“I feel like I spend more time as Nancy than I do as myself,” says Kennedy McMann, lounging on a couch at the Wagner Hotel in downtown Manhattan.
The actress, who plays the titular character for the CW’s “Nancy Drew” series, was wrapping up her first major press tour in New York pegged to the show’s premiere. In a few hours, she was due to catch a plane back to Vancouver, where she’s currently in the middle of filming episode eight of the series. So it was hard to say who she was at the moment — likely a little bit of Nancy, and a little bit of Kennedy.
“I work 16 hours a day, every day, and weekends that I have off are nice to decompress and detach. But my mind is just always drawn back in, because it’s so consuming and Nancy and I are really similar in a lot of ways,” McMann adds after changing into leggings, an oversized blue sweater that complements her blue eyes and strawberry blonde locks, and Teva-style sandals for the cross-country flight.
It’s a big role for the 22-year-old actress, who recently graduated from Carnegie Mellon’s drama program and approached her first pilot season this past spring with the goal of simply getting called back for a project.
“I felt, ‘If I get callback, I’ve made progress, that’s a great sign for me,’” she recalls. She was living in New York at the time and playing Dungeons & Dragons when her agent texted about “Nancy Drew”; after reading the script, the stakes got higher for the lifelong fan of the character.
Kennedy McMann remembers sitting with three other women in the final audition for The CW’s “Nancy Drew.”
“Usually, it’s like sitting in a room of clones when you audition,” she says. “But we were all different. Everyone was super-kind and super-lovely, which made it easy to go into the room and do your work.”
Executive Producer Stephanie Savage says McMann brought “a real sense of confidence and maturity and intelligence when she spoke. When she had scenes with the adults, she owned them and owned the words. You felt like this girl is going to solve a mystery.”
Since childhood, McMann has been a fan of the Nancy Drew books, Nancy Drew computer games and, yes, the Pamela Sue Martin version that aired on ABC.
“When it came about, I was like, ‘I’ve been doing this my whole life. I’m ready to go,” she says. Purposely, she avoided the books when she was cast. “I wanted to be true and dedicate myself to the Nancy that we were creating.”
1. Spice Hunting
No matter where I am, I’m obsessed with finding the best curry; Indian and Thai are my favorites. My fiancé is excellent at cooking international cuisine, and there’s a great restaurant in Brooklyn called Gandhi that has some of my favorite Indian food. But honestly, the bodega at the corner of my street has the best food. We order the lamb over rice for $6. It’s a hidden New York gem.
2. Young Adult Fiction
My mother is an author, so I spend a lot of time keeping up with the young adult fiction world. I’m really into the Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, and I’m in the middle of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, who is a classic fantasy writer. But To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite book. That’s what I go back to when I need a little warmth.
3. Cat Play
We’re a big cat family. We have two cats whose names change all the time. We have a tree stump in our tiny New York City apartment and it’s the only thing they’ll scratch. They knock it over in the middle of the night all the time—it’s so loud. But we still find a way to laugh at it, even when they’re waking us up at 3 a.m.
It’s not exactly surprising that Kennedy McMann picked up a Nancy Drew book when she was a kid. Practically every girl in America has read at least one of the classic mysteries. What does feel like a bit more than coincidence (or dare we say fate) is how obsessed Kennedy became.
She didn’t just read the novels—she played the computer games too. She cowrote a musical in college and referred to herself as Nancy Drew in one of the songs. Later, before the TV series even existed, her fiancé nicknamed her “Nancy Drew.”
To Kennedy, Nancy never seemed like just a fictional character—it almost felt like she somehow lived inside Kennedy or like they were the same person: a strong-willed, small-town girl not afraid to take risks. So yeah, it’s both crazy and not at all crazy that this, of all the roles, is her first big one.
According to the official AOL Build Series site, both Kennedy and Scott will be making an appearance on Monday, October 7th. We will, of course, be providing high quality photo coverage of the event so stay tuned!
As previously announced, Kennedy was at the 2019 iHeartRadio Festival yesterday, September 21st. The first batch of high quality photos have been added to the gallery. You can see previews and the links below.
– Appearances in 2019 > September 21 | 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival – Arrivals
– Appearances in 2019 > September 21 | 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival – Show & Backstage