True love conquers all? Nancy Drew star Kennedy McMann opened up about the long road ahead for the title character and Ace (Alex Saxon) as they try to fight for their future together in the final season of the show.
“They have a very unexpected journey ahead. I think it’ll surprise a lot of people. It’s not necessarily going to be a structure that anyone anticipates in terms of how they go about dealing with their new reality,” the actress, 26, exclusively told Us Weekly about the duo’s complicated love story. “It results in a lot of emotional turmoil for the both of them.”
During the season 4 premiere, which aired on Wednesday, May 31, Ace found out that Nancy’s ancestor Temperance created a curse which prevents him and Nancy from acting on their feelings for each other. The revelation came after Nancy previously rejected Ace in the season 3 finale without clueing him in on the issue.
McMann noted that fans should expect a “super raw” trajectory for Nancy and Ace as they attempt to work around the obstacle.
“They both are super raw in their love for each other and their incredible pain surrounding this inability to be together. So, I think it makes them both a little irrational at times,” she told Us. “It’s really interesting to see them contend with this high intensity emotion that they’re both experiencing and [how they] so deeply need each other. But at the same time, they are so at odds with each other in terms of how to go about dealing with it.”
Nancy, however, will find herself in a new place emotionally as she finally accepts her feelings for her best friend.
“She is really soft this season in a way that is such a great product of her growth from season 1. And it’s so beautiful to watch her — despite, obviously the tragic circumstances — be so present and vulnerable. … Her deep yearning and her sadness and her care,” McMann detailed. “This is the first time — obviously, she’s got great close relationships with her parents and she loves her friends — but this is a love and a care that she’s never experienced before and it’s overwhelming to her. It’s the first time she’s encountered that sort of emotion [and] feeling bigger than herself.”
The Good Lawyer star praised the progress Nancy has made when it comes to channeling her emotions, adding, “It’s really beautiful to watch her contend with that. Especially knowing where she comes from in season 1 as someone who’s very hard and jaded and emotionally closed off.”
Nancy Drew, which debuted on The CW in 2019, introduced the iconic detective as she started to explore the supernatural mysteries in Horseshoe Bay, Maine, while dealing with the loss of her mother. The main character developed an unexpected connection with her coworker and best friend Ace — but McMann wasn’t completely surprised by the romantic twist.
“We definitely were expecting it — just because of that library scene [in season 1],” she told Us, referring to the sparks between Nancy and Ace as they dug into Dead Lucy’s death. “Then [Alex and I] discussed [it] because we get along and work together really well and enjoy doing that. We were like, ‘Oh, this could work great.’”
For the Carnegie Mellon alum, it was “very clear” that Ace was “perfect” for Nancy from the very beginning.
“Then I think the first time I brought it up to [executive producer] Noga Landau was when we were shooting episode 16 in season 1, and I got a little sense from her that there was something percolating,” she teased
McMann told Us that she “made it [her] mission” to make sure there were “little moments” between the two characters that fans could latch onto. “[Even] in subtle ways that weren’t necessarily scripted — just in case they decided to go that direction [so] that it would feel supported,” she explained. “So, when people looked back on the show — because I don’t know necessarily if it was always the plan — I wanted people to have stuff to look back on and see those two characters falling for each other as early on as possible. Because that’s so satisfying and the coolest thing about long-term ships.”
The Michigan native went on to gush about her collaborative process with Saxon, 35, over the seasons.
“We are so fortunate to be really compatible actors in that we work in very similar ways and we’ve built such a trust with one another that has allowed us to be really vulnerable and try things. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I hope he feels the same in that I always felt safe to try and do anything and I knew he would have my back,” McMann shared with Us. “And that is such a huge gift as a fellow actor. So, we were really lucky to build upon that base of trust [and] to go and try different things and really do the best we could developing these characters and developing their story.”
As season 4 kicked off, Nancy and Ace couldn’t avoid their feelings for each other. However, in the premiere, viewers were introduced to a potential new love interest for Nancy named Tristan. McMann hinted that the newcomer would play an unexpected role in the show’s final season.
“Nancy and Ace fans always have things to worry about,” the Tell Me Lies star joked in response to a question about whether fans should be concerned about Tristan. “But yeah, Tristan is a very interesting addition to the cast this season and adds a really interesting dynamic in very unexpected ways. I really don’t think that audiences will have him completely figured out until finale. So, he’s very intriguing and a really critical part of the story this season, so we shall see how it all plays out.”
Meanwhile, Nancy will continue to surprise the audience as she faces a new chapter in her life — with McMann encouraging them to pay attention to one decision in particular.
“Nancy does one particular thing that is quite surprising. I think her reasoning will make sense to people — but she’s definitely entering a new era. She feels more like a grown-up this season in a lot of ways,” she said. “She’s gone through so much emotionally over the course of the last four seasons, and she’s really learned how to rely on her friendships and pick herself up by her bootstraps and do things that are surprising. She’s really learned how to balance her principles with protecting people in her life. I think it all kind of stems from there, but it’s a really interesting journey.”
Nancy Drew is all “about identity,” and fans should expect the lead’s journey of self-discovery to intertwine with the big mystery at the center of season 4.
“This season is about her discovering a lot. I mean, the whole show in a way is about identity,” she teased. “But this season is so much about history and ancestry and figuring out where you come from and what you can do to add positively to the story of your family and your history and the community that you come from. I think that’s a big part of her journey and a big part of her becoming the woman that she wants to be.”
The Law and Order: SVU alum also discussed how the last arc will shape the main message of the series, which is one of “hope and encouragement” in even the most challenging times.
“[Also that] life comes with moments of great suffering, trial, loss and grief, but that there’s still good everywhere around you,” McMann shared. “It is possible to feel happiness again and to find community when you feel like you’ve lost it. I really think that the whole series is a huge message of hope that things will always get better and that there are people that will always believe you’re worth fighting for.”
According to McMann, season 4 will deliver a satisfying conclusion to the beloved show.
“In terms of how the series ends — without spoiling anything — I think it will be unexpected in a lot of ways. But I am very happy with it and I think it was handled with great care by the writers and they did justice to the series,” she hinted to Us. “It was really such a gift to be able to bring all these characters to a solid conclusion and to do that for the fans, but also for us. I feel like I put Nancy to bed in a way that felt really good and gave me a lot of personal closure and that’s such a gift.”
As McMann reflected on her experience with Nancy Drew, she praised the fans for the commitment and love they displayed the show via social media.
“It is the only reason I have a Twitter and it will keep me there as long as there are people there tweeting the absolute beloved nonsense that our community is known for. I’ve been so fortunate to have the best and funniest people [as fans] that I really believe I would be friends with in real life and have a ball with,” she gushed. “It makes my job so much better and richer and fuller to have it so carefully enjoyed. And everyone’s so imaginative — it’s really exceptional. It’s a huge gift and is a massive identifying factor of the show for me. When I think back on this, I know our time on Twitter will be a huge thing [and] at the top of my memory list.”
Nancy Drew airs on The CW Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.