Young actors share fun, challenges amid the pandemic

Mackenzie Hancsicsak discovered she really enjoys baking, during the pandemic, in addition to her hobbies and acting career. PHOTO BY BOBBY BLOCK / THE SIGNAL Inset: Hancsicsak as the young Kate on “This Is Us.” PHOTO COURTESY IMDB

For Mackenzie Hancsicsak and Maddy McGraw, two of Hollywood’s brightest young stars, 2020 was an interesting, stop-and-go year to say the least.

Mackenzie stars as the young Kate in the Emmy Award-winning NBC primetime drama “This Is Us,” and Maddy McGraw just enjoyed her Disney Channel premiere “Secrets of Sulphur Springs,” and she’s already preparing for her next shoot.

From new projects to new interests, despite the challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, these two burgeoning Hollywood careers were able to use a number of opportunities to grow and develop.

Both recently took some time to share their perspectives on how filming and life in general have changed over the last year.

New interests 

For Mackenzie, her time together with family in quarantine has also been a time of discovery and exploration of her interests, as well as community service. 

An interest in the kitchen was spurred in part by family tradition and also her eighth-grade culinary course in junior high, she said.

“I did like it a little bit before (the class),” Mackenzie said, “I used to always help my mom bake — and with her popcorn.”

In fact, Momz Caramel Corn has been a fun family project for the pair, said Mackenzie’s mother, Melinda, who said it uses a recipe her mom shared with her before she passed away, which she’s now shared with Mackenzie.

The Rio Norte student recently celebrated her GPA with her family, in fact, with a cake Mackenzie baked herself, as the young chef is also learning terms like “mise en place,” from her favorite culinary shows, and also that she prefers baking to cooking.

Mackenzie also said filming during the quarantine has been a bit different, as there are so many new precautions amid COVID-19 that the set experience is decidedly less interactive with the other actors, who are also friends. (“This Is Us” is now in the middle of its fifth season, and episodes return Feb. 2.)

Like all major sets, the crew, actors and actresses all follow a number of protocols, and in order to help keep everyone safe and abide by the rules, the Hancsicsaks also have restricted their travel. However, Mackenzie found an opportunity to help others locally through her service as a Girl Scout during the pandemic, with her troop working together to create “thank you” bags for the hospital staff at Providence Holy Cross and Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, about 500 or so, which will help Mackenzie and her friends earn their Silver badge. (There’s also an Instagram account, @MomzCaramelCorn, for more information.)

New opportunities

For Maddy McGraw, 2020 actually presented a new opportunity that she’d been working on for a while, earning a great role after a lot of work in auditioning and then the making of the pilot.

Earlier this month, “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” debuted on the Disney Channel, a project that McGraw had been working on since early 2019.

“I want to say fall (2019), we found out that the pilot was going to series, which is also a very, very exciting phone call,” said Maddy McGraw’s mother, Jackie. “And then in January 2020, (Maddy)  and my husband went off to New Orleans to start filming season one.”

Unfortunately, everyone knows what happened not long after they arrived in the Bayou. Much like the rest of the world, the film set for “Secrets” went on pause after making it through a handful of episodes. 

January is off to a great start for Maddy McGraw, who saw her new show “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” debut earlier this month, in which she plays Zoey. PHOTO BY DAN WATSON / THE SIGNAL

Needless to say, it was a challenging time for the aspiring actress.

“I was really sad and really nervous because I was like, ‘Finally, I get to be on a Disney show. It’s so cool.” I’ve been getting all these ‘Nos’ (on auditions). And I finally got the ‘Yes.’ So I was really nervous.”

But as luck would have it, there was a happy ending to the story for Maddy.

“And when we finally got the call that we were going to go back to shooting, I was so relieved and so happy and grateful,” she added.

It’s been a tremendous experience for Maddy, who also made good friends with her cast members.

“The cast is so amazing,” Maddy said. “We all got along so well. They’re all my family. I love them so much. And I’m so happy that I got to work with all of them.”

She’s also already excited about her next project in North Carolina, which is a feature film set to be directed by Scott Derrickson, who directed “Doctor Strange” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

In addition to making film projects with her siblings, who have also already garnered pages, Maddy enjoys playing soccer with her local club team.

Maddy’s latest work was also a bit of a different project for Disney, as the show about the haunted hotel in Louisiana (which is where their Sulphur Springs is located) has a little more mystery and intrigue than most shows on the network,

“(Disney)” has never really done something as creepy or as mysterious as this one,” McGraw added, “so I’m really excited to see what happens.” 

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