Life as a 17-year-old is already challenging enough. Balancing school, new-found freedom, responsibilities, trying to have a social life, holding down your first job; as a teenager I was pretty proud of how I was able to balance things. Chandler Kinney on the other hand, is a few steps ahead of the game.
At 17, she's currently acting alongside TV heavyweight Damon Wayans in the Fox Television adaption of Lethal Weapon. Kinney plays Rianna Murtaugh, daughter of Roger Murtaugh (Wayans) who is a senior detective of the Los Angeles Police Department. The role has been Kinney's favourite so far.
On the show, I have been given the time and space to take artistic risks while exploring her [Rianna Murtaugh’s] layers and depth. She constantly challenges me to utilise more of myself within my work to bring a sense of vulnerability and truth when inhabiting her mind.
Kinney is California born and bred. Sacramento first, but her family moved into the thick of things in Los Angeles when she was one. She seems like she had a grounded childhood. Family is a central theme for her, growing up in a busy household with two older brothers. She says it was her siblings who fuelled her competitive nature and unbreakable spirit – something I think all of us with brothers would understand. They are characteristics that have probably helped her get to where she is today.
At three-years-old she started dancing lessons. As a child she thought for sure that a dance company was where she was headed. But at nine, she booked a commercial for the clothing line GAP, and it was this opportunity that led to her booking a commercial agent. Eight years on, she has also appeared in Girl Meets World, American Horror Story, 90210, and Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street. All of these experiences have led her to a bigger role in Lethal Weapon. To remake a classic film as a TV Series is a challenging prospect. I asked Kinney how one prepares to re-do an already familiar character.
We wanted to avoid imitating what had already been done. Instead, we have worked to bring our personal truths and experiences to this story and also introduce it to a new generation.
Kinney is enjoying the role, and considers it a huge privilege to have her own creative vision valued by her fellow cast and crew. She seems assured as a young person, and so I ask her about her philanthropic work. When she was just 13 she performed as an event called Make Equality Reality, reading the stories of real women and girls. For Kinney, the experience really opened her mind to the prevalence of gender inequality in society.
Four years ago, Kinney and her mother created an organisation called Chandler’s Friends. The intention? To be a caring hand to disadvantaged children. They started with handmade blankets which were given to foster children. Now, through relationships and connections, the charity's work and network has expanded substantially. In 2016 they partnered with Hasbro to deliver 300 toys to homeless youth in the Los Angeles area. They hosted an event for students from an elementary school in 2017. Her next goal is to deliver this school a S.T.E.M lab.
Kinney’s mother is a huge inspiration for her as they do this work.
My mom has always emphasised the importance of philanthropy to me, so I grew up with a heightened awareness for the needs of others. She has taught me as someone who has been given opportunity; it is my responsibility to give back.
I believe the greatest aspect of getting involved in the community, besides making a positive difference in the lives of people in need, is developing a richer perspective of the surrounding world. To be enlightened by the people you meet and educated by observing the impact of action first hand is an opportunity worth having. Volunteering shapes individuals into open minded, virtuous citizens operating in a global community. It is through the act of giving in which compassion and empathy is cultivated, two of human's greatest powers.
It’s a powerful statement from a young person in Hollywood.
It’s not all acting and charity work though – Kinney wants to follow in the footsteps of Lupita Nyong’o who graduated from Yale School of Drama with a Master’s in Fine Arts. For Kinney, Lupita Nyong’o has an elegance, compassion, and vibrancy that is hard to miss. Nyong’o is the Kenyan actress thriving at the very top level of Hollywood and creating space for actresses such as Chandler to thrive also.
So often when we talk about youth, it is with a negative or patronising tone. They don’t know what they want, and they have no experience. Chandler is an example that young people do in fact know what they want, and have years of experience. I asked her what her power is as a young woman.
There is a unique sense of power that exists within female friendship and I definitely have become more aware of it recently. I think it is actually an exciting time to be a young woman today as society is undergoing a massive shift in its perception of females in the modern day world. There is space being created for our voices to be heard.
I like to believe a similar occurrence will take place for today's youth. As of now, I'd say my generation's advantage is being underestimated. For many, doubt is one of the greatest forms of fuel. Many problems of the world directly affect youth. We will continue learning how to best use our voices to be heard.