Mckenna Grace: ‘Bad Seed’ character still ‘totally evil’

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Mckenna Grace returns as “The Bad Seed” Emma. Photo courtesy of Lifetime

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 5 (UPI) — Mckenna Grace, who co-wrote and reprises her role in The Bad Seed Returns, premiering Monday on Lifetime, says there’s no ambiguity about her character, Emma.

“Emma’s totally evil,” Mckenna, 16, said in a recent Television Critics Association panel. “It’s what makes her fun and exciting.”

Mckenna was 12 when she starred in the 2018 Lifetime remake The Bad Seed. Returns finds Emma in high school, living with her aunt, Angela (Michelle Morgan).

Emma terrorizes Angela’s husband, Robert (Benjamin Ayres). But, new high school classmate Kat (Ella Dixon) arrives and threatens Emma.

Kat has done her research and suspects Emma is behind the tragedies from the first Bad Seed. Ella said she agreed that Emma is no ordinary high school mean girl.

“Kat knows Emma from before, knows all about her dark secrets, knows that Emma’s a psychopath and knows that she’s murdered people,” Ella told UPI in a recent phone interview. “In this film, Kat is definitely out to get Emma and out to reveal her secrets to the world.”

Emma and Kat’s confrontation becomes physical in one scene in which Kat slaps her enemy. Ella said it was an old-fashioned camera trick that made the slap look painful.

“I stand a little farther away from Mckenna than I would,” Ella said. “It was really on McKenna to sell the slap, and I think she did a really great job.”

Mckenna, who co-wrote The Bad Seed Returns with her father, Ross Burge, said they are writing three more projects together.

“We were just sitting over COVID,” McKenna said. “And we were like, ‘We should write something together.'”

Mckenna said she and her father chose the Bad Seed sequel because they knew Lifetime was interested in one. Filming her own screenplay gave Mckenna an experience she’d never had in her career.

“It wasn’t my interpretation of someone else’s writing or character,” Mckenna said. “It was me being able to act out the scenes as I had envisioned them.”

To get back into character as Emma, Mckenna made a playlist, something she learned from working with Elisabeth Moss on The Handmaid’s Tale.

“It was a lot of classical music,” Mckenna said.

Ella also utilizes music playlists for The Bad Seed Returns and other roles.

“I watched a lot of Euphoria leading up to filming just to get that dark vibe,” Ella said. “So a lot of Labrinth, some Billie Eilish.”

Mckenna has been acting since the 2012 Disney series Crash & Bernstein. She’s been on shows like The Young and the Restless, The Haunting of Hill House and Designated Survivor and movies like Gifted, Annabelle Comes Home and Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The Bad Seed Returns is only Ella’s second role after an episode of Two Sentence Horror Stories. Ella said she estimated she auditioned for 30 parts before landing the role of Kat.

“For my first on-set experience to be with someone who’s my age, we really just got to be teenagers happening to make art,” Ella said. “We’d just be regular kids talking about music and video games and stuff like that.”

Ella has lived in Los Angeles and Vancouver, British Columbia, where she is in high school. She said she performed in school plays since she was 5 and studied acting at Cours Florent in Paris and Cynthia Bain’s Young Actors Studio in Los Angeles.

When she was 12, Ella said, she discovered Tatiana Maslany’s performance as clones in Orphan Black. Between Orphan Black and watching Hamilton on stage, she took notice of the craft of acting.

“I really started becoming so fascinated about how actors could just completely transform,” Ella said. “I’m down the rabbit hole and I never want to go back.”

Mckenna said most of her roles have paired her with adult actors. However, getting to do a Bad Seed sequel and the upcoming Ghostbusters sequel will allow her to reunite with cast and crew members for the first time in her career.

“It’s nice to be able to have a little family on set that you can come back to,” Mckenna said.

The Bad Seed Returns airs at 8 p.m. EDT Monday on Lifetime.

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