Throughout 2020, there was just one topic of conversation on everyone's lips - Covid 19.
But while the entertainment industry was particularly hit by the pandemic, with the postponement of many film and television productions and live gigs, 2021 looks set to be a busier year with plenty more to talk about than the global pandemic.
So who and what will be making headlines as we tentatively step into the New Year? From the new kids on the block whose stars are going to rise to the familiar faces returning to the small and big screens, we shine a light on the local talent for whom 2021 is poised to be a productive and important year.
Yes, he's already a star, thanks to The Fall and Fifty Shades trilogy, but the Co Down actor will be back on the covers of newspapers and magazines in 2021 with three new films to promote.
If the trailer for Wild Mountain Thyme is anything to go by, John Patrick Shanley's romcom of sorts will have everyone talking, if only for the over the top Oirish accents. Jamie stars opposite Emily Blunt in the thirty-something, star-crossed 'love story', set in rural Ireland. Jamie pops up again in the American comedy Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar alongside Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumola, and he also stars in Kenneth Branagh's upcoming cinematic love letter to Belfast, along with Caitriona Balfe, Ciaran Hinds, Judi Dench and local newcomer, Jude Hill. The worldwide rights for the film, Belfast, have been picked up by Focus Features.
If you haven't heard of 10-year-old Jude Hill, from Gilford, Co Armagh, you soon will. A pupil at Shelley Lowry Talent, Jude is set to be a household name after landing a lead role in Branagh's upcoming film Belfast.
The movie, written and directed by Branagh, tells the story of one boy's childhood in the city, during the tumult of the late 1960s. The film is expected to be released some time in 2021. Jude also stars in Mandrake, the latest film from Northern Ireland Screen's New Talent Focus Scheme and the big screen adaptation of Tony Macaulay's Paper Boy. Described by Shelley Lowry as "a unique talent", Jude has many strings to his bow and is also a world champion Irish dancer.
Written by Co Armagh playwright Daragh Carville, the ITV crime series was recommissioned following the success of series one.
Morven Christie heads the cast along with Joe Absolom, James Cosmo, Stephen Tompkinson, Sharon Small and Owen McDonnell. Set in the coastal town of Morecambe, the first series of The Bay aired in 2019 and was well received by viewers and critics alike. In series two, Lisa Armstrong, played by Christie, has been demoted and forced to do menial police work. But a new case, involving a shocking murder within a loving family, brings Lisa unexpectedly back into the front line.
Hailing from Ballymena, singer/songwriter Lilla Vargen is one of Ireland's fastest rising new musical talents. Having accumulated 30 million streams and completed a huge arena tour as guest to Dermot Kennedy, Lilla is gearing up to release her eagerly-awaited debut album following the release of her single Blueprints. The track is already established as a fan favourite and has been a regular set closer at her live shows. Lilla is looking forward to 2021, as she has her biggest headline tour pencilled in during the autumn.
Martin McCann features again in the return of another popular ITV crime drama, Marcella. Starring Anna Friel in the title role, the new eight-parter follows on from the dramatic conclusion of the previous series and sees Marcella in Belfast as an undercover detective. She has taken on a new identity, Keira, and has infiltrated the infamous Maguire crime family but as she investigates their activities, questions come to the fore about how much she's embraced the Keira personality and left Marcella behind.
As she inhabits the character of Keira, Marcella's quest for the truth puts her in danger and others in harm's way. The series also stars an array of Northern Irish actors including McCann, Amanda Burton, Aaron McCusker, Eugene O'Hare, Michael Colgan, Paul Kennedy and Glen Wallace.
Filmed in Northern Ireland, Here Before is the debut from Belfast-born writer and director Stacey Gregg. The psychological thriller stars Oblivion actress Andrea Riseborough as a grieving woman who becomes captivated by a young girl who moves next door. The movie also stars local talent Jonjo O'Neill, Martin McCann and Eileen O'Higgins.
Described by John Bishop as "fantastic" and by Tim McGarry as "like Stephen Nolan, but funny", Dave Elliott is one of Northern Ireland's brightest new comics. In 2020 he completed his first UK and Ireland tour with his sell out show Dad and is playing his biggest solo show to date at the Ulster Hall with a new special, Pillowtalk, on December 17, 2021. Dave is also the host of the Sly Guy podcast and co-host of Shane Todd's BBC Radio Ulster show.
Magherafelt man JC Stewart has a big year up ahead. The young musician's collaboration with 220 Kid, Too Many Nights, has kept his profile rising high as he looks poised to become one of 2021's biggest breakthrough artists.
He has a new EP out now, When the Light Hits the Room, and upcoming single Break My Heart is set to arrive on January 8. The track will be his first ever vinyl release and will also be digitally launched. JC wrote the EP with BRIT and Ivor Novello award winner Tom Odell. He also co-wrote Hollywood from Lewis Capaldi's smash hit debut album and his quarantine-themed take on the Friends' theme I'll Be There For You went viral and was even featured on Good Morning America.
Mother of God! We couldn't finish up without mentioning Line of Duty. The critically-acclaimed BBC crime drama is finally coming back to our screens and will be a HUGE talking point this year.
Production on the sixth series in Belfast was badly delayed due to Covid but it eventually wrapped and is set to return in the early part of 2021, some time before March. Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Vicky McClure return as the amazing AC-12 and will be joined in the new series by Kelly Macdonald, as the suspected bent copper DCI Joanne Davidson. According to the show's creator Jed Mercurio, Kelly's character will be AC-12's most enigmatic adversary yet. Now we're suckin' diesel!