to commercials for Disney Plus and video games like Call of Duty; he says he’s proud to show others the way a voice can literally open doors on a career journey. And Tiffany K. Guillen, the 29-year-old cofounder of production and marketing company Creative X Entertainment, is drawing on her own identity as a Latina with ADHD as motivation to help make room at Hollywood tables for actors, writers and producers with underrepresented perspectives and identities.
Other standouts on this year’s list are Martin Herlihy, 25, John Higgins, 27, and Ben Marshall, 28, better known as the comedy trio Please Don’t Destroy. The group made their SNL debut in 2021, and have since expanded their repertoire from the pre-recorded sketches which air on the show. Their film Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain, was just released on Peacock. PDD aren’t the only funny ones in the Under 30 Class of 2024: Its ranks also include Celeste Yim, 27, SNL’s first out trans writer and the first AAPI writer to be promoted to Supervising Writer; and Mekki Leeper, 29, who starred in the hit improv series Jury Duty and received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series for his work on the project.
Leeper is one of several Under 30 Hollywood listers who wear many hats. Also juggling front-and-back of camera duties is 20-year old Lexi Underwood, who has been acting since she was 9 years old and started her own production company at 15. “It’s helped me as an artist and actor because I feel like I approach roles differently,” the Little Fires Everywhere actor told Forbes. “I think if you take a leap of faith and you start something like a production company, you have to have a certain mindset where you’re not going to let the no’s or circumstances define what the path is for your company.”
The 2024 honorees encompass all aspects of the entertainment industry, from in front of the camera talent, to writers, agents and producers. All list makers must be under 30 years old as of December 31, 2023, and cannot have previously appeared on any North America, Europe or Asia 30 Under 30 lists.
Forbes asked four Hollywood standouts to judge this year’s class: actor Ayo Edebriri (The Bear, Bottoms); Sarah Harden, CEO of Hello Sunshine; actor Ashley Park (Emily In Paris, Only Murders In The Building); and producer, writer and director Darren Star (Sex and the City, Emily In Paris).
This year’s list was edited by Marisa Dellatto, Samantha Leach and Maggie McGrath. For a link to our complete Hollywood & Entertainment list, click here, and for full 30 Under 30 coverage, click here.
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