MOD Exclusive: ‘ZOMBIES 2’ Star Chandler Kinney

Having trained with the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and acted alongside industry vets like Damon Wayans and Keesha Sharp, this triple-talented beauty is poised to be one of the brightest superstars of the next generation! You may know her as Riana on FOX’s hit show, Lethal Weapon, or as Willa in Disney Channel’s Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2, but this 19-year-old actress is so much more. From completing high school while maintaining an acting career, to starting and supporting various social charities, Chandler Kinney is as grounded and well-rounded as they come.

Destini: Tell us about your family and where you grew up.
Chandler: I was born in Sacramento, California and me, my parents, and my two older brothers moved to Los Angeles when I was one-years-old, and I’ve been here since!

Destini: How did you get your start in acting?
Chandler: I started dancing at a young age and through a series of events, I had the opportunity to audition for a campaign consisting of several commercials and online spots for the clothing company, GAP. Through that experience, I signed with a commercial agent and officially started taking acting classes. At the time, I was only 9 years old and had no idea where it would take me. I just knew I loved to play “pretend” and tell interesting stories.

Destini: What lessons has your career taught you, thus far?
Chandler: Honestly, every day working in the entertainment industry presents an opportunity to learn something new. If I had to pick some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, it would be to have a strong support system, trust yourself, and never lose sight of what’s most important to you. 

Destini: Who inspires you, personally or career-wise?
Chandler: My biggest inspiration is my mom. She motivates me to be the best possible version of myself and to always strive for more.

Destini: When you were younger, what future did you envision for yourself?
Chandler: When I was younger, I wanted to do and be everything. I was the biggest dreamer, and I’d like to think that I still am, but just a little more grounded in reality. With that being said, I still believe anything is possible if you work hard and put your mind to it. 

Destini: What’s a typical day like for you?
Chandler: There’s no such thing as a “typical” day for me. My schedule is ever-changing and unpredictable, as I do my best to balance my academic responsibilities, work obligations, and social activities. I just try to go with the flow!

Destini: Tell us about your experience training with the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.
Chandler: Along with refining my dance skills, Debbie Allen Dance Academy taught me discipline and time management. I trained in a wide variety of styles, including ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, contemporary, Horton, Dunham, flamenco, and character. At my peak, I was dancing 30 hours a week and I loved every second of it. 

Destini: You are notably a solid triple threat. Of all your talents—singing, dancing, and acting—which do you feel most connected to, and why?
Chandler: I probably feel most connected to acting because I get to incorporate different parts of myself into my work. Everything that I feel is valid and valuable when I’m acting and so, in a way, it can be very therapeutic.

Destini: What are three career goals you have?
Chandler: If we’re dreaming big, I would say three fun career goals would be to star in a big budget action film, get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and do cameos in several random movies.

Destini: Who is an actor/actress you’ve always wanted to work with?
Chandler: I would love to work with Lupita Nyong’o because she is such an incredible creative force and trailblazer.

Destini: Your character Willa from Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2 is described as “strong, fierce and no nonsense.” In what ways are you similar to or different from Willa?
Chandler: I think both Willa and I can be rather fierce and fiery when we want to be! We also always stand up and speak out for what we believe in, especially when it involves the people we love.

Destini: What was your favorite moment on set while filming Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2?
Chandler: One of my favorite moments from filming
Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2 would definitely have to be filming “We Own the Night”. It’s such a bop and a good song to listen to over and over again! We filmed through the night, deep in the woods and it felt like we were actually wolves emerging from the shadows and dancing through the trees. It certainly set the tone for who the wolves are—a powerful, rebellious pack on a mission.

Destini: In your opinion, what is the underlying message of Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2?
Chandler: I think Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2 has so many strong messages and themes within the story, but I hope if anything, audiences see that it is a story about acceptance, both of yourself and others. The movie shows that being different is more than okay—in fact, it can be a beautiful thing! Conformity does not build community; acknowledging and celebrating each other’s differences does.

Destini: Which role of yours has been your favorite so far?
Chandler: Honestly, Willa has been my favorite role so far, because I was pushed further outside of my comfort zone than I had ever been before and thus was the best opportunity to grow. This movie has brought so much good into my life, including some of my best friends, so I’ll forever be grateful for getting to be a part of Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2

Destini: What has been your most rewarding career moment so far?
Chandler: Again, I would say Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2 has been the most rewarding part of my career so far! Getting to see how this franchise has impacted so many young children and families is so incredibly gratifying, and even being someone kids can look up to is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly.

Destini: What are some of your biggest professional challenges?
Chandler: I’m inclined to say rejection, but unfortunately, that’s something you just eventually become accustomed to. Another big professional challenge would be insecurity because you’re always on “show” and constantly being judged. Getting through it only makes you stronger. 

Destini: What is your personal life motto?
Chandler: “Shoot for the moon, and if you fall short, you’ll land among the stars.”

Destini: Tell us a little bit about your organization, Chandler‘s Friends.
Chandler: Chandler’s Friends is an organization that my mom and I started about 5 years ago that has partnered with local organizations and elementary schools in various creative ways to reach out to children in need in the Greater Los Angeles community.

Destini: What other community service organizations do you work with or would you like to work with?
Chandler: I love working with Homes4Families, which is an organization that brings together volunteers to build homes for low-income veterans and their families.

Destini: What is the most difficult circumstance you have had to overcome? How has that shaped who you are today?
Chandler: I would say one of the most difficult things about being in the industry is feeling isolated sometimes. You end up having to make a lot of sacrifices, and that inevitably leads to spending less time with friends and family, which is hard to deal with. It has made me even more appreciative of the time I get to spend with the supportive people in my life who are there for me no matter what!

Destini: What advice would you give to younger women who want to work in the entertainment industry?
Chandler: Have thick skin and do not let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve your dreams. You are more than capable, and if you are made to feel as though you don’t have a seat at the table, bring your own chair!

Destini: If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?
Chandler: I cannot decide between Oprah and Lin Manuel Miranda—both are absolute legends, whom I have the utmost respect and admiration for!

Destini: What song gets you moving?
Chandler: Right now, the song that gets me moving is “Sunday Best” by Surfaces. Good vibes only!

Destini: How would you describe your personal style?
Chandler: Honestly, in one word: eclectic. 

Destini: What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Chandler: One of the absolute best meals I’ve ever had in my entire life was at Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort’s restaurant called ‘Ohana.’ It is a family style restaurant with incredibly prepared food and I dream about the day that I can go back and dine there again. 

Destini: If you weren’t an actress, what would you be up to right now?
Chandler: If I wasn’t an actress, I would most likely still be dancing and hoping to join a company one day! Or I would be in film school studying directing, writing, or producing. Whatever I’d be doing, it would most likely involve performance/entertainment!

Destini: How would you like to be remembered?
Chandler: I would like to be remembered as someone that made some kind of impact! I hope to do something of significance during my time here!

Destini: What message would you like to send to your fans?
Chandler: I would like to say thank you thank you thank you for the endless love and support! You guys are the absolute sweetest and I love you so much!

Destini: What is one interesting thing that the public doesn’t know about you?
Chandler: I have an obsession with chocolate milk and I drink it almost every day! There, I’ve exposed myself.

Be sure to follow Chandler Kinney on Twitter & Instagram

Interview by Destini Lattimore
Photos by Benjo Arwas

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