Despite what you may have read, there is no recent “rise” of the nepo — short for “nepotism” — baby. For as long as there have been babies, there have been nepo babies. Lest we forget some of the most iconic actors over a few generations — Carrie Fisher, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Laura Dern, Tracie Ellis Ross, Scott Caan — are nepo babies. I would go forth to say that Hollywood’s nepo babies are, for the most part, good. Does that mean that I think the industry is equitable? No, it mostly means that I don’t think that the children of celebrities should feel forced to become civil engineers or baristas, though it certainly would be cool if they did.
Just think: if you’re raised in “the industry,” you’re probably granted a greater understanding of how to navigate it, and therefore have more time to dedicate to acting and laughing at Jimmy Fallon’s jokes that would otherwise be spent figuring out if your lawyer is screwing you over.
In fact, I would argue that many of Hollywood’s young nepo babies that aren’t Brooklyn Beckham are actually great: charming, amiable, smart, with strong taste and interesting performances across a wide variety of streaming television shows and arthouse films. Should your faith in nepo babies be wavering, here are a handful that have more than proven their worth.
Think back to the halcyon days of 2012 when no one could get over the fact that all four core girls on HBO’s Girls were products of nepotism. Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke had the misfortune of being the spawn of artsy NYC elites, and Zosia Mamet was periodically weighed down by the legacy of her conservative talking points-loving father David Mamet. But no Girl from Girls was more of a nepotism baby at the time than Allison Williams, daughter of NBC news anchor Brian Williams. Boo! We hated that about her! He lied about helicopters in Iraq, or something, and that was her fault! Well, one Sight & Sound poll and three M3GAN trailers later, it’s safe to say that Williams has cemented her place in the industry and in our hearts.
Where are you every 18 months when someone discovers that Riley Keough is Elvis’s granddaughter? To her credit, she hides it well: Riley Keough — what kind of name is that? But when you look at her face long enough, and you see an all-lowercase tweet that says, “friendly reminder riley keough is elvis’s granddaughter,” then it all becomes kind of apparent. To her credit, she’s veered far away from her grandfather’s industry of crooning and swinging and into films big and small. She’s a reliable supporting performer in everything from Logan Lucky to Mad Max: Fury Road to Zola. I hear The Girlfriend Experience is great, but it’s on a Notes app document three screens long of stuff I have to catch up on. Rock on, girlie!
Zoë Kravitz by way of Lenny Kravitz
Riley Keogh’s Mad Max co-star Zoë Kravitz has gone above and beyond her rockstar father, starring in a number of films and television shows, making memorable turns as Catwoman and the yoga teacher in Big Little Lies. She even co-wrote a Taylor Swift song? That’s called range, actually. But her father, Mr. Lenny Kravitz himself, is also a nepo baby, as it were, the son of Roxie Roker from The Jeffersons (which also makes him third cousins with Gawker favorite Al Roker). Both Zoë and Lenny have given so much to culture, which makes their contributions to Getty Images feel negligible, though they are the two greatest paparazzied celebs in the game.
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The daughter of the late Carrie Fisher and granddaughter of the late Debbie Reynolds has been spared much of the savagery of Gen Z’s TikTok nepo baby investigations — Maude Apatow, watch your back — in part because she lost her mother and grandmother in such quick and tragic succession six years ago. But Lourd transcends her family lineage, and she’s proven herself a versatile and undeniably fun talent. Watching Ticket to Paradise last month, I was struck by how she held her own against legends like George Clooney and Julia Roberts. She’ll be in their leagues in no time.
Craziest MFer to ever do it.
You’ve no doubt by this point in this blog post become well-acquainted with the idea of a nepo baby — the child of a more famous actor — but are you aware of something called a “nepo parent”? Consider Stellan Skarsgård, who has shamelessly skated off the success of his sons Alexander and Bill to create a nice little niche in the industry. (I’M KIDDING.)
Long before he was Dear Evan Hansen on stage or Dear Evan Hansen on film, Ben Platt was in Book of Mormon’s touring company where I, a future blogger, saw him on stage and thought, “Wow! Great work. Fun talent.” Many are convinced that Platt’s career is not justifiable on his own merit because his dad is big-time Hollywood producer Marc Platt. At this point, the profound dislike feels a bit rich. I am kind of excited to see what he does with Richard Linklater’s Merrily We Roll Along film adaptation 25 years from now. Also one time I passed him on the street before going into Stars at Noon starring:
I count myself among some of the earliest Qualley fans, begrudgingly tolerating her very, very irritating performance as Jill Garvey in The Leftovers. You have to understand, as with many Qualley performances, the character is supposed to be annoying. From there on out, she’s impressed and dazzled in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood and Maid, apparently, and though I'm tolerant towards nepo babies, I am not going to watch one play a maid. As discussed above, she’s also outstanding and wonderfully unbearable in Gawker-approved Stars at Noon. To me, the bright spots in her career are her turn as Ann Reinking in Fosse/Verdon and as twin scientists Lockne and Mama in Death Stranding — a weird turn for a hot girl to commit to, props.
I think perhaps it was Hawke's turn on Stranger Things that got all these teenagers buzzing about parental status and privilege. Daughter of Cobble Hill icon Ethan Hawke and frame disruptor Uma Thurman, Maya Hawke has the rare gift of looking like an exact 50/50 split between her parents’ features. Let’s just put it like this with regards to Hawke: a lot of celebrities aren’t actually that cool, which makes their children’s attempts to market this coolness-that’s-not-there feel embarrassing and tedious. Hawke, on the other hand, has two of the coolest parents of all time.
The queen of the nepo babies is not Dakota Johnson or Jack Quaid or, god forbid, Kendall Jenner, but the funniest, coolest, strangest, and most endearing child of any famous person who has ever lived: Martin Scorsese’s youngest daughter Francesca.
Is she a good actor? I have no idea. I never watched that HBO show with her in it, and she was also reportedly cut from Bones and All. But I watch all her TikToks with her father and I peruse her gentle Instagram that informs me she’s just wrapped on a film. I’ll be there opening night.