The Hottest Rising Drama Actors of 2016

Each year I look forward to new dramas and the new crop of rising actors they produce. There are always those who shine more brightly, whom I personally refer to as my “IT Boys.” Some great examples include: Song Joong Ki in 2012, in the film “Werewolf Boy,” and Kim Soo Hyun in 2013, with the drama “My Love From the Star.” Here’s my list of who I think are the hottest rising actors of 2016.

The Smiling Angel: Park Bo Gum


I first laid my eyes on Park Go Bum in Tomorrow’s Cantabile and I’ve liked him ever since. Fast forward one year to the drama “I Remember You” and his performance as Min made me become a huge fan. I was super impressed by his performance as a psycho-killer, which often sent chills down my back. Also, his epic bromance with Seo In Guk moved me to tears. Most of you probably know Park Bo Gum from the recent hit “Reply 1988,” as the genius budak player Choi Taek. He played Taek with such a lovable child-like innocence and he never failed to put a smile on my face. Every time I saw Taek, I just wanted to give a him a big hug and a glass of warm milk with cookies.

After “Reply 1988,” Park Bo Gum’s popularity sky-rocketed with endless CF deals, interviews and of course many drama offers. Needless to say, he has already chosen his next project “Moonlight Drawn By Clouds” (tentative title), a historical romance drama based on a popular webtoon. Park Bo Gum will be acting as the male lead and take on the role of being a crown prince. This will be his first lead role as well as his first historical drama, so I am sure many (including myself of course) are highly anticipating this drama and his performance.

Singer Turned Actor: Jing Bo Ran

Jing Boran 井柏然

Jing Bo Ran is one of the hottest rising actors in China at the moment, after starring in period fantasy film “Monster Hunt,” which is the second highest grossing Chinese film of all time. The film earned approximately 200 million USD within the first two weeks of the film’s release in theaters!

For all the drama watchers out there, many of you may recognize Jing Bo Ran from “Love Weaves Through A Millennium,” the Chinese remake of “Queen In Hyun’s Man,” starring Ji Hyun Woo and Yoo In Na.

Jing Bo Ran is more well known from films, but he actually started out as a singer after winning first place in the Chinese talent contest My Hero in 2007. He debuted in the boy band duo BOBO, with fellow singer and actor Fu Xin Bo.

Bo Ran’s career has taken on new heights after “Monster Hunt” with continuous film offers. He recently filmed the movie version of 2015’s summer hit web drama “The Lost Tomb,” starring Li Yi Feng and Yang Yang. The film stars Luhan as the leading role of Wu Xie and Jing Bo Ran as the second male lead Zhang Qi Ling.

Besides having a great film career, Jing Bo Ran’s love life is also riding a high, as he recently confirmed his relationship with popular Chinese actress Ni Ni. The two have previously starred together in the two films “Bride Wars” and “Up in the Wind.”

I really like Jing Bo Ran. He’s a solid actor who does really well in both comedic and serious roles. He’s an all around talented guy who can sing, act, and he has the good looks to boot. Best of all, he has a great down-to-earth personality, is hard working, and has a clear sense of direction regarding his acting career.

Bad Boy Softie: Ji Soo


Ji Soo seemingly came of nowhere in last year’s drama “Angry Mom.” Ji Soo played Bok Dong, a high school bully who turned out to be a victim of abuse as well. He was my favorite character in the drama and I always looked forward to his scenes. Even though he was a supporting character with not that much screen time, he sure did shine every time he appeared. Ji Soo is such a scene stealer, with his charisma and screen presence, it’s no joke. There was a lot of online buzz about Ji Soo, with many wondering who this talented guy was.

Before “Angry Mom” had finished airing, Ji Soo was cast in the film “Glory Day,” which also stars EXO‘s Suho and Ryu Jun Yeol. The film is set to be released March 2016. He also starred in the youth cheerleading drama “Sassy Go Go,” with Jung Eun Ji and Lee Won Geun.

Ever since “Angry Mom,” Ji Soo has received continuous drama offers. He has two upcoming dramas this year, the first being “Page Turner,” which is set to air on March 26. The drama is a youth-melodrama that also stars Kim So Hyun. Currently, he is filming “Scarlet Heart: Ryeo,” which is the remake of the 2011 hit Chinese historical drama “Startling By Each Step” (aka Scarlet Heart/Bu Bu Jing Xin).

I think Ji Soo has a great career ahead of him, especially as he continues to slowly build up his acting resume. With that kind of talent and on-screen charisma, he’s bound to become a big star one day. I also look forward to seeing him get the girl for once in a drama or film. Yes, second-lead syndrome is real!

Prince Charming: Yang Yang


Yang Yang is one of China’s current IT boys. He’s most known for the dramas “The Lost Tomb” and “The Four 2015,” as well as the film “The Left Ear,” which helped launch his popularity in China.

I really like Yang Yang, as he’s really charming and quite manly, despite his softer appearance. Of course he’s a great actor and has won several awards in his career, including Best New Actor from the 2009 BQ Celebrity Score Awards, and Most Influential New TV Actor from the 2013 Entertainment Live Rankings. Most recently he won Most Influential on the Media at the 7th Anhui Television Drama Awards.

Yang Yang’s next upcoming drama is “Just One Smile is Very Alluring,” with actress Zheng Shuang. The drama is an adaption of a popular Chinese novel by the same name.  Yang Yang and Zheng Shuang play college students who are both fervent gamers and end up falling in love in the same multi-player game.

Model Turned Actor: Nam Joo Hyuk


I’ve adored Nam Joo Hyuk from his debut drama “Surplus Princess,” as the unemployed bumbling cutie Big, aka Park Dae Bak, who had a noona crush on fellow housemate Hye Young (Kim Seul Gi).

He’s been continuously acting in various dramas since his debut, such as “Cheese in the Trap” and “Glorious Temptation,” mainly as a supporting actor. He landed his first leading role in “Who Are You: School 2015,” starring alongside Kim So Hyun and Yook Sung Jae. Currently, he is also filming the drama “Scarlet Heart: Ryeo,” along with Ji Soo, as the 13th Prince.

To me, Nam Joo Hyuk is still green as an actor, but he has such a sweet boyish charm and on-screen presence that I can’t help but just really like him. I believe with time he will continue to improve his acting craft and broaden his scope with more diverse dramas and roles. He already has the looks and likability factor, so I feel that he’s on his way to becoming the next big actor.

Cutie Pie Boy Next Door: Wu Lei

wu lei

The youngest actor out of this list is definitely Chinese actor Wu Lei (Leo Wu), who is only 16 years old! Despite his young age, he already has over a decade of film experience and a huge list of dramas under his belt. That is quite an achievement for someone his age. Many people are shocked by his talent for someone so young.

I first saw Wu Lei in variety shows and was struck by what an endearingly sweet boy he was, everyone around him couldn’t help but adore him. He starred in last year’s hit Chinese historical drama “Nirvana In Fire,” which took China and international viewers by storm. Wu Lei played Fei Liu, Mei Changsu’s (Hu Ge) personal bodyguard. He is extraordinarily talented in martial arts, and considered one of the best martial arts fighters in the Liang Kingdom. One of the things that Nirvana in Fire is most well known for is the epic bromances in the drama. One of my top favorite bromances is definitely between Fei Liu and Mei Changsu. Fei Liu is fiercely loyal and protective of Mei Changsu, and in turn Mei Changsu dotes on him as a younger brother.

Needless to say, this high quality production snagged year-end awards in many areas, including acting, directing, writing and cinematography. At the 7th Anhui Television Drama Awards, Wu Lei won the Most Full of Potential Award for his role as Fei Liu, the cold and difficult to approach bodyguard.

Wu Lei is currently filming a historical fantasy drama called “The Magic Star.” He plays one of the two male leads along with Chen Xiang. The story is set in the Song Dynasty and features five characters who search for a magic star that can help bring peace and order to their chaotic world.

Wu Lei is already really popular and still has many years ahead of him. I look forward to his future activities and he is definitely an actor to watch out for.

You can catch Wu Lei in the currently airing popular historical drama “The Imperial Doctress.” If you’re interested in his other dramas, check out “Tornado Girl,” “The Legend of Qin,” and “The Romance of the Condor Heroes.

FYI: You may recognize Wu Lei from CN Blue‘s Jung Yong Hwa and Kang Gary‘s Instagram photos, here and here. See, didn’t I tell you he’s well loved by everyone he meets?

Did I miss any of your favorite rising actors? Let me know in the comments!


BlackSesame88 is an Asian drama and entertainment addict. She enjoys discussing her favorite dramas, and sharing her knowledge of Asian entertainment. Follow her on Twitter and join her for recaps of the current dramas she’s watching.

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