Entertainment

Gen Z’s Favorite Actors and Content Creators

On the big screen, Gen Zers love Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Online, Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast, is king, per new data

Graphic conveying Gen Zers' favorite celebrities, actors, influencers and content creators.
Half of Gen Zers said they are interested in seeing online creators play acting roles in Hollywood movies, according to Morning Consult data. (Unsplash, Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Anna Davis)

Gen Zers are no longer a mere fascination: They now wield serious purchasing power and cultural capital as they put their imprints on the global economy. Morning Consult surveyed Americans between the ages of 13 and 25 about their media tastes and habits, relationships with brands and interest in sports in order to better understand where, exactly, the youngest adult generation is now taking us.

Read Our Gen Z Coverage: Gen Z and Sports | Favorite Pro Leagues | Favorite Athletes | Sports Influencer Q&ASocial Media Usage | Preferred Online Content | Opinion on Advertising | Movie Marketing Trends | Favorite Film Franchises | Favorite Genres | Preferred Entertainment Length | Favorite Video Games | Surprising Tidbits

No matter the device, young people are logging a ton of screen time. A new Morning Consult survey set out to determine which stars they most like to see on their screens. 

Americans between the ages of 13 and 25 were asked their opinions of 35 film actors and 35 internet content creators. Wrestler-turned-movie star Dwayne Johnson earned the highest net favorability rating (65) among the former group, and YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson, better known as MrBeast, (44) took the top spot among the latter. (Net favorability rating is the share of respondents with a favorable opinion minus the share with an unfavorable opinion.) 

While both significantly outperformed all of their tested peers, MrBeast did so by an extremely wide margin — his net favorability rating was nearly double that of the next most popular content creator, Zach King (23). Among actors, Tom Holland (58) and Johnny Depp (56) followed Johnson in a closer fashion. 

The survey also found that Gen Zers may look to further blur the lines between more traditional celebrity and internet-driven fame in the future. Half said they are interested in seeing online creators play acting roles in Hollywood movies, and 48% said the same of seeing creators in TV shows.

The Top 10 Most Popular Actors and Content Creators, According to Gen Z

Net favorability rating* among U.S. Gen Zers

*Net favorability rating is the share of respondents with a favorable opinion minus the share with an unfavorable opinion.
Survey conducted Nov. 2-8, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. Gen Zers between the ages of 13 and 25, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

Gen Z favors actors known for superhero roles and content creators known for gaming, stunts

  • Overall, Gen Zers reported higher favorability ratings toward actors than creators. The rating of Scarlett Johansson, No. 10 on the top actors list, is more than six times that of the creator in the same position on the creators list (Loren Gray). 
  • Seven of the top 10 actors have played a superhero at least once in their careers. Meanwhile, an equal number of the top 10 creators are known for video game streaming or large-scale stunts. Donaldson, considered a pioneer of such content, is reportedly raising money for his offline merchandise and restaurant businesses at a $1.5 billion valuation.
  • Many of Gen Z’s favorite creators first gained popularity via Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube, which is also the generation’s favorite brand and most-used online platform. 
  • Emma Watson and Johansson were the only female actors who scored high enough to be featured among the top 10 in that category. The creator list was similarly male-dominated: Just three women — Emma Chamberlain, Rachell Hofstetter (better known as “Valkyrae”) and Gray — made the top 10.
  • Josh Brolin and Karen Gillan were the lowest-scoring tested actors, each with net favorability ratings of 10. Among tested creators, James Charles (minus 38) and brothers Jake (minus 32) and Logan Paul (minus 19) earned the highest unfavorable ratings.
Half of Gen Zers Want to See Creators in Movies, TV Shows and Music Videos

U.S. Gen Zers were asked how interested or uninterested they are in seeing content creators appear in the following:

Survey conducted Nov. 2-8, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. Gen Zers between the ages of 13 and 25, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Gen Zers want to see their favorite creators in the media they consume

  • Half of Gen Zers want to see creators act in a movie, followed by music videos (49%) and TV shows (48%). TikTok creator Addison Rae starred in Netflix’s 2021 gender-swapped remake “He’s All That,” while Charli D’Amelio was recently cast to lead a supernatural thriller film. Meanwhile, Rae and fellow TikTokers Bella Poarch, Chase Hudson and Charli’s older sister, Dixie D’Amelio, have all signed record deals and released songs and music videos in recent years.
  • Morning Consult data shows that 45% of Gen Zers want to see creators in movies and TV shows as themselves. Popular gamers such as Tyler “Ninja” Blevins made an appearance as himself in the Ryan Reynolds-led film “Free Guy,” while the D’Amelio family has their own reality series on Hulu. Charli, a competitive dancer before gaining fame on TikTok, also appeared on and won the latest season of “Dancing with the Stars.”

The changing nature of celebrity

Traditional actors still generally have higher favorability ratings among Gen Zers than their creator counterparts, and many of them, including Johnson, Reese Witherspoon and Selena Gomez, have jumped on platforms like YouTube and TikTok to stay relevant with that audience. 

As Gen Zers continue to look for internet influences in more of the content they consume, Hollywood will likely continue to experiment with ways to include popular creators, either through direct collaboration or via a stylistic approach that caters to how Gen Z sees the world. (Think Bo Burnham’s critically acclaimed coming-of-age film “Eighth Grade,” a movie directed by a millennial about the Gen Z social experience.) 

NBCUniversal’s recently launched Creator Accelerator is an example of what this kind of intertwined media ecosystem might look like. The yearlong program pairs its cohort of 11 creators with a development mentor who will help them produce both scripted and unscripted content. 

But the crossover won’t succeed automatically. Rae’s performance in “He’s All That,” for instance, was mostly panned by critics and audiences. A creator’s popularity might be enough to get Gen Z initially interested, but in order to build the franchises that sustain modern Hollywood, content creators will have to demonstrate some actual talent.

The Nov. 2-8, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. Gen Zers between the ages of 13 and 25, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.