Irish actor named as one of Britain’s rising stars

Niamh Algar, who will star in Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi, joins Bafta’s emerging talent list

Irish actor Niamh Algar has been selected by Bafta as one of the rising stars of the British film industry.

Algar, who was born in Mullingar, says she was “in shock” when she found out she’d been chosen as one of this year’s Bafta Breakthrough Brits. “The people who’ve been on this list in previous years are phenomenal,” she tells The Irish Times. “I feel very lucky.”

Algar's inclusion on the list won't come as a surprise to those who have followed her rapidly rising career

The Bafta initiative supports 20 rising stars of film, television and games by offering mentorship for a year. Previous Breakthrough Brits have included Spider-Man actor Tom Holland, Black Panther star Letitia Wright and Irish actor Chris Walley, best known for his role in Young Offenders.

Algar's inclusion on the list won't come as a surprise to those who have followed her rapidly rising career. The actor landed a lead role in Shane Meadows' The Virtues after her first audition. Her other credits include Calm with Horses with Barry Keoghan and Cosmo Jarvis, and upcoming sci-fi drama Raised by Wolves, the first television series created by director Ridley Scott.


"I grew up watching Ridley's movies, so to be directed by him, and see inside his creative mind, was just incredible," says Algar (29), who plays an American combat medic in the drama, which is set on a distant planet. The series was filmed in South Africa.

“The set and costumes were amazing, and I was there for eight months, filming on the other side of the world, so it wasn’t hard to imagine I was on another planet,” she says.

The role was a contrast to that in The Virtues, where she had an undercut and tattoos. She says the change of appearance made people treat her differently. “That was probably my fault,” she says. “I went out straight from set and was covered in mud, so I think people were worried I was going to rob them.”

Algar, who honed her craft at the Factory acting workshop in Dublin, is now based in London, where she met fellow Irish actor Chris Walley as they share mutual friends.

Walley describes Algar as a “brilliant actress”. He’s spent the last year benefitting from the Breakthrough Brits programme, where Cillian Murphy was his mentor. “Everyone has been so kind and excited for me, which is lovely,” he says. “I also got free cinema tickets for the year so I was able to watch and learn so much.” In January, Walley will be seen on cinema screens himself in 1917, a film directed by Sam Mendes.

Last year, Walley (24) graduated early from RADA so he could appear in his first West End production, The Lieutenant of Inishmore. He subsequently won the Olivier Award for best supporting actor. "To win was insane," he says.

His role as Jock O'Keefe in Young Offenders first endeared him to viewers. The second series will air on RTÉ on November 3rd. "I don't think we expected it to take off in the way that it did," he says. "But I'm very proud of it. Alex [his co-star] is one of my best pals and we have great craic."

Algar, who wrapped her latest film, Censor, last week, says she’s looking forward to learning from the BAFTA programme. And while she’s making waves in the acting industry, there’s one achievement that still alludes her. Mullingar has a billboard featuring local famous faces Joe Doran, Niall Breslin and Niall Horan. “If I don’t make it on, my friends are going to papier-mâché my face there,” she says.

The full list of Bafta Breakthrough Brits in 2019

  • Abubakar Salim, Actor (Raised By Wolves)
  • Chance Perdomo, Actor (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
  • Chris Cox, Art Director (Ordia)
  • Coco Jackson, Producer (Dancing On Ice)
  • Daniel Dewsbury, Director (The Mighty Redcar)
  • Gemma Langford, Writer/Indie Games Studio Manager (Overcooked 2)
  • Jen Kenwood, Producer (Pure)
  • Kayleigh Llewellyn, Writer (In My Skin)
  • Kirstie Swain, Writer (Pure)
  • Laurie Nunn, Screenwriter (Sex Education)
  • Lesleyann White, Principal Quality Analyst (Sunless Skies)
  • Liam de Valmency, Senior Principal Programmer (Dreams)
  • Luke Hull, Production Designer (Chernoby l)
  • Niamh Algar, Actor (Calm with Horses)
  • Oliver Kassman, Producer (Saint Maud)
  • Rose Glass, Director / Writer (Saint Maud
  • Sarah Brocklehurst, Producer (Animals)
  • Simon McMahon, Film Editor (For Sama)
  • Stella Corradi, Director (Trigonometry)
  • Vicky Knight, Actor (Dirty God)