Mckenna Grace is a revelation in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and her portrayal of Phoebe Spengler (the granddaughter of the the late Egon Spengler) helps take the long-awaited threequel to the next level. However, this isn’t the first time Grace has stolen the show. In fact, she’s been doing it for quite some time now.
Over the course of the past decade, Grace has appeared on children’s shows with puppets, played younger versions of superheroes, and ventured into the world of supernatural horror long before she grabbed a proton pack. Here are a few movies and TV shows to check out if you want to see more of what Grace has to offer.
When it is discovered that Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) is a mathematical genius, the 7-year-old’s life becomes hectic, to say the least. While her uncle and guardian, Frank Adler (Chris Evans), thinks Mary should live a normal life, others, including her grandmother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), feel she should be pushed to reach her full potential, leading to an emotional and hard-fought battle.
Why it’s worth checking out: Pretty much everyone in the Gifted cast (also including Jenny Slate and Octavia Spencer) is amazing in Marc Webb’s moving 2017 drama, but it is Mckenna Grace’s performance that really takes the movie to the next level. With talent only matched by her charisma, Grace proved that she was a force to be reckoned with here.
Mr. Church (2016)
Over the course of many years, the lives of three generations of Brooks women are forever changed by the calm, soothing, and commanding presence of Henry Joseph Church (Eddie Murphy), who was hired to cook for them while the oldest battles terminal breast cancer.
Why it’s worth checking out: Bruce Beresford’s 2016 drama, Mr. Church, is mostly remembered for Eddie Murphy’s turn as the mysterious titular character, but the three Brooks women — played by Natascha McElhone, Britt Robertson, and Mckenna Grace — aren’t without merit. This is especially true for Grace, whose character, Izzy, provides some of the movie's most tender moments.
Crash And Bernstein (2012 - 2014)
After growing tired of being outnumbered by his three sisters and mom, Wyatt Bernstein (Cole Jensen) gets what he’s always wanted — a brother of his own — when he is taken to a store called Build-A-Bestie and creates a talking puppet named Crash (Tim Lagasse)
Why it’s worth checking out: Even though Mckenna Grace’s Jasmine Bernstein isn’t the main character on the Disney XD series, Crash and Bernstein, the younger sister of Wyatt has plenty of great moments to shine. If you are looking to see how far Grace has come, this is a good place to start.
I, Tonya (2017)
There are few American figure skaters more famous and infamous than Tonya Harding, who made international news for all the wrong reasons in the lead-up to the 1994 Winter Olympics. The remarkable and heartbreaking story of how Harding (Margot Robbie) became one of the most talented yet controversial sports figures of the late 20th Century is told in great detail in Craig Gillespie’s 2017 biographical drama I, Tonya.
Why it’s worth checking out: Margot Robbie received a great deal of praise and accolades for her portrayal of Tonya Harding, but Mckenna Grace’s performance as the younger version of the character is one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Whether it’s with the skating scenes or drama off the ice with Harding’s abusive mother, LaVona Golden (Allison Janney), Mckenna’s character really helps make the controversial figure into a more sympathetic person.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 (2021)
Ever since it premiered on Hulu in April 2017, The Handmaid’s Tale has been the streaming service’s most popular and critically acclaimed series, and that was no different in the show’s fourth season. The fourth chapter in the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s landmark novel continued with June Osborne’s (Elisabeth Moss) journey to get back at those who stole her daughter from her, but also introduced one of the show’s most interesting characters so far: the young-bride-turned-handmaid Esther Keyes (McKenna Grace), who appears to be starting her own personal journey.
Why it’s worth checking out: It is true that The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most traumatizing shows right now, but the pain and suffering of the main characters isn’t for nothing. In fact, it only makes them stronger and easier to root for. This is the case with Esther Keyes, who goes from the teenage wife of one of Gilead’s top officials to a beaten (but not broken) young woman who isn’t willing to back down.
Captain Marvel (2019)
The 2019 Marvel Cinematic Universe title, Captain Marvel, explores how Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) went from being a talented and fearless fighter pilot to the strongest being in the galaxy. Mostly taking place in 1995 Los Angeles, the movie puts you in the middle of a never-ending battle between the Kree and Skrulls, with all its twists, turns, and surprises. The movie also serves as an origin story for a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as he starts his path to becoming the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and quest to create a team to serve as Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Why it’s worth checking out: Mckenna Grace is only seen as a young Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel a couple of times, including the go-kart scene and the moment the character gets her full powers, but these happen to be two of the most pivotal parts of the entire movie. The drive, determination, and dedication of Carol is evident in the chaotic race scene, just as much as it is anywhere else in the superhero origin story.
Troop Zero (2019)
Upon learning of an opportunity to have her voice featured on the Voyager Golden Record (and heard by life in the far reaches of outer space), Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) leads the group of misfits in the Birdie Scout youth group to win a talent show and the opportunity of a lifetime. And, even though she initially sets out to be a part of history, Christmas ends up finding something much more meaningful: lifelong friendship.
Why it’s worth checking out: One of the best movies on Amazon, this charming and empowering movie tells a story about a young girl who refuses to give up on a dream, even when others don’t share her enthusiasm. If you were a big fan of Mckenna Grace’s scene-stealing performance in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, then you’re going to love her in Troop Zero.
The Haunting Of Hill House (2018)
Based on Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, the 2018 Netflix supernatural horror series The Haunting of Hill House follows the Crain family — first in 1992 and then 26 years later — as they come to terms with the presence of the mysterious manor, its deadly secrets, and the way in which it completely ripped their family apart. The first of Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting anthology series, this emotionally-taxing and downright terrifying story sinks its teeth in you and doesn’t let go.
Why it’s worth checking out: If you are looking for a show that is terrifying, character-driven, and doesn’t require a huge multi-season commitment, The Haunting of Hill House is the way to go. Speaking of characters — Mckenna Grace’s portrayal of a young Theodora “Theo” Crain is honestly one of the best things about the show, and is yet another movie or show made all the better thanks to her outstanding performance.
Designated Survivor (2016 - 2019)
The political thriller series, Designated Survivor, follows Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Thomas Kirkman as he becomes the President of the United States after a terrorist attack during the State of the Union address kills everyone in the line of succession, but him. Over the course of the three-season arc (the first two on ABC, final on Netflix), Kirkman is put in one perilous situation after another all while government officials on the federal, state, and local levels challenge his authority time and time again.
Why it’s worth checking out: Although she didn’t have a major role in every episode of Designated Survivor, Mckenna Grace’s character, Penny Kirkman, helped humanize her father and grounded him as he dealt with a seemingly never-ending series of trying moments, including that incredible opening scene to the series.
Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
Not long after paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) decide on the best place to keep the demonic doll Annabelle, they learn they have made a grave mistake, even with it locked away in a glass case and a priest’s blessing. When the demonologists leave town for an investigation, their daughter, Judy Warren (Mckenna Grace), becomes the target of Annabelle, but she is more than up to the task of warding her off once and for all.
Why it’s worth checking out: Just like she would do in Ghostbusters: Afterlife a couple of years later, Mckenna Grace takes charge in Annabelle Comes Home and makes a case for her being one of the most promising young actresses in horror-centric movies today. Fearless, resourceful, and charming, Grace’s performance is worth the price of a rental alone.
If her body of work is any indication, it looks like being the standout of the Ghostbusters: Afterlife cast is just the beginning of the next chapter for Mckenna Grace and her undeniable talent.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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