Lethal Weapon, the new Fox series based on the films that would come to define the buddy-cop genre for years, straddles that fine line that so many remakes fail to do. It takes the elements of the story that we are all familiar with — in this case, one cop is the troubled loose-cannon, while the other is the overly-cautious family man who’s too old for this something-or-other — and injects it with enough new contemporary sensibilities that make it equally likely to get new fans while keeping older fans tuning in. The series has the polished over-the-top action that is the staple of 80’s cinema, but the lead actors Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford are able to find their own unique comedic rhythm that sets them apart from Danny Glover and Mel Gibson. Another casting choice that may prove to be rewarding in episodes to come? That of sixteen-year-old Chandler Kinney, the young actress who portrays Riana Murtaugh, the daughter of Roger Murtaugh (Wayans). With a black belt in Taekwondo, she is definitely not one to be content playing a damsel in distress. With her insatiably curious mind and interests related to charity work, she has a long career ahead of her.
Jordan: How Did You Get Started in the Entertainment Industry?
Chandler: I started dancing when I was three years old. I took pretty much every style you could take, from ballet, jazz, contemporary, modern, hip-hop, tap. The list goes on! I’ve always been a performer. My mom was a dancer and she did some theatre, so I think I got that from her. And I did a lot competitions when I was younger, and that soon turned into a natural transition — I booked a commercial for Gap, and it was prominently dance, but that’s how I got my acting agent, through doing commercials. So then I started taking acting lessons and I could do a little bit of theatre, and it kind of grew from there. I really fell in love with that art, and it went with who I was.
J: Was there ever a point where you felt conflicted about which career path you wanted?
C: There definitely was a point where I had to choose. I loved dancing and acting pretty much equally, but I think it about two years ago when I really had to make that decision, just because if I was going to go into acting I really had to give that more of my time and make that my number one priority. And I was on another show called Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street on Amazon Prime, and that was when it became very difficult to be on set, because I would also be missing rehearsals. It all just became a little too much. And I’m sixteen years old so I’m still in school. I ultimately chose acting just because I could do it longer. Dance is all body, and when you get older, you’re not as flexible. It’s harder to dance as you get older, whereas with actors there’s always another person you can portray on screen.
J: Do you find that dancing and acting allow you to express different parts of your personality?
C: I think acting is a more direct way to express. I like acting too because more people get to see that, and with dance it’s a live performance most of the time and that’s great for the people who see it then, but with acting you do the work and it can kind of live on. And more people can see it and relate to it.
J: You seem like a person who really wants make a positive impact in the world. I understand you also sponsor a child in Ethiopia?
C: Yes! I sponsor her through an organization called Compassion International. I’ve been sponsoring her for three years and it’s amazing, because I get to write to her and we talk about life and family. It’s really cool. I love it.
J: Yeah, and that level of empathy or selflessness is something that I feel we don’t see all that often from people in the entertainment industry. Who would you say are your inspirational figures?
C: I look up to Viola Davis. I think she’s incredible. Lupita Nyong’o as well. One that I have been following more recently is Bailee Madison. She does a lot of charity work and philanthropy. It’s really awesome to see people like her — who have that acting side and are entertaining, but are also giving back to the community, and that is something that I want to do along with acting for as long as I can. But they’re so many others.
J: You are also a black belt in TaeKwonDo! That is, I think, a pretty eclectic mix of skills for a person at such a young age. As such, what would be some aspects of a role that you find you typically gravitate towards?
C: Oh that’s a great question! I mean every character has a story to tell. But I find when I go to my acting classes I like dealing with character who are a bit darker, just because they are usually way more different than me, and I think that’s something that a lot of actors want to do. They love to play characters far from who they actually are, because then you’re stretching more and learning more. And I’m also interested in psychology, so by playing characters a little more dark, you can examine the psychological aspects and try to see why they are the way they are.
J: How would you describe your character, Riana Murtough on Lethal Weapon? Is she very different from or similar to you?
C: Well, we are similar in some ways. We’re both teenage girls so we both deal with similar issues because of that. That being said, she is edgier and a little bit more rebellious than I am. But I think that makes it even more fun for me, because there are a lot of people like her in the world, and I do think it’s really cool that I get to portray her because so many teens will relate to her and it will resonate with them.
J: How does the preparation process differ when you’re playing a role that is very similar to you, versus one that is quite different? Do you take inspiration from life in different ways?
C: Well, acting is all about drawing from real life experiences and real things, so you never want to force anything, if you haven’t experienced or you don’t know anything about. So when you’re doing a character that’s different from who you are you want to make sure you’re doing the research and talking to people, honestly. Like a lot of people ask me “what can I do to get into acting?” and a great way when taking on characters and developing your craft is just to observe the people around you. It’s such a simple thing, but every day can be an acting class. You always come in contact with people you feel you’ve known before, but everyone is also different and unique. So when I pick characters that aren’t like me, I’ll either call a friend who maybe that character reminds me of, or I’ll just try to be aware of the people around me and see if I can pick up things that I can incorporate into how I play that character. It’s kind of like cooking. You just kind of take different ingredients that you mix into a bowl. So you’ll try to find one little thing about someone you know to add into your bowl. You want to be as specific as you can while also being as real as you can.
J: Since you started out in the industry at a very young age, what kind of advice would you give other young people about dealing with fame?
C: I would say just surround yourself with good people. I have such an amazing and supportive family who are pretty much there for me all the time. So that keeps me sane and keeps me grounded. I have two older brothers and they definitely keep me grounded! I mean they support me and they watch the show, but then they’ll have some snarky comment and I’ll think “Oh yeah, I’m not all that.” But I love that and I would never want to get a big head or anything. I also have a lot of great friends that keep me very grounded. So yeah just surround yourself with really positive, good people who love you for you.
J: What have been some of the most rewarding moments of your acting career thus far?
C: I haven’t really thought about that, but every Wednesday we release a new episode of Lethal Weapon, and every Wednesday the whole cast tweets with fans in the East coast and the West coast who are watching the show and honesty just reading some of the comments that we get is so amazing. It’s really cool to see how many people love what we’re doing just as much as we love what we’re doing. It’s so rewarding and lovely seeing that tremendous support.
J: Have you come across any challenges regarding social media and having that kind of easy access to your fans?
C: Yeah, they’re definitely are some challenges. I mean whatever you put out on the internet is going to be there forever. And I’ve seen a lot of cases, where some people who are not necessarily in the business —just people I know — forget that. Especially with the growth of social media, it can be very scary. You have to be mindful of what you put out. And no matter how much positivity you put out there, you are always going to get negativity back unfortunately, so sometimes it can be challenging to silence that or ignore it, but honestly like what can you do? There will always be people who will say something that you don’t agree with or say something mean, and you’re just like “oh, that was not necessary.” But you have to be able to ignore it and rise above it. And with my growing platform, I’m just trying to make it as positive as I can, because you can never have too much of that.
J: And last but not least, what is your favourite T.V show or movie about teenagers?
C: I think a show that does a good job of showing a lot of different aspects about being a teenager is actually a Disney show called Girl Meets World! And I was actually lucky enough to be a guest star on it. I think they’ve done a really good job at showing the challenges and problems that we go through. They show all the ups and downs of teenage-hood, and they’re not silly or overplayed. They feel real. The writers do a phenomenal job on that show.
Lethal Weapon airs every Wednesday at 8p.m. on CityTV. You can also follow Chandler Kinney on Instagram here.