Meet Mackenzie Hancsicsak of THIS IS US
With a stellar ensemble, innovative storytelling and writing that hits the heart, NBC’s This Is Us is being touted as the season’s biggest breakout series. The first episode alone brought in more than 10 million views, and Variety has called the show a “game-changer” for its weekly average of 15 million viewers. Critics seem to agree with viewers: In its first season, the show was nominated for three Golden Globes and won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama.
So what makes This Is Us so captivating? Even the cast and crew are still trying to understand the surprising wave of support that’s swept through America. Anyone who has seen the show, however, can attest to a powerful cast that’s managed to feel as real on screen as the friends and family in our own lives. The performances bring tears as quickly as they bring laughter, and the actors hold nothing back as they leave their heart and soul on the table with each scene.
Caught up in this phenomenal opening season is Santa Clarita’s own Mackenzie Hancsicsak, the spunky little 9-year-old who plays Young Kate. A dedicated Girl Scout and lover of theatre, Mackenzie’s heart is just as big as you’d imagine it’d have to be to keep up with a show like this. And her family and support system is just as strong. While Mackenzie sees stark differences between her and her character, at the end of the day, she’s just a regular kid trying to figure things out – much like the cast of TV’s next biggest hit.
élite Magazine sits down with Santa Clarita’s little star from the huge hit: This Is Us
élite Magazine: How did you first get
interested in acting?
Mackenzie Hancsicsak: When I was 6 years old, we went to see a play at Canyon Theatre Guild called “Seussical the Musical.” There was a girl in the show who was 10 years old, and I thought, “I would like to do that.”
Melinda Hancsicsak (Mother): Mackenzie and I have been seeing plays together for years. It’s always sort of been our thing. We try to see everything we can together. When she expressed interest, I thought, “Well let’s try acting. Theatre is more disciplined.” Mackenzie’s always had lots of energy and loved singing and dancing. Performance seemed like a natural fit.
é: How did you land the part as Young Kate on This Is Us?
Melinda Hancsicsak: Last summer, Mackenzie was in a summer acting camp at Canyon Theatre Guild called Munchkin Mediation in Oz. Her agent called and told me about the audition for This Is Us.
Mackenzie: I probably had been to two auditions before I went for This Is Us. They asked me to try lines with different emotions: happier, angrier, faster, slower. And I was in there a long time.
Melinda: By the time she was in there for 40 minutes, the other parents all started looking at me. I had no idea what was going on. But we got the callback. They said they wanted a more natural style of acting, and it was great that she didn’t have a lot of experience with acting classes.
Melinda: At the call back, Mackenzie embarrassed me.
Mackenzie: My mom loves Ken Olin (Director, Executive Producer), so I told him: “My mom’s in love with you.” And she said: “I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again, so I’m taking a hug.”
é: What was the first day on set like?
Melinda: They threw her in right from day one. Her first scene was with Mandy Moore (Rebecca), when she tucks Mackenzie in and talks to her about her day at school.
é: What do you love most about being on the show?
Mackenzie: All the actors and actresses because they are very nice and sweet and fun. I like my TV brothers and my TV mom and dad. I have a half-brother, Brent, but he lives in Canada. So it’s fun to have brothers on the show.
é: What are your cast mates like off set?
Mackenzie: In the show, Randall is closest to our mom, I’m closest to our dad, and Kevin is closest to me. So my TV dad and mom spend a lot of time with me running lines or having lunch.
Melinda: Milo (Ventimiglia) is a lot like his character, Jack. He’s sensitive and sweet, and he spends one-on-one time with Mackenzie to help her learn.
Mackenzie: He cares a lot about his TV kids.
é: What was your favorite scene?
Mackenzie: The Madonna birthday party scene. I got to have a funky hairstyle and dress up.
Melinda: They asked her if she knew who Madonna was, and she said no. So they listened to her music during her wardrobe fitting, and Milo practiced voguing with her.
é: What’s the most challenging part of your role?
Mackenzie: The emotions. I can do happy! But it’s hard to be anything else. So my TV dad helps me try it different ways. He said, “To be a good actor, you have to be a good listener. It’s safe for you to learn here. They’ll just use the best take.”
Melinda: He’s very encouraging and is helping her learn more improv acting.
é: Do you relate to your character?
Mackenzie: It’s hard to relate to her when people were mean to her because I have friends at school who run up to me and say hi. But I’m close to my dad like she is.
é: Are you surprised by America’s response to the show?
Mackenzie: People recognize me sometimes, and I get nervous and start blushing.
Melinda: We get a lot of support from social media – people who reach out to Mackenzie and say they can relate to her character. We’ve even received beautiful fan art. People really seem to connect with her character.
é: What have you learned from being on the show?
Mackenzie: I kind of matured more. I listen to my directors more, and I’m trying new things all the time.
Melinda: We’re very proud of her. She knows how to navigate the lot and is very responsible about her time on set. She’s taken a lot of pride in her work and practiced a lot of patience.
é: With the sky as your limit, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Mackenzie: First choice is an artist. Second choice is a veterinarian. And third choice is an actress.