Hello there 🙂
Halfway through my conversation with actress Kennedy McMann, I feel compelled to ask her about … her hair. In my defense, the shiny, copper-colored locks are now something of a signature for the young star. In addition, the burnished red look has quickly become one of the seasonal looks greatest beauty trends. So of course I had to know more! "I think I'll keep this color for the rest of my life," she explains as she reveals how the beautiful shade came about. Hair aside, McMann has been on my radar for a minute thanks to her performance on the CW series Nancy Drew. It's the 24-year-old's first major role, but you wouldn't know if you saw her excellent portrayal of the infamous truth.
You could say McMann spent most of her life preparing for the role of Nancy Drew. She grew up watching the beloved detective novels and has often been compared to the stubborn title character. Despite being a superfan, McMann has fully embraced the modern version of the show's cultural icon. While Drew lovers can spot the classic references, creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are the minds behind them The O.C. and gossip Girl– I gave the show a slightly more adult vibe and look, with the occasional romantic subplot for good measure. It's deliciously fun and exciting, and McMann is perfect as the crime solving Drew.
As I was preparing for the season two finale (the show was extended by a third), I spoke to McMann about everything Nancy Drew had to offer, from the character's impressive influence to her remarkable wardrobe ("I feel like Audrey Hepburn in roman vacations”) And yes, her trendy curls.
I read you were a super fan of Nancy Drew when you were younger. Which traits of character do you like most?
Nancy always had this really strong tenacity to get what she set out to do. I was a pretty motivated kid who has advantages and disadvantages. I could be very persistent and a little intense with things, but at the same time you get things done and not afraid to go about the things you want. That always impressed me very much. She also has a very strong sense of identity. She has made a place for herself in the world. She never really waited for someone to give her that or create this space for her. That struck me a lot as a child and made me an adult too.
Do you have a favorite Nancy Drew novel?
In my opinion The hidden stairs is probably my favorite. We did an episode [based on it]which was really fun. It was different from the books but it was really fun to reference and play on screen.
The series was adapted by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who are the minds behind it The O.C. and gossip Girl. What do you think is really appealing about her particular approach to the Nancy Drew story?
That's a really good question. I mean, they're amazing at what they do, and that's this young adult drama romance [genre]. They respect the really big feelings young people have. Everyone knows what it's like to be a teenager and feels like the world is falling on you because of something that is considered unimportant as an adult, but at this point in time those feelings are so massive. I think something that they can really benefit from phenomenally is the affirmation of these feelings in young people. So you mix that with what Nancy Drew is naturally, what is mystery and tension, and what I mentioned earlier, this search for identity and justice. The infusion of what Josh and Stephanie bring with them and their expertise mixes with the secret of Nancy Drew, which is what I think makes this adaptation special. I feel very lucky to be working with them. my little gossip Girl Fangirl Heart almost lost my mind when this all worked out. I said, "I can't believe this!"
You got the role of Nancy Drew straight out of college, and it's your first major lead role. What were some of the rewarding moments while working on this project?
For me, the most rewarding thing is to see people's reactions. Whether it's someone who grew up with the books and is a superfan and takes on this new adaptation or how I grew up with Nancy Drew and is about the age she is on the show and sees herself in it and so does human side to see her. That's super satisfying. Or people who have never interacted in any way with Nancy Drew and found our show and thus found a love for all things Nancy Drew has to offer. That was extremely gratifying.
Personally, I've come a very long way and grew up a lot as a person throughout the process [show]. You go to drama school and move to New York and you're hectic like all actors and it's a really nice experience when something works out and someone gives you a chance. The transition between "Oh, someone gave me this" and the process of hugging that, "No, I have something that I made me do too." Not only was this given to me, but it found its foundation in what I am capable of and what I bring to the table. It is a very special experience as a young adult and as a woman in such a room. It's just a very special experience, and I think growth has been one of the greatest lessons from that experience so far.
What about challenges?
I work so much. Just a crazy amount. I'm probably away 16 hours a day during the week and sometimes we work on weekends. The challenge with this is obviously that there is fatigue and all that stuff, but I now have a lot of people helping me control that. The hardest thing is a lot in my personal life. I have a husband. I have pets. I have friends who I miss terribly and who live very far from me. I have a family, my parents and my brother and people I don't see often. Rather, it's the personal side of things that can be really challenging in such an all-consuming job. I feel very lucky that I love it as much as I do and that I have the most supportive family in the world and loads of wonderful friends who really supported me and got me through the whole thing and that was amazing. But it's definitely a challenge.
They were in production in Vancouver for season one when filming was suspended due to the pandemic. How was quarantine life for you in Vancouver?
I spent the whole time in Vancouver. I didn't come back to the US when we stopped production, mainly because we had a small space in Manhattan and it didn't sound good to go back. We sublet it back then and thought, hey, we might as well see what happens if we spend our time here! It was a lot of "Holy shit, I just finished a television season and that was insane." I think I worked a lot on everything that changed in my life and it gave me a lot of time to think about it. We also had a puppy and spent a lot of time training a puppy. He just turned 1 recently which was really cool. We were so lucky to spend the summer here in Vancouver. Vancouver was a really wonderful place at the time, and I think British Columbia handled it all super well in terms of all that COVID stuff. We were just happy to be here, where we had access to nature and beautiful surroundings. It was a lot of it and of course every new thing that came out on Netflix. It was crazy to go back into production and say, “Oh my god. We are allowed to bring new content to people. That is so cool."
The series was recorded for a third season. What do you hope to see in the next chapter for Nancy and the crew?
[Season two] It's a big time for Nancy to really work on confronting all of the things that happened to her in season one and addressing much of the trauma that comes with figuring out her legacy, dealing with her identity, and with dealing with all this new wilderness information about the supernatural, all the experiences she and the crew had, and her mother's death. Nancy is a real moving person down and forward and I think a big part of her journey this season is learning to uncover this, confront it, and deal with it directly. By the time we go into season three, she has brought up all of these things and knows each other a bit more and learned what she really needs. I think we'll see her attack this and try and move on with a clearer mind. I think this is going to be a really nice experience because a lot of the decisions she makes this season – and we'll see how things develop – a lot of the decisions she makes are because of this lack of psychological consideration The health aspect of all tarnished things she has experienced.
I have to ask you about your hair. Red hair is a big trend right now, especially on shows like WandaVision, The Queen Gambit, and of course Nancy Drew. Can you tell me something about your beautiful color?
I love that you brought up this because I really enjoyed the trend myself. I went to Sally Hershberger's in New York and worked with an incredible colorist, Kirsten Stuke, who created the color as it is now. This formula was then sent to our team in Vancouver, and we have a colorist on the hair team whose name is Glen. He's amazing and has taken that on – I'm not very good at hair terms – but he has taken the formula for the color and infused it with different tones and different ways of using it to keep my hair really healthy all the time, which is wonderful. It contains a lot of copper, which I love a lot because it has a nice warmth. In different lights it can be read as blonde, which is beautiful. It rides that lovely line to stay very coppery in color, but it has some honey tones in it. I think this keeps the heat in and looks natural as opposed to colored. I think I will keep this color for the rest of my life. I love it!
Let's talk about the fashion on the show because there is so much to love. Tell me about upgrading the look for Nancy?
So that was a very interesting trip. Up to this point there were four costume designers on the show. We had a costume designer on the pilot who really worked out very specific looks for these characters. And the idea has always been to stick to vintage inspiration. Nancy always pulled from the 70s and 30s. She draws from a few other locations as well, but these two eras are really great inspiration for how she looks. Nancy has always had a reputation for being a bit of a fashionista along with all of her educational efforts. So we started there and in season one we had a couple of different costume designers and things have changed a lot. I feel like we lost our footing there for a while, but this season we started with a new costume designer. She came over from Supernatural and along with so much more of their own ingenuity, brought us back to where we originally intended and really worked out the style that all of these characters have. I'm her biggest fan. She's amazing.
As the season progresses, you'll see how gorgeous all of these outfits get, but what I think she really refined for Nancy is a combination of masculinity, a bit of androgyny in some of her choices, but always a dash of femininity in it. Things that are practical because Nancy is a practical girl. She has things to do. But also things that look economical and unique and have a special feeling. It feels very real to me.
There's also something that's really emerging this second half of the season where she's almost riding the line of – and I see this popping up a lot right now, like everything Emma Chamberlain is wearing right now – there's almost this kitschiness that Nancy has started to integrate. It adds a sense of fun that I think comes out of the character and really goes back to the '70s and 30s periods. We also incorporated a bandana that has become Nancy's signature accessory that I'm obsessed with. I feel like Audrey Hepburn roman vacations. I just need a Vespa. We also have the best jackets on our show. The jackets are the stars of the show.
How would you describe your own relationship with fashion?
It's been an interesting development, especially over the past year and a half. It's like what is clothes? What is fashion in a time when you have nowhere to go? It was an interesting thing because I feel like the guy who really wants to get into fashion, but I've always resorted to comfort. And I think that will always take the lead for me, but it's really cool to see fashion evolve with everyone's desire to incorporate more comfort and see where that goes. I always need to feel that I can go out and do anything and that what I wear isn't limiting me. I really like to incorporate a lot of menswear into my style. I feel the real me in an oversized suit jacket that blends with a feminine silhouette underneath. I think emphasizing a feminine silhouette and then layering it over a more masculine piece is my perfect comfort zone.
Now that it's officially spring, what are some of the pieces on your radar?
As much as I love sweaters, I look forward to stepping away from sweaters and getting into some more warm weather. I look forward to pulling on some nice skirts and dresses and really improving my femininity in these warmer months. This has always been my favorite way to transition into the warmer months when it comes to fashion. Plus, it would be nice to wear a little more color every now and then. I am a real neutral person, but I try to push the boundaries.
Nancy Drew is a big moment in your career, but what other goals do you have on the horizon?
I would love to do a theater one day when it becomes available again. I came here as an actor and always what I had in mind. And as much as I've absolutely fallen in love with film and television and I think it's probably my favorite medium, I really miss theater and would love to do classical work. I love Chekhov. I love shakespeare. Stuff like that is a big part of what I've trained and I'd really like to come back to it. I think it would be fun. And I've never done a movie before, so I'd love to see what it is like.
Catch Nancy Drew Wednesdays on The CW at 9 p.m. PT.