Mackenzie Davis’ landed her first big role in Drake Doremus’ Breathe In, which only hit theaters two years ago, but since, Davis has racked up some pretty impressive credits. She starred opposite Miles Teller in That Awkward Moment, plays Cameron Howe on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire and now she’s got yet another movie coming out, Michael Dowse’s romantic comedy What If.
In the film, Daniel Radcliffe leads as Wallace, a guy who’s absolutely fed up with romance – until he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan). Trouble is, Chantry’s already in a relationship. On top of that, Wallace has to watch his best friend, Allan (Adam Driver), fall head over heels for Nicole (Davis) and have that special connection he’s always wanted. With What If heading towards an August 8th limited release, Davis sat down to talk to us about working on the movie, the choices she made that helped launch her career, her rather unusual hobby, her ideal version of the Fool’s Gold sandwich and more. Catch it all after the jump.
Question: The first I saw of you was in That Awkward Moment and I noticed that on IMDb, your first credit is listed in 2012, so was this career something you had been working towards or did an opportunity just pop up?
MACKENZIE DAVIS: I guess I worked towards this since I was young in that it is something I’ve always wanted to do and always have done. I did not pursue it professionally until after I got my degree from university and then I moved down to New York and then I started pursuing it. But before that it was something that I always thought I would end up doing as a career, but just wasn’t a child actor. I did theater all the time and loved it, and didn’t have a professional bent to my ambition.
At what point did you realize you had what it takes to make it a career?
DAVIS: I did not have that [moment]. [Laughs] I mean, I don’t know, I guess when you get hired for your first job, you’re like, ‘Oh, okay. This is okay,’ but up until the point you get hired, you’re freaking out. The summer before I got my first job, I remember is one of the darkest periods of my life, just in terms of like, I graduated from theater school, I was 24-years-old, I was like, ‘Oh, you’re a loser. You’re never gonna have a job.’ And then I got a job a couple months later and I’m doing the thing I always wanted to do, which is so cool.
Is there any advice you’d give to someone in that position now?
DAVIS: I don’t know. It’s f*cking hard. It’s such a stupid thing, but be so prepared at all times. And also, I did a lot of spending money on stupid things. Like, if I had an audition, I would fly out to it and often times I didn’t get it, but sometimes I did. Like, the call back for Drake [Doremus]’s movie, I was in Montreal visiting a boyfriend and I had just gotten there and they called me and were like, ‘We need you here the next morning,’ and I just turned around, took the night bus and got out of the bus in the morning, walked to my audition and then did my audition. I think you just have to inconvenience yourself all the time for your job.
Can you tell me about getting cast in this one? Was it a standard audition or an offer?
DAVIS: No, I wasn’t offered the role. I auditioned for Chantry – or I guess I was offered the role. I auditioned for Chantry and they had already cast it by the time I auditioned and then Michael Dowse, the director, was in LA and so we met for lunch, I had a lovely time, I had a really delicious ice cream sundae and then I was driving up to Canada because my Visa had expired and I needed to leave the country and, on the road, I got a call and they’re like, ‘If you want to, they want you to play Nicole,’ and I said I did and then I did.
It’s a good thing they were shooting in Canada then.
DAVIS: Yes it was! I always have to go and like, decamp in my parents’ basement for the next two months and I was not looking forward to it.
It’s kind of funny to know you originally auditioned for Chantry because that’s what stands out to me with this movie. It’s a romantic comedy so you might expect to get a bunch of cliché heartthrob-type actors, but here it’s so refreshing to see different personalities.
DAVIS: Yeah, I think so, too! I always feel so cheesy saying this, but I think the most romantic part of the movie is seeing two people become best friends. When you see two people who really love each other, even if it’s people who have no sexual attraction to each other at all, it’s lovely seeing people who adore each other interact and I think Wallace and Chantry really do. And I think Nicole and Allan do, but they do have a lot of sex in their relationship so it’s hard to really say that. But yeah, it’s lovely seeing people get to know each other and be fascinated by each other and become best friends.
How’s it being in both this and That Awkward Moment? I remember when I covered that one, people were constantly asking the guys for relationship advice and I can see how this one might spark something similar. Are people asking you for romance tips at all?
DAVIS: I guess so. I think the funny thing with That Awkward Moment was always, ‘So, you’re in a movie called That Awkward Moment. What was your awkward moment?’ And you’re like, ‘I don’t know. I did my job and then got paid for it. I don’t know.’ [Laughs]
That’s the story of my life right there, trying to avoid those cheesy questions everyone asks over and over!
DAVIS: I’m sure it’s so f*cking hard! Because it’s also a good sound bite. And I guess it’s also my job to learn an interesting answer to that, but I got asked it like 50 times and never thought of a funny answer. It confounded me as much the 50th time as the first. What have people been asking for this movie? I guess just if you can relate to the unrequited love thing, but I don’t mind talking about that because that’s an actual answer. Yeah, everybody can [talk about] having unrequited love. I think it’s quite universal.
It’s also interesting that, at a point, Wallace says out loud that seeing two people fall in love never really happens, but then it does for him and that’s when you’ve got to get behind the idea.
WARNING: There is a plot spoiler in this answer.
DAVIS: Yeah, I think it’s a funny foil. It’s very unrealistic what happens with Allan and Nicole, but it does happen – in the world of fiction. [Laughs] And I think it’s a funny foil that at the end of the movie they have a child and Wallace and Chantry have a kiss. It’s sweet.
I can’t imagine what that child must be like.
DAVIS: Probably like chill as hell and super fun.
And super tall, too!
DAVIS: Yeah, and super tall!
End Spoiler Alert
DAVIS: That was the first time I met him! We just made out the second we met.
That’s a good way to break the ice.
DAVIS: It is! I think it’s fun! I mean, not just making out, which I do think is really fun, but I like being put into very uncomfortable situations and having to swim.
When you were cast in this role was he already on board?
What was the first thing you did when you found out he was the guy playing Allan? Did you look at his past work or anything like that?
DAVIS: I already knew him. He was actually in a play with one of my really good friends and I was like, ‘Adam Driver from Look Back in Anger? He does the best Welsh accent!’ And then everyone was like, ‘No, the star of Girls.’ [Laughs] But then I watched Girls. He’s so lovely, he’s so talented and he’s a wonderful actor and I think so deserving of the enormous amount of success he has. He’s just a great actor.
He’s blowing up right now! Actually, you’ve got quite the on-screen boyfriends there between him in Star Wars and Miles [Teller] in Fantastic Four.
DAVIS: Mhmm. They suck the life out of me and move on. [Laughs]
So when are you gonna get your big superhero part?
DAVIS: I’m fine. I’m quite happy being at this level of like, I have an apartment. That’s really nice.
I was just watching your interview on Conan so I need to know more about this hobby of yours. Can you even still do it here?
DAVIS: I haven’t done it recently just because it requires a bit of set up. I moved here four months ago so …
I don’t even know where you’d get owl pellets around here.
DAVIS: Oh, I have. [Laughs] I have all the bones because I did a big batch of dissolving the owl pellets like, I don’t know, ten months ago or something and so I have a bunch of Tupperware containers with the bones. It just requires an afternoon that I haven’t really put the energy into, but I did recently find a bunch of shark eggs on the beach and made a nice board of all of them, like some little art project. I don’t know. I like monsters. [Laughs]
What are they? Do you build little figures out of them?
DAVIS: No, I can’t do three dimensional ones with the ones I have now because I used bleach and didn’t neutralize it afterwards so they’re still kind of disintegrating, so they’re not very good quality, but they’re just like two dimensional canvases and then it’s like, head, spine and then maybe wings. The funny thing about talking about this is I kind of hope everybody thinks that they’re like these really artistic, amazing things, but they look like a baby made them. [Laughs]
Well now I’m picturing what kids make using macaroni!
DAVIS: It is. Yeah, exactly, it’s that. I don’t know. It’s just a thing I do because I like monsters. That’s the end of it.
Everyone needs a hobby and that’s a really different one so I like hearing about it! Why don’t you have social media? After that interview, the first thing I did was look for you on Twitter because I thought maybe you’d post a picture of one.
DAVIS: [Laughs] I don’t know. I did a Twitter Q&A last night for the Halt and Catch Fire finale and it was so stressful. I was being mean to my loved ones because I was like, ‘Stop talking to me! I’m getting so many questions,’ and just freaking out and I could only answer like five questions because I just was not medicated and freaking out so I don’t think that I have the temperament for it.
DAVIS: It’s just different. It’s really fast paced, which is the thing everybody knows, but it’s quite nice to just be busy for a whole four or five months. Like you really don’t have any downtime and I crave that activity, so I love that. I find the only thing that’s kind of difficult on films is there’s long stretches of time where you’re not doing anything and it’s a learned skill to be really productive in those times. And sometimes you are and sometimes you aren’t. I just think I like the feeling of being productive at all times so I like that about TV, but I have no preference for one over the other. I think they both offer very different magical things.
How was that on this movie? Did you have a lot of downtime because so much of it is Daniel and Zoe?
DAVIS: I came for a chunk of the movie instead of the entire time, so my stuff was all sort of shot in like two and a half weeks or something, but I’d have days off. It’s not the days off that are hard. It’s being on set for 12 hours and not shooting a scene, and I didn’t have a lot of that in this movie, which was really nice.
How do you pass the time when you do?
DAVIS: You read or coerce people into playing long, elaborate word games with you that they will resent you for at the end of the movie, which has been my experience on a couple of them. [Laughs]
What’s your favorite game?
DAVIS: Have you played Botticelli?
I have not. What is it?
DAVIS: Okay, so it’s like the umbrella of 20 questions in that there is a thing that you are guessing towards except in order to guess that ultimate thing, you need to earn your questions by stumping the holder of the final question with riddles.
I’d totally play this!
DAVIS: It’s long and elaborate and it’s really good for movies because it can just go on forever, but I’m its biggest supporter and there are not many people whose enthusiasm matches mine, except there are a lot of people who just want me to leave them alone. But once in a while you’ll find a gem who’s into it as much as you and then, god.
Did you eat any Fools’ Gold on set?
DAVIS: No. I was desperate to. I missed out on every occasion to eat Fool’s Gold and then at the last press day they had some, so I finally had it, but I think it’s really good. Although in an interview earlier I realized, I think that a better version of Fool’s Gold is to cut out the peanut butter because I think peanut butter operates better itself than in concert with other things. If it was just more butter and you could have more of the butter mixing with the jam in this sort of really fatty, sweet mixture and then a bunch of bacon, obviously, and the baguette, I think that that would be like a Fool’s Diamond.
A well-balanced meal right there.
DAVIS: No, I think butter’s very good for you. It was one of the main food groups I grew up on.
Butter and ice cream sundaes. You’ve got the right menu going there.
DAVIS: [Laughs] Yes!
So what’s the plan from here? Is there any particular type of film or person you want to work with that you’re going after?
DAVIS: No, I think I just want to work with really good directors at this point and work with really experienced people, and continue working with lovely people. I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been exposed to a lot of lovely, talented people who are not jerks and I would like to continue that streak.
Sounds like a good plan there. You should get in on Drake’s new movies, Equals. It sounds so interesting!
DAVIS: I know. One of the actors from [Halt and Catch Fire] is doing it. I’m so excited about it for him.
IMDb says you’re working on some shorts, too. Can you tell me about the choice to throw some of those in the mix?
DAVIS: If you look at somebody’s IMDb page and it’s like, 2012, 2013, 2014, it looks like they work so much, but there’s usually like four, six, maybe even two or whatever months in between each project and it sucks not to be active. I don’t just act to pay my rent. I really like doing it, so I get frustrated when I don’t get to do it all the time, so short films are a really great way to be doing it and working with your friends, working on smaller, more specific things without limiting yourself in other ways.
One of those was a co-producer credit. Is that something you’d like to get into more?
DAVIS: Yeah, I think so. I think more than anything, I think I’d really like to start producing and be in charge of the stuff that I want to see in the world and the stuff that interests me. Yeah, I’m interested in figuring out how one does that.