Kennedy McMann on Three Years of Portraying The CW's Nancy Drew

By Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Archives
Cover image for  article: Kennedy McMann on Three Years of Portraying The CW's Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew returns to The CW this week for its third season. Picking up one week after the season two finale, Nancy still has high hopes of making her college dreams a reality. But with her mystical relative Temperance Hudson (Bo Martynowska), who has a malevolent agenda, returning to Horseshoe Bay, and a new serial killer to contend with, the home-grown super-sleuth may have to stay put. Especially as the new murders contain messages directed at Nancy. “I describe season three as the lovechild of seasons one and two,” enthused series star Kennedy McMann when MediaVillage spoke to her exclusively about the upcoming season. “There is a season-long mystery that involves very real-life grounded real people, as well as a massive supernatural component.

“Throughout the season, we have some fantastic single episode mysteries that deal with all sorts of things that we love talking about on the show,” she continued. “Things like mental health, trauma, family, relationships, and all of those things. Then there are some individual, interesting supernatural cases as we realize that Horseshoe Bay continues to be populated with the scariest baddies around.”

It’s the supernatural element that McMann enjoys most about filming the show. “I really enjoy it,” she shared. “It's a really interesting avenue to explore very real emotions, and very real experiences people have. It kind of allows you to tackle emotional dramatic issues in ways that are approachable, fun and interesting. In terms of shooting, it's really incredible to see how all of our departments come together and create these scenes and these supernatural characters. I mean, the make-up bills we have for our main supernatural enemy this season are astounding! It's so cool seeing how our special effects department comes in and creates such incredible realistic effects and makes watching the episodes such a gas!

“It was brand new to me,” she added. “I was very new to TV when I started this job, so working with special effects, and creatures, has its own skillset. You're often acting to things that aren't really there or responding to a stimulus that isn't happening. But I think everybody is dedicated to making it as real as possible. Then [the] post-production team fills in all the blanks.”

McMann admits she can’t help but feel like a kid while shooting the series, and having a supportive, very diverse cast makes working together extra special. Diversity in casting is something The CW excels at -- and that’s something she’s so proud of about series. “That’s something that our show does so well,” she said. "It really makes room for everybody’s stories. People from all different backgrounds, all with different experiences. We make those experiences reflected in the character's personal lives. Whether that's George (Leah Lewis) and her Chinese heritage and how that's reflected in the meals that she eats or what her home looks like. Whether they're subtle or more exposed, like Ace’s (Alex Saxon) father being deaf and getting to showcase deaf culture and make that more relatable. That actor is also deaf, and he's taught us all so much about what that experience is like so that we can hopefully represent it as truthfully as possible.

"Even in the mystery cases this season, we have some ghosts that have experiences in their life that highlight racial disparity or previous wrongdoings in history towards certain groups. I really applaud our show for finding ways to tell everybody’s story.”

Three years into her portrayal of Drew, McMann feels she has made her iteration of the character unique. Although, in the beginning, stepping into those famous shoes was a little daunting. “I felt so strongly reading the pilot script that this was my part,” she recalled. “I felt I fit into what they were looking for early on and that instilled some confidence. Then I remember as we were about to premiere, I freaked out, like, 'Oh my God, I'm Nancy Drew and all of these people are going to look, and think is she though? Is she a good fit for this beloved character and giving us a version of the character that we approve of?' It all hit me. But as time has passed people have been so supportive. We have the best fans in the world! I've seen nothing but love in terms of our adaptation, which of course is very different than any done so far.”

After inhabiting a character for so long, Nancy has inevitably rubbed off a little. "I've never been so in tune with my senses,” McMann laughed. “When playing Nancy, she's taking in every single piece of information, every new environment with every new person. I'm tuned into that on-set working, and it absolutely translates to real life. If I hear a sound now, here's the list of things that it could be, and I go investigate. I’ve grown quite good at keeping track of little details I wouldn’t have been nearly as good at before doing this.”

Concerning the third season, McMann isn’t spoiling anything but offered, “This is the best season in terms of romance and relationship development that we've had so far. We see George and Nick (Tunji Kasim) navigating this newly joined life and all the bumps that go along with that. Bess (Maddison Jaizani) has a very interesting love storyline I’m excited about that I think will satisfy a lot of people. And Nancy and Ace have quite the interesting dynamic all season long -- they're both independently finding out what their purposes are, which inherently redefines what their relationships are with each other.

“As for Nancy, she very much wants to find love,” she teased in closing. “I think she deserves it. This is quite the season for it. It's ripe for the opportunity, so we'll see.”

Nancy Drewis telecast Fridays at 9 p.m. on The CW. It is also available to stream at CWTV.com and on the CW app the following day.

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