There are a few ways to get famous at lightning speed: 1) Go viral on the internet, 2) Make an appearance in the newest Netflix rom-com, or 3) Be the star of a CW show. For Kennedy McMann, the countdown to stardom has been a major culture shock.
Before nabbing the title role in the new adaption of Nancy Drew, McMann’s only acting credits were two episodes of television in Gone and Law and Order: SVU. And while a more traditional road to a starring role would include a series of single episode appearances, recurring roles, and maybe a supporting part in a film or two, the young starlet’s path to fame is anything but traditional. Remarkably, her career thus far has been the quintessential path to breaking into the business.
“I did the pretty classic route. I went to drama school. I had always been doing local theater and stuff like that in high school, and loved it,” she tells CR. After leaving her hometown of Mesa, Arizona, McMann enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University to study at its acting conservatory where she graduated in May 2018. Through her school connections, she found an agent who helped her book her first roles. While living in the city after college, she worked as a sitter for a New York family à la The Nanny, minus the deadbeat boyfriend and British butler.
Within a year after graduation, Nancy Drew came into the picture. Even McMann’s story about being notified about her callback sounds like something from a coming-of-age film. “I got the call that they wanted to test me for [the role of Nancy] and was like ‘Oh my god this is actually a possibility.’ And I was on my way to my nannying job when I got the call and I was crying on the subway—I was so excited. Just that I had gotten that close, it was really thrilling,” she recalls.
Even after the premiere of the show, McMann is still starstruck by her own image. Her Instagram is full of awestruck moments when spotting herself on a subway ad or a billboard. She regularly posts with her co-stars, including her TV dad and her media tour compatriot Scott Wolf. A television veteran himself, he undoubtably can impose some wisdom on the newcomer. However, Wolf is not her only source of advice on grounding herself in the wake of impending stardom.
“So Casey Cott, who plays Kevin on Riverdale, and I went to college together. He was actually roommates with my fiancé in college,” she casually mentions. “You do get thrown into this world and you’re moving to a different country and you’re just tossed into it. Production’s very helpful and everything, but it’s very overwhelming. So I definitely used [Cott] as a resource and he’s just been so welcoming, and their whole cast.”
If the success of Nancy Drew is anything like Riverdale‘s, McMann has a long career ahead of her. And judging by the first episode, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Like its CW counterpart, the drama series utilizes an eerie small town setting reminiscent of Twin Peaks.
However, rather than the traditional opening shot of a desolate town or local watering hole, the show displays no qualms in introducing our heroine mid-hookup with her clandestine boyfriend, Nick Nickerson. “It’s not your goody-two-shoes, clean cut [version],” McMann remarks. High school has come and gone; Nancy and her friends are all grown up.
“[The characters] are in this really cool period of time where it’s like you coming into yourself as an adult, which is something that pretty much everyone can relate to. We’re very real about it, and real about the mistakes that everybody is making,” she explains about the series. By mistakes, she could be referring to the fact that the character of Nickerson is, in this adaption, an ex-convict, rather than the strait-laced high school sweetheart from the original novel series.
There’s ghosts, there’s murder, and there’s a bit of petty crime on Nancy’s part, but for McMann, that’s the character’s charm. “She’s very meticulous, she’s very strong and fearless, and empathetic like she’s always been,” she shares. “But she’s also a girl trying to figure her life out and making a lot of mistakes and isn’t always the perfect girlfriend or daughter.”
While Nancy may still be figuring out how to balance recreational sleuthing with her love life, McMann has got that down. After getting accepted into drama school, she shadowed a student who would become her boyfriend when she returned for her freshman year. The couple got engaged at the end of 2018, before she was cast as the red-headed detective. However, with the chaos of shooting schedules, wedding planning has taken a bit of a backseat.
“We’re not in any rush to figure out when we’re getting married just because it’s pretty crazy. But he’s up here in Vancouver with me and he is so supportive,” she gushes.
While fans may have to wait to catch McMann in a wedding dress, they can watch her sleuth her way through Horseshoe Bay Wednesdays at 10/9C on the CW.END
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