If we had to pick one local to watch in 2008, our money would be on Maestro Harrell, an actor and aspiring R & B singer who, at 16, still has homework to do. Harrell, a junior at Morgan Park Academy in Beverly, figured prominently in season 4 of HBO’s critically acclaimed The Wire (just out on DVD), and this spring he has a film role in Quebec, featuring fellow Chicagoan John C. Reilly.

The convivial teen—who has already guested on Jay Leno’s show six times—says he got hooked on an entertainment career early: As a tot, his first brush with music was tinkering on a little keyboard his parents put in his crib. So it’s no surprise to hear that he’s working with superstar writer-producer Jermaine Dupri on his début music album, due out later this year.

“In ten years, I hope to be working on a movie, have a couple of platinum records, maybe an Oscar or a Grammy,” he says. But in the next ten minutes, he has to study for his Spanish test. 

Photograph: Andreas Larsson; Location: Top Notch Beefburger