Rising star Davida McKenzie is carving her own path with a role in a new Apple TV film, and her famous acting family is right behind her, writes Sarah Catherall.
In its review of new Apple TV movie Silent Night, the UK Daily Mail referred to 14-year-old Kiwi actor Davida McKenzie as “a golden find’’. But it was a find that almost didn’t happen – Davida had told her parents from a young age that she wouldn’t go into the acting business.
Usually it’s the child excited about having a career on stage or screen, and the parents expressing reluctance. But Davy, as she’s known, is the youngest in one of New Zealand’s most successful acting families: her parents are Miranda Harcourt and Stuart McKenzie, and her grandmother is Dame Kate Harcourt.
Like any typical 14-year-old, Davy loves hanging out with her friends and making videos on TikTok. With her fine, elfin features, she has been likened to a young Anne Hathaway – and it’s also difficult not to compare her to her older and now-famous sister, actor Thomasin McKenzie.
Davy’s attitude towards acting changed when, through family contacts, she heard about a potential role in Silent Night. After sending in an audition tape, she won the role of 13-year-old Kitty.
Now available to watch on New Zealand screens, the star-studded dark comedy centres on Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode), a privileged couple who live in the English countryside with their three sons. The film follows the family as their college friends and families arrive for a memorable Christmas dinner.
Davy travelled to England for five weeks early in 2020 for filming. Based in London, she was driven to the set in Hertfordshire every day at 5.30am. Between takes she had private tutoring with other child actors in Silent Night, Roman Griffin Davis (who played Jojo in Taika Waititi’s Oscar-winning film Jojo Rabbit) and his younger brothers, twins Hardy and Gilby.
For a few years prior, Davy had followed her sister around the world, accompanying her parents as they took Thomasin to film sets in Europe and the United States. But this time Miranda, an actor, director and acting coach, and Stuart, a writer and director, accompanied Davy for her film debut. They’ve backed her all the way, and have done their best to ensure Davy doesn’t feel overshadowed by her big sister’s success.
Even though the sisters are seven years apart in age, they’re close. Davy sobbed when Thomasin headed to New York this year to shoot a mystery movie – then quickly moved into her old room and redecorated it.
Stuart and Miranda regularly work together. Their most recent film, an adaptation of Margaret Mahy’s novel The Changeover, hit the big screen in 2017, and Thomasin starred in it. The couple are working on another book-to-film adaptation, and shooting will begin at the end of the year.
They have raised their daughters to be able to mix with A-list actors one minute and slip back into Wellington life the next. Miranda proudly promotes Thomasin and Davy’s acting prowess on social media, but is equally chuffed about their down-to- earth personalities – and how they’re each finding their own way in the world.