If a movie or show has a female protagonist, chances are Mckenna Grace played a younger version of them. At only 16, she has more acting credits than many folks who’ve been in the industry for decades.
When she isn’t acting in childhood flashbacks or alongside A-listers like Chris Evans, Grace deals with very regular 16-year-old problems: Diet Coke addiction, an intense Minecraft obsession and lots of social anxiety, the subject of her new single, “Post Party Trauma.”
Grace may be sunshine personified, but she channeled her dark side for the Olivia Rodrigo-esque piano ballad.
In anticipation of the song’s release, the Emmy-nominated star chatted with PAPER about breaking into the music scene as a child actor, which of her characters relates most to “Post Party Trauma” and what song would save her from Vecna.
What does “Post Party Trauma" mean to you?
I wrote this song because I went to a couple of parties for work and I felt like the biggest loser in the room. I cried on the way home and at home both times. I just decided I'm really upset, so I'm going to write a song about it because I know I'm not the only person.
From the song to the cover art for “Post Party Trauma,” I'm getting “drivers license” vibes. Is this your “drivers license”?
It's always cool to be compared to an artist that is so big and amazing, and somebody that everybody looks up to right now. I don't know if I would say it's my “drivers license” per se because I think that’s more of a break-up type of thing. But if we're talking blowing up like “drivers license,” hey man, I'll take it [laughs].
Most people know you from your acting career, but all it takes is a quick scroll through your socials to see that you’ve been singing for a long time, as well. Was singing or acting your first love?
Nowhere in the world am I happier than whenever I'm on set acting or whenever I'm in the studio writing and creating music. Those are my two happiest places. It’s especially cool getting to do music because I feel like the only way in acting that people really get to know you is through interviews or social media. I find that [music] is sharing a much more personal side of myself.
Is there a character that you've played that would relate to “Post Party Trauma” a lot?
Oh my gosh, I'm playing a character right now and it's a totally crazy true crime story. In one of the original scripts, I went to a party and then I ended up crying next to a dumpster. I'm so sad they wrote that out of the script.
You wrote an entire script with your dad. Would you ever consider letting him in the writer’s room for your music? Or is that off-limits?
I don't know about him in the writer’s room for my music. My dad cannot carry a tune at all [laughs].
You have a very clean image. Does that make it more difficult when you get into darker, more difficult topics in your music?
Whenever I cursed in my song, “You Ruined Nirvana,” people were like, “I thought you were wholesome content only, that wasn't very PG of you,” and I'm like, “Guys, guys, I'm sorry.”
I’ve seen a ton of comparisons between you and Emma Watson. What do you think about that?
That makes me so happy because I feel like she’s totally up there of someone who I would love to be like. I feel like she has a really nice, classy image and she speaks up for things that she believes in, so totally somebody that I would love to strive to be like [sips a Diet Coke].
Oh my gosh, I love Diet Coke. I'm such a Diet Coke girly.
I was clean off of Diet Coke for almost a year and now I'm back addicted. There was a time where there was like five cans of Diet Coke a day because it's such an addiction. And now I'm getting back in that place and I'm not I'm not here for it. But also I am.
I'm kind of here for it.
I was trying to make a TikTok to promote my song today and I was like, “I cannot. My head is throbbing,” and I'm like, “Oh, it's because I haven't had a Diet Coke.”
You've worked alongside some amazing actors — Octavia Spencer, Chris Evans, Paul Rudd — but do you have a dream music collaboration in mind?
I actually got this little book the other day that my mom gave me and it says “200 lists about me” and it gives you a little prompt. The other day, it was like, “What do you wish to accomplish in five years?” and one of them on there was to do a collaboration with someone in music because that would be so cool to be able to have someone else to sing with, somebody else to write with. It's just hard to think of collaborations. I really love Lizzy McAlpine. And who would not want to do something with Phoebe Bridgers or Mitski.
Loves of my life.
I love them.
I also have to ask because you're Finn [Wolfhard]'s on-screen sister: are you a Stranger Things fan?
Absolutely. I watched this season with my dad. I got put on shut down on my production because somebody got COVID for like a week. And so my dad and I just binged it.
What song would save you from Vecna?
I love that question. I've been seeing it all over TikTok and I'm like, “Oh, what song would save me from Vecna?” I have so many favorite songs.
Besides, obviously, “Post Party Trauma” would save you from Vecna.
No, then Vecna and I would just have a sad girl moment.
Crying on the floor together, yeah.
I was gonna say a Radiohead song, but if I'm listening to “Exit Music (For a Film)” or “No Surprises” while I'm trying to run away from Vecna then I'm just gonna give up. That would be too depressing.
Is there anything else that you wanted to say to the world about “Post Party Trauma”?
This song isn't a way for me to put it out and be like, “Oh, poor me, I’m sad and I have anxiety. Feel bad for me.” That’s my biggest fear and the scariest thing about putting out music about these personal things that have been bouncing around my head like the little DVD screen.
It's really so that people have something to listen to and relate to because that’s what music is for me. I had a really rough point in my life and I constantly had one airpod in my ear. Music really saved me and got me out of that place. It's just as simple as that. There's no ulterior motive.
On a lighter note, it’s come to my attention that you really enjoy Minecraft. If you were a Minecraft block, what block would you be?
So I mean, there's birch wood and spruce, which are pretty swaggy. Those are my two favorite woods. Or I really like the new flowery mossy blocks. Those are pretty fun.
I totally love that. 10/10 answer.
That makes me happy because this is my screen. [Shows her Minecraft-themed phone homescreen].
I love it.
It's too much... an obsession at this point. I feel like I seem insane, but it's just so fun. Who cares? I don't care that I'm 16 and I sleep with like 10 Minecraft stuffed animals. It makes me happy.
Photos courtesy of Gus Black