Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts

Sean P. Means: ‘What If’ co-star Mackenzie Davis is on a hot streak

By Sean P. Means

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Aug 13 2014 05:13 pm • Last Updated Aug 15 2014 01:04 pm

In 2014, Mackenzie Davis has been everywhere and all at once — though the way moviegoers have experienced the actress’s meteoric rise isn’t how she has experienced it.

"It’s weird," Davis said of talking about performances she committed to film many months earlier, "because [acting is] a very specific emotional thing, in the great sense of that word. … It’s probably a learned skill."

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Moviegoers first got a look at Davis this January in "That Awkward Moment," playing Chelsea, a randy wingwoman for Miles Teller’s pick-up artist, Daniel. This spring brought "Breathe In," with Davis as a high-school grad who sees her father (Guy Pearce) becoming attracted to an exchange student (Felicity Jones). This summer, AMC debuted the series "Halt and Catch Fire," with Davis playing a computer hacker who works for, and sleeps with, a charismatic start-up founder (Lee Pace).

This weekend, Davis again can be seen in theaters as a supporting player to Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in the romantic comedy "What If."

On Davis’ timeline, things are a little more mixed up. "Breathe In" was her first major movie role, and it debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival — more than a year before it was released. "What If" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, under a different title — "The F Word" — that the MPAA vetoed for U.S. theaters. In contrast, "Halt and Catch Fire" wrapped its first season last April and premiered just months later.

"It’s funny how fast TV goes, compared to film," Davis said in a recent phone interview from her Brooklyn apartment.

"What If" was also filmed in Toronto, which was convenient for the Canadian-born Davis.

"I was fleeing the [United States] because my visa expired," she said. "It was wonderful. I’ve never worked in Canada. I left after university." (Davis grew up in Vancouver, B.C., and attended McGill University in Montreal.)

She auditioned for the lead role, an animator named Chantry, but it had already been filled by Kazan ("Ruby Sparks"). Instead, director Michael Dowse ("Goon") met Davis about playing another character, Nicole.

"We had a lovely lunch together," Davis recalled. "We had ice cream sundaes."

story continues below
story continues below

In "What If," Nicole hooks up with Allan (Adam Driver), the college roommate of Radcliffe’s character, Wallace. Their love affair moves quickly, in marked contrast to the hesitancy between Wallace and Chantry.

Nicole is funny, which Davis said was one of the character’s more appealing aspects. "She’s very unrestrained by anybody’s expectations. … She’s an iconoclast 100 percent of the time."

Working with Driver, who stars on HBO’s "Girls" and has been cast in the seventh "Star Wars" movie, was a plus, Davis said.

"I never met Adam until our first day," she said. The scene, set during a karate match, had the two young lovers making out in the bleachers. "We were having to have our hands and mouths all over each other," she said, adding that the lack of rehearsal "makes you not overthink these things. You don’t have time to feel trepidations."

Working with Driver has another advantage: He’s 6-foot-3, closer to Davis’ height, a long and lean 5-foot-10, than Radcliffe and Kazan, who are 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-4, respectively. (Her "Halt and Catch Fire" love interest, Pace, is 6-foot-4, and Teller, with whom she shared scenes in "That Awkward Moment," is 6 feet tall. "Either I’m lucky, or I’m not getting parts I don’t know about," she said.)

Something else Davis’ roles have had in common: a healthy attitude about sexuality. In "What If," Nicole and Allan make out regularly and in every possible location. In "That Awkward Moment," Davis’ character, Chelsea, is refreshingly guilt-free about being sexually active.

"It’s such a simple, obvious thing that people have sex lives," Davis said. "It’s an essential part of everybody’s life that I know. Isn’t it funny that by virtue of [‘What If’] being progressive, it’s revealing of how regressive most movies are?"

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Follow him on Twitter, @moviecricket. Email him at spmeans@sltrib.com.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.