Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Nov. 22 edition of Park Cities People.
Kennedy Hermansen doesn’t want to be an actor for fame and fortune, splashed on the covers of magazines or part of the pop-culture landscape.
The Highland Park Middle School eighth-grader wants to act because she has a passion for it beyond her years.
“I don’t want to get famous. I want to succeed in what I love doing,” Kennedy said. “I love it because it’s an outlet. I want to do this for the right reasons.”
Kennedy, 13, is appearing in her biggest project to date with a small role in The Starving Games, an independent comedy that is playing in selected cities around the country and is available on-demand.
The film is the latest parody from directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Meet the Spartans), and seeks to spoof the popularity of the Hunger Games franchise, among other targets.
Hermansen plays Petunia Evershot, the younger sister of lead character Kantmiss Evershot. Petunia is a take-off on Prim, the younger sister from the big-budget Hunger Games series of books and movies.
It marks the second film role for Kennedy, who previously starred in Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang, a short feature that was made in Dallas in 2010 to promote a new housing development. It played at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2011, when Kennedy was in fifth grade.
Kennedy traces her desire to become an actor to age 4, when she decided to give up sports and ballet, and asked her parents to enroll her in acting and vocal classes.
“I knew this was what I wanted to do,” she said.
She built her résumé through various commercials, modeling campaigns, and theater productions. At 6, she donned a mouse costume in a production of Cinderella. Later, Kennedy starred in a national campaign for the Furby line of toys and played Dorothy in a school production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Kennedy credits some of her development to her classes at KD Studios in Dallas, as well as with Dallas acting teacher Cathryn Sullivan.
“They helped me gain confidence. That can really impact an audition,” Kennedy said. “I think theater is a really good base for anybody to start.”
She also cited support from her parents, Kirk and Monica, who have never become pushy or overbearing. Monica Hermansen has worked as a stylist in the modeling industry, and has worked with too many stereotypical “stage moms” to become one herself.
“I knew what not to be as a mom, because they drive me crazy,” Monica Hermansen said. “She started when she was in kindergarten and never wanted to stop. She makes great grades and has a good pool of friends. I don’t know how she does it. Anytime she’s on stage or in front of a camera, she just lights up.”
The family hired an agent for Kennedy in Los Angeles, who sent her the script for The Starving Games last year. She decided to send an audition tape, and was later called back to New Orleans for a live reading.
Kennedy said she always has enjoyed serious dramatic material more than comedies, so she was surprised when her audition was received so well.
“For some reason, I wasn’t really nervous. You have to block out everything around you,” she said. “I never thought I was a good comedic actor. They were laughing, and it made me feel so good.”
She was excited to learn she got the role, which allowed her to spend four weeks on the set in a small town in southern Louisiana last fall.
The role gave her the chance to do a few minor physical stunts. She also formed a bond with Maiara Walsh, the experienced actor who played the lead role in the film.
With The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opening in theaters this month, Kennedy said she hopes the timing of her project will help to generate more publicity — and therefore more auditions — for her young career.
“I’m proud of myself because I know that I try as hard as I can,” Kennedy said. “I’m building, and the next movie is going to be bigger and better, and I’m going to learn from that experience.”