After making a name for herself with a slew of well-received indies, Mackenzie Davis scored a hit show, Halt and Catch Fire, and a part in Ridley Scott’s forthcoming sci-fi blockbuster The Martian. But at 5’10” the Canadian actress is already used to life at great heights.
Lately Brooklyn-based actress Mackenzie Davis has been in a hurry to catch the train into Manhattan, but not because she’s prone to running late. The leggy blonde’s face is plastered all over her local subway station in promos for her show, Halt and Catch Fire. “Last year the billboards were silhouettes of people walking, so when I went to my subway station I didn’t feel funny. But today I was walking past and it was just my face, so I walked quickly past it.”
In the AMC hit, which just wrapped its second season, the 27-year-old actress plays Cameron Howe, a feisty programming wizard in the throes of the PC boom of the early 80s. She may not be a tech geek in real life, but Davis is admittedly geeky “in an entomological way.” She’s prone to watching documentaries about ant hierarchies and making crafts out of rodent bones. “I get really focused on these insular, tedious tasks, like collecting insects or coaxing a squirrel to be under my control. I’m trying to figure out what adults do with vague interest and little knowledge.”
This fall, the actress takes on the mother of all geeky roles: a NASA employee tasked with bringing an astronaut (Matt Damon) home from Mars in Ridley Scott’s latest epic, The Martian. Davis is yet to meet Damon because “he was on Mars the whole time” (Scott shot the NASA scenes first and the Mars scenes afterwards), but she does share the screen with heavy-hitters Chiwetel Ejiofor (“he’s the chillest”), Kristen Wiig and Jeff Daniels. The sci-fi flick was Davis’ first blockbuster and it offered a radically different experience than filming offbeat rom coms like What If and That Awkward Moment. “Ridley Scott keeps strict 10-hour days. To work anything less than a 14-hour day is insane. There were so many scenes that were one or two takes and he’s like, ‘We’ve got it!’” Working with a seasoned director as steadfastly decisive as Scott is a pleasure, but it also has its setbacks. “It’s terrifying because you’re like, ‘My face is going to be so big on the screen and they only did it once!’”
But Davis is never one to back away from a challenge. For our Vs. shoot, she proves once again that she’s an actress who is, literally, up for anything, fearlessly posing on the 20th floor of Jean Nouvel’s new Chelsea construction site. With her quick wit and girl-next- door good looks, there’s little wonder why big name directors like Scott have taken notice of Davis. And as her star continues to rise, she’s quickly becoming accustomed to the idea of being seen as an object of desire. “I’m super down for people to think that.”
Words Allyson Shiffman — Photography Kenneth Willardt — Styling Vibe Dabelsteen