Wonderland.

MCKENNA GRACE

The 15-year-old actor gets candid about her budding acting career.

McKenna grace

Red knit dress by PINKO Black earrings by ROXANNE ASSOULIN Yellow headband by EUGENIA KIM

McKenna grace
Red knit dress by PINKO Black earrings by ROXANNE ASSOULIN Yellow headband by EUGENIA KIM

If you came of age during the noughties, you’ll remember that, not so long ago, tween stardom invariably ended in disaster as young stars’ growing pains, strained family ties and relationship struggles were inevitably splashed across the tabloids. But, nowadays, the road to precocious celebrity seems somewhat less rocky — at least if you take McKenna Grace, who’s already bagged roles in I, Tonya and The Handmaid’s Tale, as an example. The 15-year-old actor’s career so far has been motivated by a genuine passion for the craft and, as she attests, there are no helicopter parents or overbearing managers here. “There’s sometimes a stigma around being a child actor, like maybe I was forced [into this career], but that’s never been the case for me — acting is genuinely what I love doing,” she says.

And that love has taken the young actor far, notably bagging an Emmy nomination for her turn as “Esther” in prestige Hulu drama The Handmaid’s Tale. But for Grace, the invitation to this major red carpet event conjured up a mix of anxiety and excitement. “The Emmys were really cool, my dad and I went together and it was really exciting,” she enthuses, before quickly correcting herself; “Actually, it was scary. I didn’t have a dress that morning, I had to scramble and go and find one the morning of!” Wearing her enthusiasm and narrowly avoided outfit mishaps (for the record, she settled on a charming green look for her Emmys debut) on her sleeve, Grace is relatable and down-to-earth — but that doesn’t mean she’s lacking in ambition.

McKenna grace
mckenna grace
McKenna grace
Red knit dress by PINKO Black earrings by ROXANNE ASSOULIN Yellow headband by EUGENIA KIM
mckenna grace

Namely, the rising talent isn’t afraid to dive into more complex roles which connect to real world struggles, such as that of “Esther” — where Grace investigated the troubling realities of child marriage when researching the character. “Child marriage is a much bigger issue than it seems, we might think that it only happens far away from here but, actually, it happens in the US, a lot,” she explains. “Technically, I could get legally married right now if my guardian signed off on a document and I’m only 15. It was important to be be able to play a character that could raise awareness and start conversations about this issue.”

Now she has a much more feel-good fair: a role as “Phoebe” opposite Finn Wolfhard and Paul Rudd in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The fourth iteration in the sci-fi movie franchise, it sees the likes of Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver reprise their roles from the original film — a pleasant perk for Grace, a longtime fan of the series. “The original Ghostbusters was one of my favourite films, I used to have Ghostbusters toys that I would carry around with me and I was a little Ghostbuster for Halloween in 2018,” she admits, “Even going into the auditions and chemistry reads for the film was insane, the film has such a huge legacy.”

With this deference to the previous efforts within the franchise, Grace poured her all into the filming process, yet is naturally anxious about how the film will be received when it hits the theatres in November. “I’m nervous, I really did my best with this film, and so did everyone else,” she says. “A lot of love and hard work has gone into making Ghostbusters, and I really hope that people can feel that.” But, ultimately, centring on the grandchildren of one of the original ghost-fighting gang, Grace sees the film as more of an addition — rather than an answer — to its predecessors. “I wouldn’t say Ghostbusters: Afterlife is reviving [the franchise] because Ghostbusters never died,” she explains. “It’s just bringing back the nostalgia for the first two films and that lovely scary, spooky feeling.”

McKenna grace
McKenna grace

(RIGHT) Full look by LOUIS VUITTON Seashell earrings by ALMASIKA Headband by EUGENIA KIM

McKenna grace
Full look by LOUIS VUITTON Seashell earrings by ALMASIKA Headband by EUGENIA KIM
McKenna grace

While Grace is putting most of her emotional capacity into the anticipation of Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s release, she’s also been putting in serious hours in the studio, dedicating time to her other creative joy: music. “I’ve been working really hard on my music lately and for the past month, every single day of the week, I’ve been going into writing sessions and producing music,” she reveals. “I’ve been working on an EP with seven songs — but I have so much more to share with the world eventually.”

Citing an eclectic mix of references, from her dad’s Green Day records to her mum’s Shawn Mendes faves, Grace explains that she sees music as a “universal” language, one that she’s excited to improve her fluency in — as she also looks to learn more about the codes and customs behind the camera as a producer, director or writer. “I’ve been writing scripts with my dad and been trying to move more into producing,” she says, before adding that; “Eventually I’d love to direct a film, I just need to learn more to get into it.” With a willingness and work ethic rivalling some of the best in her field, Grace is right – she does have so much more to share with the world, be it as an actor, musician, director or whatever she undoubtedly puts her mind to.

McKenna grace
McKenna grace
Full look by LOUIS VUITTON Seashell earrings by ALMASIKA Headband by EUGENIA KIM
Photography
Dillon Matthew
Fashion
Cristina Erlich
Words
Megan Wallace
Hair
Nancilee Santos
Make-up
Kirin Bhatty
Fashion assistant
Bridget Blacksten
MCKENNA GRACE