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160. Elizabeth Olsen

It’s safe to say that Elizabeth Olsen didn’t have a normal childhood. As the other sister to the Olsen twins, Elizabeth Olsen had a front row seat to her sisters’ experience in the spotlight, media circus included, and she also witnessed what it was like to be a working actor—something she wanted to be but was embarrassed to admit. “I had this fear that people would think I didn’t earn or deserve the things I worked for because of who I was naturally associated with.” The nepotism critique...


159. Chris Messina

If things turned out differently, Chris Messina might have been the next Baryshnikov. But growing up, the other kids in his small Long Island town wouldn’t let him dance without a fight—the ensuing nickname “Ballerina Boy” and other more graphic homophobic slurs followed him around for most of his adolescence, as did a persistent questioning of his own identity. By the time Chris was asked to be in his school’s rendition of the musical Pippin, he almost didn’t do it. As he explains, “I was...


158. Paul Feig

Writer and director Paul Feig has an uncanny ability to reflect humanity. He showed us the cringe-y and torturous moments of adolescence in the cult television show Freaks and Geeks, and in his female-centric, hit comedies Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters, and Spy, his characters are honest and realistic, in addition to hilarious. Paul’s at it again with his newest foray into the art of self-examination in A Simple Favor, a film starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively that examines the unsettling,...


157. Uzo Aduba

After a particularly disheartening audition, Uzo Aduba sat on the NYC subway in tears, resigning herself to the fact that she’d never be a working television actor. “Uzo, acting is not for you. This is the universe telling you that this will never be yours,” she said to herself. So, with sushi takeout and a bottle of wine in hand, Uzo made her decision to quit, praying, “God, if you can figure out a way for me to go back to school and become a lawyer, I will go.” Of course, the universe had...


156. Awkwafina

Awkwafina (also known as Nora Lum) is having quite a moment. She's a part of the impressive cast of female icons (Sandra Bullock, Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, and more) in Ocean’s 8, and she’s so hilarious in Crazy Rich Asians that you’ll barely hear her next line over the sound of your own laughter. What does this moment in the spotlight feel like? Awkwafina likens it to this: “I compare it to a wall opening up and transporting you to an alternate dimension where there is no gravity, and...


155. Chris O'Dowd

Since his role in Bridesmaids as the charming and lovable cop who really hates littering and broken taillights, Irish-born actor Chris O’Dowd has taken audiences by storm. There was his captivating Tony award-winning performance on Broadway as Lenny in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Moone Boy, a show about his upbringing that he wrote, produced, and starred in. Most recently, he’s kicking butt and taking names (and scripts and meetings) as an Irish-mobster-turned-Hollywood-producer...


154. Rose Byrne

Even with all of her success, Rose Byrne still spent years of her career wailing and breaking down in audition rooms. As she says, “Women often have to start with a break down scene in auditions. Do guys have to do this? No. It’s such a cliché, but it’s always crying…or she’s got her top off. The classic hits of what the female character’s doing.” Luckily, Rose hasn’t been limited to those “classic hits.” Her break out performance in America came opposite Glenn Close in FX’s thrilling legal...


153. Betty Gilpin

Before she was body slamming opponents as her wrestling alter-ego Liberty Belle in GLOW, Betty Gilpin was coming to terms with her own self-perception—the beta personality who sat with the bugs and observed human behavior as a kid wasn’t matching with what the industry saw on the outside. They noticed her beauty and her body, but failed to notice her “monster soup.” She pulls no punches about her own career, describing many of the parts she got as one-dimensional female stereotypes, or...


152. Keri Russell

After an exhausting 16-hour workday on the set of Felicity, Keri Russell treated herself to a matinée at a movie theater in Santa Monica, and a group of girls her age caught her eye. She remembers, "They were just a group of friends going on a fun road trip together, and I cried because I wanted that life. I just wanted to be a teenager." Fame and the responsibilities of work are not without their challenges, especially for a girl whose childhood was put on hold after being cast in Disney's...


151. Alison Brie

After spending seven years on AMC’s Mad Men and NBC’s Community, Alison Brie decided to take some time off from television. It wasn’t until she read a script based on the 80’s female wrestling show G.L.O.W. (“Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”), that Alison decided to dive back into TV. Problem was—even with her past success, the show’s executives just weren’t convinced she could do it. Alison had to fight for the role of Ruth and endure a drawn out, emotional rollercoaster ride of an audition...


150. Rachel Brosnahan

Ever since she was a little girl traveling back and forth between Chicago and London with a carry-on bag filled with books, Rachel Brosnahan has been a lover of storytelling. Eventually, the joy of entering the world of fantasy and exploring her imagination opened Rachel’s eyes to the performing arts. By the time she applied to college, becoming an actress was her goal, despite the concerns of her parents. As Rachel says, “Nobody wants their kid to come home and say, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m going to...


149. Sarah Paulson

From the outside, it would appear that Sarah Paulson, after her Emmy award-winning performance as prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson, has "made it." She's got a role in Ocean's 8, her first "big sh**-kicker, popcorn movie,” and has the luxury of sifting through multiple film and television offers to choose a part that “sparks something inside of her.” What more could an actor want? But that's exactly the problem for Sarah. She wants the want. Without it, she finds herself...


148. Natasha Leggero

How long can you continue to hear the word “no” before you lose confidence in your dream? If you’re Natasha Leggero, the answer is never. Rockford, Illinois was not a kind place for the aspiring actress. There was the art teacher who told her she’d never be an artist, the English teacher who told her she’d never be a writer, and her mother, who told her not to go to New York City. As Natasha says, “They aren’t looking at the big picture in a small town. They’re raising people to work at...


147. Peter Krause

Peter Krause has been a fixture on quality television for the past 20 years, starting with Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed and gone too soon debut, Sports Night. Soon after, Peter played Nate Fisher in HBO's Six Feet Under, exploring the concept of death in a way that was deeply moving to both the audience and to Peter personally. Then came Parenthood, another deeply moving series, in which his character Adam Braverman became the benchmark for being a good husband and father. These days,...


146. John Mulaney

It all started with Ricky Ricardo and I Love Lucy. That's when young John Mulaney discovered the appeal of life in show business. Add his love of "everything funny" and some outrageous childhood experiences to the mix, and it's no wonder John became a comedian, even if it's an unexpected choice for the son of two lawyers. John had a knack for wordplay and joke rhythms as a kid, but he started fleshing out his skills when he joined Georgetown's improv troupe, a breeding ground for comics like...


145. Jason Isbell

Growing up poor to parents barely past their own adolescence was not without its struggles, but luckily for Jason Isbell, familial bonds run deep in rural Alabama. Unable to afford daycare, Jason's parents often dropped him at his grandparent’s, where he spent the day playing music. As Jason says, "From the time I was seven years old, I would take this huge Dreadnought guitar and play old gospel rhythms and country with my grandad. It was bluegrass all day long, and that was my first real...


144. Christina Hendricks

If there's one thing Christina Hendricks thought she would never be, it's a professional actor. It took years for her to realize that getting paid to be an actor was an actual thing ("I don't know how it passed me by. I was a real bozo."). But if there's one thing Christina always wanted to be, it's an artist. And a suffering one at that. Ever since she saw 1980's Fame, Christina was sold on a life in the arts. As she says, "I wanted to be a suffering artist when I was like nine. There was...


143. Josh Radnor

"I will never do a sitcom. Never. You hear that universe?” That's what Josh Radnor said to himself after some early rejections in Los Angeles. Little did he know that a few years later, he'd star in How I Met Your Mother, one of the most successful sitcoms in the history of television. Josh learned quickly that fame isn't all it's cracked up to be. The more successful the show got, the unhappier he became. But as Josh says, "The gift of my discontent with fame was that it punctured the...


142. Mae Whitman

Mae Whitman started her career in tears. As a two-year-old, Mae accompanied her mother, a successful voice actress, to one of her auditions which was cut short when Mae burst into the room crying. The casting folks were sold and said, “Hey, she’s really cute. Does she want to be in a commercial?” Within a few years, Mae had landed a role in the blockbuster action film Independence Day and was witnessing the magic of moviemaking for herself. Though she had an early start as an actor, her life...


141. Zach Woods

We all know that adolescence is rife with tumultuous changes, puberty, pimples and braces, but those are also our formative years, and our artistic identities begin to take shape. And no one I know took more of a left turn, post-orthodontist, than Zach Woods. You see, Zach really wanted to be a jazz musician, and as a highly motivated kid, he would force himself to practice trumpet for hours a day with a “spartan-like, self-inflicted discipline” (complete with a fedora!). But things changed...