Meet Kennedy McMann – The New Nancy Drew

Noah Asanias
Joanna Kulpa
Donna Salek

To play a character as well-loved and iconic as Nancy Drew, and do it justice, is no easy feat; but Kennedy McMann is the perfect fit. A rebel for her generation, Nancy’s wit, courage and passion for justice earned a special place in Kennedy’s heart growing up, so when her agent first told her about The CW’s plans for a modern adaptation of the classic, she couldn’t help but feel as though it was fate. Ultimately, McMann’s interpretation of Nancy Drew is far more down-to-earth than that we’ve ever seen, creating a protagonist that fans, both old and new, can’t help but find refreshingly honest and utterly relatable.

How did you first get into acting?
Kennedy McMann: When I was younger, I struggled very heavily with obsessive compulsive disorder and my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to try something like theatre to take my mind off things. I auditioned for a production of The Three Musketeers at my school and just absolutely fell in love with it. For a couple of hours every night, I could go to rehearsal and replace my brain and its problems with the characters’. It was so freeing at a time when I felt very trapped inside my own experience.
How did you land the part as Nancy Drew?
KM: I grew up loving Nancy Drew – I aspired to be as strong, independent and powerful as her. My agent had no idea that I was a fan so when she told me about the audition, it felt like fate. She texted me whilst I was playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, actually, and I remember telling them: “Guys, I’m going to do this!” I auditioned in New York, and I remember walking out of it feeling quite good. A couple of days later, I was on my way to my nannying job, and my agent called to say they wanted me to fly me out to LA to test for the part and I just burst into tears. After I did the test in LA, on my way to the airport, my agent called and said, “Hey, can you turn your car around and go back to the studio because they want to test you against the other characters – you got the part.” It felt as if the whole universe just exploded. I was sitting in the back of the taxi just so shell-shocked and when I got out of the car, I told the driver, “You just witnessed the best moment of my life.”
Did you face any challenges in adapting the character of Nancy Drew for a modern audience?
KM: I had quite a bit of fear going into it, knowing we were changing quite a lot of the original source material. I came into this project as a huge Nancy Drew fan, and I know what it’s like to have a book or character that you hold dear be adapted and changed. My character is essentially the same Nancy with the same values. It was quite refreshing to introduce this new iteration. Up until now, Nancy had always been perfect. I never felt that she really struggled, and there were no emotional consequences for what she was getting herself in for. This new Nancy is more honest and imperfect. You can’t be somebody that’s solving crime and saving the world and not go to bed sometimes feeling utterly alone, broken or exhausted. It’s cool that the Nancy I play is so much more open and honest.
Spending so much time in her shoes, do you relate to Nancy Drew at all?
KM: I’d say that the way Nancy responds to things is very different from the way that I would. She kind of shuts down and moves through things as if they never happened, whereas I’m much more open and emotional – that’s probably our biggest contrast. On the other hand, I think we both have a similar sardonic sense of humour, and we both refuse to stand down.
The show’s network, The CW, is behind some of the most iconic, young-adult dramas ever made – did you watch any of them growing up?
KM: Yes! The first show that I ever pulled an all-nighter to watch was season two of Gossip Girl, and it’s so funny because Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage – the creators of Nancy Drew – were also the masterminds behind that show. I was just obsessed with it, and I would think about it all day long, so the fact that I’m now on a show created by the same people that did Gossip Girl is so surreal. My life has come full circle!
Finally, could you let your fans know what you’re working on just now?
KM: Right now, we’re still shooting Nancy Drew! We’re filming up here in Vancouver; it’s been lovely and I can’t wait for everyone to see the new episodes.
Photographer: Noah Asanias
Stylist: Joanna Kulpa 
Makeup: Min-Jee Mowat using Charlotte Tilbury
Hair: Jade Kugelman using Surface hair