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Mckenna Grace on 'love bombing' — and her big Taylor Swift regret

The Ghostbusters: Afterlife and I, Tonya star is making her big music industry splash

Mckenna Grace in a promotional shot for 'Casual Kisser'
Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
4 August 2023
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At just 17, McKenna Grace is already one of the most established young actors in the industry. She boasts acclaimed credits in 2017's Gifted, 2021's Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and the award-winning series The Handmaid's Tale, plus blockbusters like 2017's I, Tonya (starring a pre-Barbie Margot Robbie) and 2019's Captain Marvel.

If that weren't enough, the precocious teen is also a rising pop star with millions of streams on Spotify and an EP under her belt, Bittersweet 16, released this March. 

It's the start of a new era, though, as she prepares to drop a debut album next year and offers a first taste with lead single 'Casual Kisser', a dedication to the lovestruck who can't seem to find someone else who can take their romantic ambitions seriously enough.

Mckenna Grace in a promotional shot for 'Casual Kisser'© Gus Black
Actress, musician, star on the rise Mckenna Grace

"The song is very true and honest to me," she says in an exclusive conversation with HELLO!. "I'm the kind of person [for whom] dating and kissing is a big deal. If I'm with someone or I'm going to kiss someone, I want it to be special. And I'm honest about that.

"For me, it's about being love bombed into trusting someone and going out of your comfort zone with them, only for them to have not actually been that serious about you. It's funny because I act for a living, but it always surprises me that someone can look at you and just not be honest."

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McKenna cites Olivia Rodrigo as a key musical role model, but says Lana Del Rey was her inspiration for the track, specifically her 2014 song 'Pretty When You Cry'. And the influence is clear in the song, with its confessional lyrics and narrative arcs that verge into singer-songwriter territory. And, yes, there's another 30-something singer McKenna looks up to.

Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Margot Robbie, Mckenna Grace, Caitlin Carver, and Julianne Nicholson, recipients of the Hollywood Ensemble Award for 'I, Tonya,' pose in the press room during the 21st Annual Hollywood Film Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 5, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California© Getty Images
She first broke into the mainstream in 2017's "I, Tonya"

"As typical as it is, Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift, they're fantastic. They're just the best storytellers," she gushed. However, like many others affected by the Ticketmaster debacle (RIP), she wasn't among the throngs at Taylor's massively successful The Eras Tour – although a certain male co-star did catch a show, much to her chagrin.

"I wish! I've been dying to go," she tells us, recounting a recent experience from a film set. "I've just been watching all the little videos. I was working on a set, and Paul Rudd left and went on The Eras Tour, and I was like 'Take me with you!'" The hilarity of the moment wasn't lost on her: "I know! Out of everybody on the cast, Paul's going, what on earth?"

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The star lights up when she begins talking about her upcoming album, saying: "As a person, as a musician, as an artist, this always happens where you put something out and five seconds later, you're already tired of it.

Mckenna Grace attends the "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" New York Premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on November 15, 2021 in New York City© Getty Images
She has received acclaim for her many on-screen credits, including 2021's "Ghostbusters: Afterlife"

"I'm so ready to have new music out there because I feel like it's so different . Hopefully it'll all tell a story, that's what I'm trying to achieve."

McKenna is promising an intimate glimpse into her life, specifically "a lot of heartbreak" ("you write about what you know!") with her debut album, and she's teasing "a new chapter with my music."

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Apart from Taylor, Lana, and the general idea of love, there is one other source of inspiration for the multi-hyphenate talent – Pinterest!

'Casual Kisser' by Mckenna Grace single art© Gus Black
Mckenna's lead single from her debut album, 'Casual Kisser', is out now

"I love Pinterest, and I think that the quotes and images on there are really inspiring, which is funny. So I definitely still use a little bit of that."

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What keeps her going, though, is the sheer joy of creation. "I love working, and I love writing, and I love creating. So I feel like if I'm not on set or in the studio, then I'm doing something else related to it."

Mckenna Grace in a promotional shot for 'Casual Kisser'© Gus Black
"I love working, and I love writing, and I love creating. So I feel like if I'm not on set or in the studio, then I'm doing something else related to it."

Away from the screen and the studio, it's all about the simple things for the young star, who loves watching movies, roller skating, playing the piano, and watching even more movies, adding: "I just got my Letterboxd, and I've already watched about 120 movies this year." And she's ready to write more, watch more, act more, and do it all over again.

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