Mackenzie Davis Catches Fire

In one of Davis’s strongest scenes, Hamlet, as played by Kirsten, grieves his father’s death, standing on a makeshift stage surrounded by flickering candles. Staring into the darkness, Kirsten’s mind shifts to her childhood, when she learned that her parents were dead. Davis’s face holds both moments in her character’s life at once, past and present.

“There’s an impossible ocean of subtext” in those scenes, Somerville told me on a video call. “After the fact, I was constantly realizing that Mackenzie had played three looks in a row, invisibly. She was meticulously making bridges between moments, already doing the thing I hoped to build with the show’s nonlinear flashbacks.”

The day after tacos, we met at a bustling all-day cafe in the West Village. Davis listened as our nervous server described the day’s specials, then thanked her warmly.

When I asked Davis about her acting in those layered moments Somerville described, she leaned forward.

“Like anybody else, I had a number of hugely upsetting events happen in the last two years,” she said. “There was all of this ambiguous trauma that didn’t really have a home because everybody was feeling everything — and where do you put trauma that is persistent and doesn’t begin or end but is just part of, like, a great, general sense of loss?”

A little out of breath, she gave a crooked half-smile, as if amused by her own fervor, and sat back in her chair.

“Then, suddenly,” she said, “I was telling a story within a house that could hold all of those feelings.”

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