Who Is The CW’s New Nancy Drew, Kennedy McMann?

Nancy Drew is one of the most prolific literary characters. The young sleuth was featured in more than 50 books, and has been portrayed in films and television series form the ‘30s until now, and many that never made it to air. The CW is reinventing Nancy Drew yet again. In the new series this fall, Kennedy McMann plays a high school Nancy Drew who has retired from crime-solving, until she becomes embroiled in a new mystery that pulls her back in.

Kennedy McMann as Nancy Drew
Nancy Drew — “Pilot” — Pictured: Kennedy McMann as Nancy — Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Kennedy McMann is a new face. You may have seen her on an episode of Gone or Law & Order: SVU, but Nancy Drew is the first time she’s playing the lead character on a show. McMann spoke with the Television Critics Association, so here’s your cheat sheet on the new star of Nancy Drew before it premieres Wednesday, October 9 at 9 p.m. on The CW.

Kennedy McMann grew up in the midwest and southwest doing theater

Born in Holland, MI, Kennedy McMann grew up in Arizona. Beginning when she was nine, she used acting to cope with OCD.

“I got into theater and it became therapy for me,” McMann said. “At nine I would go to rehearsal and for those three or four hours, I got to replace my brain with somebody else’s. It was something where I could escape my problems and have somebody else’s different problems and it was such a relief to me and became one of my therapies.”

Kennedy McMann
Kennedy McMann attends The CW’s Summer 2019 TCA Party | Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

McMann dealt with OCD and anxiety throughout her life.

“Definitely anxiety is a part of my life, and through college, it definitely came up in higher stress situations,” McMann said. “I feel like a lot of actors and creative types are people that have anxiety. I feel like it’s all too common, but I think it’s something that thrives in a creative mind.”

Jessica Alba inspired Kennedy McMann

While Kennedy McMann was exploring the healing power of theater, a very famous actor gave her the hope that she could make it too.

Kennedy McMann
Kennedy McMann speaks at the “Nancy Drew” exclusive screening and panel during 2019 Comic-Con International | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

“I remember growing up, I read this article, this interview that Jessica Alba wrote or spoke to,” McMann said. “She talked about having OCD as a kid and I was maybe 12. I will never forget how that made me feel because I was so scared. I was like what if I’m not going to be able to become an actor because of this? To read that was so fulfilling that I knew. Oh, she can do it so I can do that too. If I could do that for somebody else, that would mean the world to me.

Acting fulfills a new role in Kennedy McMann’s adult life

As Kennedy McMann’s career evolved, acting took on more characteristics in addition to therapeutic purposes.

“It’s been a lot of things,” McMann said. “It’s definitely a creative outlet. It’s a way for me to live out fantasies I’ll never be able to live out in my real life. So yeah, a lot of things.”

Kennedy McMann never waited tables

Many struggling actors wait tables to get by. Kennedy McMann never did. She nannied instead. “It’s serving in a different way,” McMann said.

Kennedy McMann in Nancy Drew
Nancy Drew — “Pilot” — Pictured: Kennedy McMann as Nancy -| Robert Falconer/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The first time McMann ever waitressed was playing Nancy Drew.

“I always wanted to but I didn’t,” McMann said. “It’s just kind of dreamy, isn’t it? It’s like wannabe actor waiting tables in New York City.”

Filming ‘Nancy Drew’ was graduate school for Kennedy McMann

Being a guest star couldn’t prepare Kennedy McMann for doing her own show. The director of the first episode of Nancy Drew was patient enough to teach her and prepare her for a whole season.

“Larry Tang really took the time during the pilot to be my guide and be a coach to me while being still so honoring what I was bringing to the table but really took the time to teach as well because I was very new,” McMann said. “I’ve been doing theater for a long, long time but TV was newer.”

Nancy Drew — “Pilot” — Pictured: Kennedy McMann as Nancy | Robert Falconer/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Now McMann feels at home on the set of Nancy Drew.

“Honestly, it’s magical for me,” McMann said. “That energy that’s on set, it incites some[thing]. Just everybody working towards this one goal, it’s really beautiful.”

Kennedy McMann was ready to play Nancy Drew long before The CW

Kennedy McMann was immersed in Nancy Drew her whole life. 

“I come from a super literary family,” McMann said. “My mom’s an author. I grew up reading the books”

Kennedy McMann in Nancy Drew
Nancy Drew — “Pilot” — Pictured: Kennedy McMann as Nancy Drew |
Robert Falconer/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

When she’d exhausted all the books, McMann played Nancy Drew computer games so she could hone her mystery-solving skills. 

“I played the computer games all through college,” McMann said. “I was, like, hogging the family computer when I was a kid, and then it just became my laptop, when I was, like, 19. They’re the Her Interactive Nancy Drew mystery games. [I solved them] on the hardest level, I had to or else who am I?”

Kennedy McMann nailed the ‘Nancy Drew’ audition

Auditioning for the title character on a network series would be daunting for any actor, let alone one who’s never done a recurring role on television before. Yet Nancy Drew felt natural to Kennedy McMann.

Nancy Drew
Nancy Drew — “Pilot” –Pictured (L-R): Leah Lewis as George, Maddison Jaizani as Bess, Kennedy McMann as Nancy and Pamela Sue Martin as Harriet | Robert Falconer/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“In some ways, the material, when I read it for the first time, I had this very sudden realization that this is my voice,” McMann said. “It felt like it was written for me. So in that way, there was a bit of ease because it just sat really well in my body. But the casting process is long. There’s a lot of phases of it and I knew that there was a lot of people up for the role, so in that way it was tricky.”

Fame won’t change Kennedy McMann

Nancy Drew is looking like a hit. It’s going to make Kennedy McMann a household name, but she promises she’s still going to remain a grounded, humble person. The people in her life will make sure of it.

“For me, it’s definitely been my parents and my fiance,” McMann said. “They’re all so incredibly supportive and have always reminded me who I am and given me the support that I needed.”

McMann also takes care of herself so Hollywood will never take over.

Kennedy McMann as Nancy Drew
Nancy Drew — Pictured: Kennedy McMann as Nancy | Kharen Hill/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“I am very health-minded,” McMann said. “I make sure that I’m eating really well and I do a lot of yoga and meditation when I have downtime. It just kind of keeps your mind from getting frazzled because it is long days, a lot of people, a lot of social interaction.”

Now McMann just has to wait and see what happens this October.

“It’s a lot of different things,” she said. “It’s nerve-wracking. It’s extremely exciting. I feel like I have a pinch myself moment every day. It can be overwhelming and also just full of love. We have amazing people in our cast and our crew so being with them and doing this with them is just really exciting and lovely and it feels like we’re actively building these memories as we put the show on its feet.”