7 Facts About Thomasin McKenzie That Prove She's One to Watch

Thomasin McKenzie has made a name for herself by starring in blockbuster movies including Jojo Rabbit, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and more recently M. Night Shyamalan's trippy Old. At just 21 years old, the Gen Z actress has already shown just how versatile she can be, taking on a range of roles from a young woodland girl in Leave No Trace to a 15th-century royal in the Netflix hit The King.

And she isn't stopping anytime soon: Thomasin recently worked alongside The Queen's Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy in the new thriller Last Night in Soho, and she is playing Olympic gold medalist Kerri Strug in the upcoming biopic Perfect. Read on to get better acquainted with the up-and-coming star.

She's a Third-Generation Actress

Thomasin started getting major acting roles in her teens, but she had been exposed to acting and filmmaking from a very young age. Her mother, Miranda Harcourt, is an actress and acting coach; her grandmother Dame Kate Harcourt is an actress; and her father, Stuart McKenzie, is a local director.

"I'm a third-generation actress," she said while promoting Jojo Rabbit. "[Acting] is just something that I've learned kind of just being around my family and learning a lot through osmosis."

She Didn't Plan on Becoming an Actress

Despite coming from a family of actors, Thomasin didn't initially grow up thinking she would be an actor herself. "I never wanted to make a career out of acting," she told New Zealand news site The Spinoff. "I remember my grandma asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said every single job I could think of. After doctor, zookeeper, lawyer, vet, model, I finally said, 'but I do NOT want to be an actress.'"

"It's not something I always wanted to do," she said in another interview. "I kind of just fell into it when I was 13 and became really passionate about it." She changed her mind about acting after working on Consent: The Louise Nicholas Story about a real-life New Zealand woman's experiences of sexual assault. "My whole understand of what acting is changed," Thomasin said. "I realized I could tell stories through acting and maybe make a difference somehow."

She Loves Her Home Country

Like many other New Zealanders, Thomasin is a proud Kiwi. After her big-screen role in the Oscar-winning Jojo Rabbit, she returned home to New Zealand for a break between films and to recharge after working internationally.

"I'm always going to come back to New Zealand, because we've got beautiful stories to tell," she told 1 News about her local acting career. "[I want] to support the New Zealand film industry in any way that I can." In the summer of 2021, she starred in the New Zealand film The Justice of Bunny King.

She Visited Important Historical Sites to Prepare For Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit might be a comedy, but Thomasin wanted to ensure that she was being as respectful as possible as she played a character in Nazi Germany. To prepare for the movie, she read The Diary of Anne Frank and watched movies like Schindler's List and Life Is Beautiful.

"I went into the whole project aware that it was something that had to be approached with a lot of care and sensitivity, given the subject matter," she told the LA Times. "Even though it was a comedy, you still had to put the work in. I read a whole lot of books and I did a lot of research . . . It helped me understand all that she had gone through."

To deepen her knowledge, she toured the Jewish quarter in Prague (where the movie was filmed) with a historian and also toured Theresienstadt, a former concentration camp in the Czech Republic.

She Also Watched Mean Girls and Heathers to Prepare For Jojo Rabbit

Thomasin wanted to be respectful when playing a character living in Nazi Germany and did lots of research into Holocaust history. But when she told director Taika Waititi about what she'd done, he suggested she watch some very different movies to help prepare: Mean Girls and Heathers.

"I told Taika and Carthew [Neal], the producer, the research I had done, and he went, 'Oh cool. Yep, nice. Now, watch Mean Girls and Heathers,'" she told Deadline. "So I think from the get-go, Taika was really interested in helping me to look at Elsa in a different, maybe unexpected way, which really opened my eyes to a completely different side of her."

"Watching Heathers and Mean Girls reminded me that while, of course Elsa is a victim, that's not what defines her," she said.

Working on Thriller Movies Excites Her

Prior to her starring roles in Last Night in Soho and Old, Thomasin hadn't worked on projects that veered toward thriller, horror, or the supernatural. But the actress is excited to work on projects across all genres. "It is just the chance to just explore ideas or concepts that I hadn't really thought about before," she said on what types of roles she gravitates toward. "I think these past few years, with being so busy and working on various different projects, it has felt all over the place; my brain's been a bit all over the place."

She Gravitates Toward Strong Characters

When deciding whether to take on a role, Thomasin deeply considers what kind of character they are. More specifically, she looks for strong characters who take control of their stories.

"In the past, women have been portrayed as being pushovers or not as tough and gritty as we really are. I like to play roles where you get a sense of empowerment," she told the LA Times. "I think that's due to the kind of environment I grew up in where my mom has worked really hard and she is a really strong female character."