Mckenna Grace answers the phone in a chipper, slightly-goofy voice, excited to start the interview. She’s a ray of sunshine — sweet, focused, and polite (whenever our connection wavers, she says, “May you repeat the question?”). Only ten years old, she’s already got four years of acting experience under her belt, and she’s just getting started.
Is this the first time you’ve done a press junket like this?
Well, it’s not my first time doing a press junket like this, it’s my first time doing a press junket at all! It’s really fun, and exciting too! But it never ends. I think we’re traveling to a few other places, but I don’t know when! I hope soon.
What was your favorite part, or maybe your least favorite part, about your character?
My favorite part… my favorite part is her cat. And then my least favorite part is… hm, I like everything about Mary!
She’s very sassy.
She is, she is. Maybe that’s what I dislike about her, she’s sassy.
What was your favorite scene to shoot?
Probably the one where I’m playing on the beach, because they actually just videotaped me playing on the beach. And I found two starfish that day!
Out of all the scenes, was there one that was hardest to shoot?
The one where I had to hit Chris, because I actually had to hit him, and that was uncomfortable for me, because I love him. I hated it, his face was all red afterward!
The movie really tackled a lot of different issues while still managing to be funny. Do you have any favorite lines or funniest part?
I loved watching Chris save all of the cats from death. That was my favorite part. My favorite line would have to be… oh, goodness. “He wanted me before I was smart.” I liked that one.
Do you feel the same way about math that Mary does?
I love math. But I have nothin’ on Mary when it comes to math.
Is it your favorite subject?
What kind of math are you studying now?
Fractions, long division, adding and subtracting fractions… I don’t even know right now!
How do you balance school and acting?
[Going to school while acting] is easier, because I can just sit down and knock out a lot of homework. And I like to be able to do homework in my PJs with my mom.
What do you hope that people will take away from the film?
Well, I hope that they understand — I hope that they find the message that people might tell you that the perfect family has to have money, and a big home, a mom and a dad and a kid and a pet, but that may not be the perfect family for you. The perfect family for you could be… maybe you have one mom, or one dad, or two moms, or two dads. You live with a friend or an uncle, just like Mary does. But at the end of the day, the perfect family for you is the people you love and who love you and who you care about.
You’ve been acting for about four years already. What was your first role?
A commercial in Texas at the YMCA.
And is that how you figured out you wanted to do this?
Nooo, I figured out I wanted to do this from the Peewee Herman show, and Shirley Temple.
What’s your favorite part about being an actor?
Meeting new people. I love getting to meet new people every day, whenever I go to get to work. I love making new friends… honestly, I love everything about acting!
Speaking of new friends, what was it like working with Chris Evans and Octavia Spencer?
Oh, they were wonderful. Octavia, she’s just such a kind spirit. She’s one of the most genuinely kind people I’ve ever met. And she buys me Girl Scout cookies, which I absolutely love her for. But I love her just because she’s a great person, and so is Chris. He’s a wonderful person — he’s very sweet, and he does a lot of great things.
Do you want to keep acting when you grow up?
I see myself doing acting whenever I’m older. I really want to do acting. But I also want to own an animal sanctuary where I can save animals and help them.
I love animals.
So do I!
What’s your favorite?
(Pause) Can I name my top three favorite animals?
You absolutely can.
(Giggles) okay. Number one, a unicorn. Number two, a cat. And number three, llamas and alpacas.
What kind of parts would you like to play in the future? What would be your dream role?
Oh, goodness! Probably a character in a Tim Burton movie. A main character in one of those. I love his movies. I love Edward Scissorhands, but I also love The Corpse Bride. That one’s my absolute favorite.
I’ll have to watch it.
You’ve never seen it?! Oh, you’ve gotta watch it! You have to watch it tonight.
Out of all the parts you’ve gotten to play so far, what’s been your favorite?
What’s the hardest part of acting in a movie like this?
I don’t think any of it was hard. It doesn’t really seem like work to me. It was fun.
Thanks for talking with me! I loved Gifted — I cried three times.
I don’t want to make you cry!
No, it’s a good sign! It means you’re a good actress.
Okay, okay good. (giggles) Thank you.