Thomasin McKenzie, 19, came to fame as a Hollywood actress playing an off-grid character.
Q: You broke out in last year’s Leave No Trace – trailer, playing a teen who lives off the grid in the Oregon forest. Did it teach you anything about disconnecting?
A: I was banned from using my phone for a couple weeks as preparation for the film, which was eye-opening. I’ve always had a conflict with Instagram—it’s an amazing platform to express yourself, but on the other hand, it’s a trigger for a lot of mental illnesses, constantly comparing yourself to people. I learned it doesn’t deserve all your time and energy.
Q:That Debra Granik film still has a rare 100 percent favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes and earned you awards buzz and your choice of Hollywood roles. How do you pick your projects now?
A:I gravitate toward projects that have a strong message led by talented people with really specific visions.
Q: Who’s on your bucket list to work with?
A: Olivia Colman and Rooney Mara. And I love [director] Jane Campion.
Q: Your father is a director and your mother is an acting coach. Was there ever any doubt that you would go into the family business?
A: My parents always made it clear that acting isn’t as it seems in the media—it’s a hard job, and you’re often very vulnerable. At the beginning, I was acting more for pocket money and time off from school. But when I was 13, I did a film called Consent about rape and the abuse of power in the police force, and it made me realize that acting can be a platform to make a difference.
Thomasin McKenzie spoke with V.F.’s Britt Hennemuth