From stand-in stars to tech titans: The Observer’s faces to watch in 2022


Toby Helm

Liz Truss

In the latter part of 2021, Liz Truss has been everywhere in the media. And as she sets her sights on reaching No 10 one day, we should expect to see and hear much more of her in 2022.

Appointed by Boris Johnson as foreign secretary in September, Truss has been frantically upping her profile ever since.

Late last year, Russian state media mocked her as “the new Iron lady” after she appeared atop a British tank in Estonia. Then Truss issued a Happy Christmas message to the nation – and the world – via Twitter, posing Queen-like, in front of a giant globe and the union jack.

It seems to be working. In a recent ConservativeHome poll of Tory activists, Truss topped the list of potential successors to Johnson, ahead of the chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

In her new international role, Truss, 46, has been busy playing up her enthusiasm for personal liberty at home and a small state. She also stresses her patriotism and her enthusiasm for Brexit.

But it was not always so. Truss was a Liberal Democrat at Oxford University and campaigned against Brexit in 2016, warning it would be bad for freedom and the economy. Now she wants to be ready for a possible 2022 leadership contest in which the votes of pro-Brexit Tory members will be key in determining the final outcome.

Wes Streeting. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

Wes Streeting

While Labour’s progress under Keir Starmer has at times been faltering, the rise of Wes Streeting has been relentless. Streeting, who was brought up in a council flat in Stepney in the east end of London, was promoted in Starmer’s recent reshuffle to be shadow health and social care secretary, at the age of just 38.

After one of his first Commons appearances in his new role, in a debate on more Covid restrictions, even Tory MPs noted his ability, marking him out as a potential future leader.

Streeting was educated at a London comprehensive school and was one of the first pupils who had received free school meals to reach Cambridge University. He funded his time at university, where he became Student Union president, by working part-time as a shop assistant.

He is also a former president of the National Union of Students.

Before being elected to parliament as the Labour MP for Ilford North in 2015, Streeting worked in the charitable, voluntary and private sectors, and as a Labour councillor. He was head of education at Stonewall, the charity for LGBT rights, and is a patron of LGBT Labour.

Earlier last year, he had to take time out of politics having been diagnosed with kidney cancer from which he is now recovered.

Baroness Heather Hallett. Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

Heather Hallett

The name Baroness Hallett may mean little to most people outside the upper echelons of the legal establishment, but from early 2022 she will be in the news as much as anyone in public life.

Lady Hallett, 71, a former senior appeal court judge, who also served as coroner in the inquest into the July 2005 terror attacks on London’s transport network, has been appointed to chair the official inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic, which begins in the spring. The fact that hearings will be held in public means she will be firmly in the media spotlight.

The draft terms of the inquiry are expected to be published early in the new year, after which Hallett will undertake a public consultation – including with bereaved families and other affected groups – before getting the process under way.

Organisations representing families who have lost loved ones from Covid have welcomed the appointment of the respected crossbench peer. But they insist that they will be pressing her to uncover the full extent of mistakes by government and the reasons why it and the NHS were so underprepared for the pandemic.


Robin McKie

Martin Landray. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

Martin Landray

Prof Martin Landray, of Oxford University, is co-founder of the Recovery trial, the world’s largest study aimed at finding potential treatments for Covid. Over 46,000 patients have been recruited to the project whose successes have included the discovery of the benefits of dexamethasone, a cheap steroid drug that has subsequently saved the lives of more than a million severely ill patients.

Now Landray is expanding those efforts. First, he and his colleagues stand ready to include potential treatments for flu as part of the Recovery project. In addition, he is set to launch Protas, a not-for-profit organisation which will work with the NHS and others around the world to harness the power of large-scale randomised trials to assess potential treatments for cancer, heart disease and dementia.

“We have seen in this pandemic just how important clinical trials such as Recovery are in understanding which of many promising treatments are truly beneficial for patients and which, despite hope and expectation, are not. We now plan to apply the lessons learned from that experience to find new ways to prevent and treat other diseases that place huge burden on patients and the NHS.”

Melissa Thorpe. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

Melissa Thorpe

Melissa Thorpe has a simple goal for 2022. She wants to put Cornwall on the map – as a space power.

She has plans to make the county the first place in Britain to host the launching of a satellite into orbit round the Earth. Later this year a modified 747 jet, run by Virgin Orbit, will take off from Spaceport Cornwall, based at Newquay. It will carry a rocket strapped to its underside and, at a height of 35,000 feet, it will separate from the plane and be fired to propel its satellite cargo into orbit. The probe, Kernow Sat 1, will measure levels of plastic pollution in the ocean.

Virgin Orbit has already launched satellites this way – over the Pacific – and has plans to use Spaceport Cornwall as its European base. “Instead of customers having to take their satellites to a rocket pad, Virgin Orbit comes to a site near you to offer a launch,” says Thorpe, a Canadian economist with a background in the aviation industry.

At least six other UK spaceports – one in Wales and the rest in Scotland – are set to begin launches over the next few years, with Britain aiming to corner a significant share in the placing of small- to medium-sized satellites into low orbit round the Earth. In the case of Spaceport Cornwall, Thorpe says it is hoped to create about 150 jobs for those working on satellite assembly, programming and data analysis with a further 240 jobs likely to be set up in the supply of goods and providing other services for the Spaceport.

Megan McCubbin. Photograph: BBC

Megan McCubbin

Zoologist, conservationist and photographer Megan McCubbin has become a regular stalwart on the BBC’s seasonal Watches series, on which she has worked on with her stepfather, Chris Packham, since 2020. She had stepped in to join the programme when Packham’s regular Cape Town-based co-star, Michaela Strachan, was unable to travel to the UK because of Covid travel restrictions.

Since then, McCubbin – who is an experienced wildlife photographer and who studied zoology at Liverpool University – has become the youthful face of conservation in the UK after presenting Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch on BBC Two in 2020 and 2021. She is now set to return to our screens with Winterwatch 2022, where she will be stationed at the wetland centre at Castle Espie in Northern Ireland.


Vanessa Thorpe

Freddie de Tommaso. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Freddie de Tommaso

It is certainly the era of the overnight, stand-in star in the world of live performance, largely courtesy of the virus that has disabled many performers. The problem is now so widespread among casts that those stepping up into lead roles at short notice are no longer even the official understudies.

It is a chance that can sometimes mark the start of a long career, of course, as the life of the late Sally Ann Howes showed. The Truly Scrumptious actor from the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, who died last month aged 91, was originally the replacement for Julie Andrews on stage in My Fair Lady.

But tenor Freddie de Tommaso, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, was already on the radar of many opera fans when he took over the role of Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca at the Royal Opera House earlier than planned a few weeks ago. Since then, the 28-year-old has consolidated his right to the spotlight. The Observer’s music writer, Fiona Maddocks, was not the only one to suggest the rather tired accolade “the new Pavarotti” might actually be justified.

De Tommaso came on halfway through the production when American singer Bryan Hymel, suffering with a cold, could not continue. In doing so, he became not only the first Briton to sing the role at Covent Garden in almost 60 years, when Charles Craig sang the part, but also the youngest ever to do so at the famous venue. De Tommaso was also following in the footsteps of Luciano Pavarotti, who made his own debut there as an understudy in La Boheme in 1963.

Liz Kingsman. Photograph: Will Bremridge

Liz Kingsman

Two of the nation’s favourite small-screen actors, Ruth Wilson and Jodie Comer, are due to make appearances in one-woman shows at the West End’s Harold Pinter theatre this spring – Wilson first in the The Human Voice and then Comer in Prima Facie.

And yet perhaps the most interesting speculation surrounds the future of Liz Kingsman, whose own solo effort, which is actually called One Woman Show, is now selling out at London’s Soho theatre. The writer-performer has created an affectionate spoof of the popular new genre of women’s shows inspired, like the triumphant Fleabag, by the personal experience of 21st century womanhood, in all its gory glory and unlikely chaos.

Kingsman’s comic parody of the use of the “hot mess” heroine as a dramatic device has been winning plaudits across the board.

Monica Ali. Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Monica Ali

Readers who have been drawn into the fictional worlds created by Monica Ali, the writer who came to fame with the acclaimed bestseller Brick Lane in 2003, will soon have a new work to seek out. The author’s much-anticipated fifth novel, Love Marriage, is out in February.

It tells the story of Yasmin Ghorami, a medic engaged to fellow doctor, Joe Sangster. As their wedding day draws closer and Ghorami’s parents get to know her fiance’s uncompromising, feminist mother, both families are forced to confront old secrets and ancient treacheries. Ali’s heroine also begins to question what the phrase “a love marriage” really means, when set in opposition to the arranged marriages that are still often the norm in south Asian culture.

The book, like Brick Lane before it, is also earmarked for a screen treatment, with Ali adapting a script.

World affairs

Simon Tisdall

Valérie Pécresse. Photograph: Michel Spingler/AP

Valérie Pécresse

Valérie Pécresse has a fair-to-middling chance of becoming France’s first female president in the spring when she challenges Emmanuel Macron, who is seeking a second term. This prospect came about due to two unexpected developments.

First, Éric Zemmour, a racist, Islamophobic TV pundit, threw his hat into the ring. His candidacy looks like splitting the far-right vote that the veteran National Rally (formerly National Front) leader, Marine Le Pen, thought was her own. Second, Pécresse last month became the first woman to lead Les Républicains – the mainstream conservative Gaullist party – after besting other presidential hopefuls such as Michel Barnier, the Brexit negotiator.

Pécresse, 54, is no ingénue. She is president of the Île de France regional council, which includes Paris, and was a senior minister during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency. She will also face Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, the Socialists’ candidate, in the first round. If Pécresse prevails, her most likely run-off opponent is Macron, who currently leads in national opinion polls but whose support is soft. Pécresse, controversially, has moved to the right in order to neutralise Le Pen and Zemmour. Macron’s advisers worry she could also steal centrist voters on whom he depends.

Xi Jinping. Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping is often described as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. He may also be the most dangerous.

Since becoming president in 2012, Xi, 68, has eliminated most internal opposition within the Communist party, in part through anti-corruption purges. He has cracked down on dissent in traditional and online media and limited personal freedoms. His unoriginal “Thoughts” have been written into the party’s constitution and his “China Dream”, a developmental vision, has led to large-scale economic reforms, centralised control of China’s cutting edge technology sector, and the ambitious Belt and Road global investment project.

But it’s Xi aggressive foreign policy stance, more than his domestic authoritarianism, that worries western leaders. He has greatly boosted military spending and is building new nuclear weapons. Having crushed democracy in Hong Kong, Xi threatens Taiwan with invasion, even as he asserts China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea and oversees border clashes with India.

At this autumn’s 20th party congress, Xi is expected to win an unprecedented third presidential term. But that will not slow him down. Xi is a man in a hurry, intent on making China the undisputed global No 1 and securing his historical place in the party pantheon.

Amy Coney Barrett. Photograph: Reuters

Amy Coney Barrett

Amy Coney Barrett’s lifetime appointment to the US supreme court in autumn 2020, on the eve of the presidential election, was celebrated by Donald Trump and his far-right supporters as a watershed moment. Her confirmation gave conservative-minded justices a 6-3 advantage on the court.

Democrats found it all the more galling in that Barrett, 49, replaced the highly respected liberal justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September 2020.

In the coming year, the consequences of this shift in power are likely to be sharply felt, most saliently in the case of Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that underpins nationwide abortion rights. Arguments in recent test cases, to be adjudicated by the court in 2022, strongly suggested Barrett will vote to overturn or severely limit abortion rights. Her recent suggestion that women should put their newborn babies out for adoption, rather than terminate unplanned or problematic pregnancies, caused widespread offence.

Liberals fear Barrett may also cast regressive votes on other hot-button issues such as same-sex marriage, the climate crisis and voting rights, amid widespread fears that Republicans are planning to steal the 2024 election, as Trump tried to in 2020.


Priya Elan

Lourdes Leon. Photograph: John Angelillo/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

Lourdes Leon

Madonna’s daughter Lourdes “Lola” Leon has been in the public eye since she was in the womb. So it’s no big surprise to see her tipped to be one of the big models in 2022. Following in the footsteps of Lennon Gallagher, Iris Law and Kaia Gerber, Lourdes – a trained dancer like her famous mother – has already appeared in campaigns for Swarovski, Mugler, Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul Gaultier. Her poses stand out in their precise choreography and her recent shoot for Paper magazine was on-point in its slinky Y2K stylings.

However, Leon has been vocal about not piggybacking on Madonna’s fame (in fact she made headlines for her outspoken roasting of Madonna fans when they flooded her Instagram with geeky comments). The 24-year-old, who first graced the catwalk in 2018, told Vogue “people think I’m this talentless rich kid who’s had everything given to her, but I’m not.”

She also believes in the importance of standing out from the crowd, or, in the case of TikTok, the algorithm. “I don’t know if it can go back now because of what social media has done to fashion, but I think that’s what it needs: [to be] based on the individual and how they choose to dress and live their lives,” she told Paper magazine. How very 2022.

Steven Stokey-Daley. Photograph: PR

Steven Stokey-Daley

Despite the pandemic, a flurry of new British designers have found exposure through social media and celebrity endorsements. Since graduating, Liverpudlian Steven Stokey-Daley, who operates under the business name SS Daley, gained exposure by dressing Harry Styles for his Golden music video. His oversize, billowy shirt and hand-embroidered trousers were showcased on Styles, causing the clothes to sell out immediately.

Trained at the University of Westminster, Stokey-Daley once described his work as “micro-subversions”. As well as disrupting menswear through his feminine clothes, there’s a modernity to his sustainable, made-to-order business model too. His underlying aesthetic obsession (the British class system viewed through working-class eyes) remains of perennial interest. Consciously uncoupling from the fashion system (he says he was never into fashion as a youngster; “It’s bullshit,” he said), instead he draws from British culture for inspiration: a mood board he shared with Dazed magazine featured Kate Bush, Princess Diana and old Etonite schoolboys.

Saul Nash. Photograph: WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Saul Nash

Virgil Abloh’s death underlined the importance of what the late designer did to streetwear: transforming it into luxury garments and forcing a discussion about cultural expectations and dress codes, in the process. The next generation of designers have weaved Abloh’s philosophy around athleisure into their collections, and none more effectively than Saul Nash.

He is a Fashion East (Marine Rose, Dior’ Kim Jones, Grace Wales Bonner) alumni, and Hypebeast magazine called him the “next superstar of sportswear”. Nash combines utility with Abloh’s architectural conceit, which drove all of his designs. During the pandemic, his digital presentations used choreography to express conversations around masculinity, sexuality and weaving in his cultural heritage (raised in London, he has Bajan and Guyanese heritage). This made his collections a talking point above and beyond the clothes. “My work is rooted in metamorphose,” he told Vogue, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.


Barry Glendenning and Suzanne Wrack

Leah Williamson. Photograph: Catherine Ivill – UEFA/UEFA/Getty Images

Leah Williamson

In many respects, every England woman football player will be a sporting face this year with a home Euros, which kick-off at Old Trafford and conclude at Wembley, likely to intensify the spotlight. For Williamson, though, this summer could be transformative.

With more than 100 appearances for Arsenal, their youngest player to reach a century, the ball-playing centre back has been eased into the Lionesses squad and was primarily left on the bench during the 2019 World Cup despite a title-winning season with her club.

Now, though, she is arguably no longer the future of the England back line but its present, with new manager Sarina Wiegman having handed her the captaincy for her first two camps in charge (both long-time captain Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze are out with long-term injuries) as well as a starting berth.

Scheduled to return from a hamstring injury in the new year, should the 24-year-old be fit enough she will likely get her first meaningful stab at a senior competitive international at the Euros and have the opportunity to really test the belief of Arsenal fans that she is one of the world’s best at the back by going up against some of the world’s finest forwards. SW

Keely Hodgkinson. Photograph: Naoki Nishimura/AFLO/REX/Shutterstock

Keely Hodgkinson

Despite not having Olympic funding at the start of 2021, Hodgkinson wrapped up the year as the surprise leader of a new vanguard of British middle-distance female runners.

It was an annus mirabilis for the teenager, who won the European Indoor 800 metres title just four days after her 19th birthday, becoming the youngest British winner of an indoor gold since 1970. It was her first tilt at a major title but even better was to come.

A keen swimmer as a child until her father nudged her towards the track, Hodgkinson took Olympic silver at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games in a time of 1min 55.88sec. It was an improvement on that posted in victory by a 34-year-old Kelly Holmes in Athens six years before Hodgkinson was born. It made her the 26th fastest woman in history over two laps of the track.

“That record has stood since ’95, is that right?” asked an incredulous Hodgkinson post-race. “And Kelly is a legend of the sport.” Hodgkinson is well on her way to achieving legendary status of her own, having finished the season with victory in the 800m Diamond League final. This year she will go for the track trinity of Commonwealth Games, and World and European Championships glory. BG

Phil Foden. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Phil Foden

Comfortably scaling the exalted heights many predicted even when he was a football-obsessed toddler, the so-called “Stockport Iniesta” already has three Premier League titles, an FA Cup and four League Cups to his name.

While many pundits insisted the teenage Foden would have been better served spending time on loan away from Manchester City, the benefits of a daily training-ground education from his manager, Pep Guardiola, and the likes of skilled technicians such as David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero are now apparent in a commendably patient and humble player who seems a model of high performance and low maintenance.

During England’s run to the final of Euro 2020, Foden was used sparingly until a foot injury ruled him out of the final defeat by Italy, but Ahead of 2022’s winter World Cup in Qatar it seems inconceivable that he will not feature prominently in Gareth Southgate’s plans. “Phil can play in five positions up front,” said Guardiola, when asked about the 21-year-old’s strengths. “He can play in both attacking midfield positions in the pockets and he can play in three positions up front.” Southgate’s dilemma is not whether, but how best, to use a young man of his obscene talents. BG


Ian Tucker

Parag Agrawal. Photograph: Twitter/AFP/Getty Images

Parag Agrawal

Twitter’s new chief executive took over in November from co-founder Jack Dorsey and is already making changes to the organisation and the platform. Two senior executives have departed, and the company has been restructured with the aim of making it speedier to innovate.

Observers and shareholders have long argued that the service needs to quickly grapple with some long-running fundamental problems: how to clamp down on misinformation and hate speech (without losing its rumbustious appeal); how to make some money (without bombarding users with ads); and how to attract younger users away from TikTok and Instagram (without alienating the older crowd).

Last year, the company added an array of new features such as its subscription Twitter Blue service, paid Superfollows, Spaces live audio rooms and fact checking service Birdwatch. The jury is out on the success or otherwise of these innovations but the additions and iterations are likely to continue – a few days after Agrawal’s appointment, with an eye to revamping its messaging features, the company announced the acquisition of Slack-like app Quill. A different order of acquisition is predicted by one pundit, Scott Gallaway, who has suggested Salesforce should reheat its 2016 takeover attempt of Twitter, although last year he suggested that the platform should buy CNN – and that hasn’t happened YET. Last but not least, another item in Agrawal’s in-tray is Donald Trump’s legal challenge to his January 2021 permanent suspension from the platform. A bigly year is in store.

Christel Schaldemose. Photograph: Martin Bertrand/Alamy

Christel Schaldemose

The limbering-up is over: this year legislators will be attempting to land a few punches on the tech heavyweights. In the US, Joe Biden’s new Federal Trade Commission head, Lina Khan, will be trying to curtail Silicon Valley mega-companies with her fresh interpretation of antitrust laws. And Europe has some Danish reinforcements in the form of Christel Schaldemose MEP.

In recent years EU efforts have been led by the impressive European commissioner Margrethe Vestager yet her landmark data privacy laws are haphazardly enforced and competition cases have become bogged down in legalese. The EU’s answer is more rules – the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act – to regulate illegal content and improve competition respectively.

Schaldemose has been tasked with shaping the former into something which will become law – which has involved wrangling 2,000 amendments. The act aims to crack down on everything from images of abuse to the sale of dangerous products online.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen says the legislation has the potential to be the “global gold standard”. The act should be put before legislators this month, and of course, will also require the agreement of the 27 states and the European Commission. How effective the act is will be determined by the interplay of Schaldemose’s horse-trading skills and the multimillion-dollar leverage of Silicon Valley lobbyists. As Schaldemose told Bloomberg, “We are taking a giant leap forward on regulating platforms, but we’re… not on the moon yet.”

Anu Duggal. Photograph: Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Anu Duggal

In a recent round-up by Fast Company of 10 of this year’s rumoured tech IPOs – from online credit facilitator Klarna to gaming communication platform Discord – one factor was common to all: none had a female founder. Predictably, tech bros tend to invest in other tech bros. According to Dealroom in 2021, 90% of European venture capital went to male-only founded companies – a proportion unchanged in five years. But this year a new cohort of investors has the funds to initiate some change.

The doyenne of this generation is Anu Duggal. In July her New York-based Female Founders Fund announced its third and biggest pot of money so far – $57m – partly financed by Melinda French Gates. Duggal said they hope to invest in 25 companies. “From day one, we have been committed to building the largest, most powerful network of female operators in technology,” she added. In November, a new German venture capital fund, Auxxo, announced it had $15m to invest in companies where at least 20% of the founding shares are held by women. And in the UK, this year Pink Salt Ventures will begin its second round of funding female-led start-ups.


Wendy Ide and Barbara Ellen

Suzanna Son. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

Suzanna Son

Wholesomely freckle-faced, with guileless blue eyes, surrounded by novelty doughnuts: Suzanna Son makes an instant impression in Red Rocket, the latest film from Sean Baker (The Florida Project).

Mikey, the down-on-his-luck adult movie actor who is the film’s central character, is immediately beguiled. And so is the audience. Son, who makes her acting debut in the film released in March , owes her career to that electrifying first impression – she was spotted by Baker on the street in Los Angeles. He told her he liked her look, but at the time nothing more came of the encounter. Then two years later, he invited her to audition for a low-budget movie following the comic misadventures of a narcissist ex-porn star, which was to be shot under the radar in Texas during the pandemic. She jumped at the chance.

Son plays Strawberry, a coquettish highschooler who is bowled over by Mikey’s perma-tanned charm offensive. It’s a terrific performance: sparky, fresh and unaffected. In a film which doesn’t skew towards a particularly flattering view of human nature, she effortlessly captures the sympathy of the audience. She also sings, delivering a memorable rendition of N Sync’s Bye Bye Bye in a key scene.

Next up for Son is another role which taps into her musical talent: she is starring in The Idol, a new HBO series set in the music industry which is currently filming. Baker, who praised her “dead-on” instincts, predicts a career path which could mirror that of Oscar-winner Emma Stone. WI

Scene-stealer: Reda Elazouar. Photograph: Vickie Flores/EPA

Reda Elazouar

All three of the central performances in Reggie Yates’s joyous directorial debut Pirates are terrific, but the stand out, in this energetic portrait of young male friendship and London at the turn of the millennium, is Reda Elazouar. With crisp comic timing and infectious humour, he steals every scene. WI

Mike Faist as Riff in West Side Story. Photograph: Niko Tavernise/AP

Mike Faist

Although Tony-award nominated for his Broadway theatre work, Faist was not a familiar face for cinema audiences. The live-wire volatility of his performance as Riff in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is set to change that. WI

Gabrielle Creevy in In My Skin. Photograph: Clémentine Schneidermann

Gabrielle Creevy

Welsh actor Gabrielle Creevy, 25, is one to watch in 2022. She burned bright in 2021, playing working-class lesbian teenager Bethan in the second series of semi-autobiographical BBC dramedy In My Skin, written by Kayleigh Llewellyn. In this study of love, dysfunction and survival – Bethan’s mother (Jo Hartley) suffers bipolar disorder, while her father (Rhodri Meilir) is a brutal alcoholic – Creevy brings Bethan to defiant, vulnerable life as she navigates school, family and her sexuality.

Raised in a council flat in Port Talbot, Creevy won a Bafta Cymru award in 2019 for In My Skin, returning to her shift in a coffee shop after hearing she’d been nominated.

With roles including The Pact (BBC One), she’s set to feature in John Madden’s upcoming war drama Operation Mincemeat alongside Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen. Creevy has also been cast as Maggie in the US television adaptation of Lisa Taddeo’s non-fiction bestseller, Three Women. BE

Rahim at last year’s Cannes film festival. Photograph: Johanna Geron/Reuters

Tahar Rahim

Tahar Rahim, 40, a French actor of Algerian heritage, was subtly petrifying in 2021’s BBC One drama series The Serpent as real-life serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who duped, drugged, and murdered western travellers on the 1970s hippy trail.

Rahim embodied the stylised menace and thin-skinned resentment of Sobhraj, turning The Serpent into one of the most compulsive and unsettling cult-watches of 2021.

A character actor par excellence, Rahim’s career is ripening into one of chameleon-like versatility and uncompromising intensity. He won two Cesar awards for his breakthrough role in Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet (2009), and he’s been Golden Globe and Bafta-nominated for Kevin Macdonald’s 2021 Guantanamo Bay drama The Mauritanian. In 2022, Rahim will appear in Apple TV+’s climate change anthology drama Extrapolations, directed by Scott Z Burns, co-starring Meryl Streep, Marion Cotillard, and Ed Norton. BE

• This article was amended on 4 January 2022 because an earlier version referred to “Verdi’s Tosca” when Puccini’s Tosca was meant. It was also amended on 6 January 2022 to clarify that the description of Valérie Pécresse as the “first woman to lead Les Républicains” was in reference to her leading them in the context of the French presidential election; the party has a president, Christian Jacob, as well as leaders in both houses of parliament.