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Marny Kennedy reveals what nearly dimmed her early career

TV WEEK logo TV WEEK 14/9/2018 Thomas Mitchell

Marny Kennedy is packing her suitcase when she answers the phone for this interview with TV WEEK Close Up.

"Sorry if I sound like I'm running around, but I'm going away tomorrow – Los Angeles again," she laughs, while quite possibly trying to pick out a pair of comfy pants to wear on the plane.

Luckily, Marny, like most people, doesn't enjoy the task and promptly decides to take a well-earned break from having to deal with her suitcase.

"This is actually the excuse I was looking for," she admits. "I hate packing!"

Marny has become familiar with the 14-hour journey to LA over the years. Like so many Australian actors, she's made the pilgrimage to Hollywood plenty of times. But unlike most others, her first trip came at just 12 years old.

"I won an award and the prize money went towards your career, so I flew over and signed with my first agent," she recalls.

While most 12-year-olds are excited at the prospect of going to a school camp two hours away (by bus!), Marny was attending business meetings in La La Land.

"Yeah, I haven't had the most normal trajectory," she says matter-of-factly.

a person in a dress: Marny Kennedy started her acting career early on in life. © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Marny Kennedy started her acting career early on in life.

Looking at where Marny is now, her career seems almost reassuringly regular.

In the past year, she's appeared in popular series Janet King and Underbelly Files: Chopper and is currently starring in the Nine Network's Bite Club.

But to understand the calm of the present, you need to unravel the turmoil of her past.

Growing up, Marny's proximity to the performing arts left her more than well placed to enter that world.

Her mum owned a dance school in suburban Melbourne, which Marny dutifully attended, but it wasn't until the school added a drama element that she really found her feet.

"I just loved it," Marny says. "I loved it so much, even at that level – that's when I was about eight or maybe nine, and since then it's always been a part of me."

It seems acting loved her back. Marny was a natural on screen, seemingly blissfully unaware of the camera, and it didn't take long for the rookie to nab her first major role.

Many Australian kids of a certain age will fondly remember the show Mortified. Released in 2006, it was a big-budget production that screened internationally and won plenty of plaudits and awards during its two-season run.

Marny was front and centre, landing the lead role of Taylor Fry.

a person standing next to a dog: Marny as Amber Wells in Nine's new series Bite Club. © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Marny as Amber Wells in Nine's new series Bite Club.

"It was such a cattle call across Australia during casting, but they just saw something in that little girl," Marny reflects.

Her time on Mortified was a steep, albeit enjoyable, learning curve.

"For all of us kids, it was our first gig, so we were really lucky to have a crew that laid down the law and didn't suffer fools," she says.

"We didn't get away with anything."

It's clear Mortified was a good experience and, buoyed by the show's success, Marny did what seemed natural: she kept working.

In the years that followed, the actress became a fixture on local TV screens. She joined The Saddle Club and landed two more lead series, A Gurls Wurld and Conspiracy 365.

She was everywhere… until she wasn't.

"From the ages of 11 to 17, I worked six months of every year," Marny says.

"But when I was 17, it was my last year of school and I'd go to a night shoot, then put on my uniform and go to class."

Looking back, Marny can see she was destined to hit the wall at some point.

"I just burnt myself out badly and I needed some time to decompress, so I took a big gap year by way of travel," she says.

a woman sitting at a beach: Marny admits she went through a tough period after burning herself out. © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Marny admits she went through a tough period after burning herself out.

But despite travelling the world and assuming she'd "got it out of my system", Marny admits that when the time came to start acting again, something was missing.

"I was nervous about getting back in front of a camera, seeing myself on screen during what is notoriously the most difficult year of a teenager's life," she says.

"It scared me. My skin had broken out and I didn't like the way I looked. At that age, you're going through all the normal changes – but on national television, it's terrifying. I developed a bit of a phobia, unbeknown to me or anyone else."

Marny internalised her fears and promised those close to her – her parents and her agent – that she was ready and willing to pick up where she left off. She even booked another trip to Los Angeles to meet prominent producers.

"It wasn't until I got to LA – this was in 2013 – that it really started to get more obvious that I wasn't quite ready to get back in front of a camera," Marny explains.

"I would walk into an audition and just self-sabotage. And if I did get a call-back, I'd wear a baggy T-shirt to help them make up their mind about me quicker."

It was a tough period, and when Marny returned home in 2014, she wanted to escape again. Without telling anyone, she booked a trip to India.

"I was just running away," she concedes.

"But then my mum intervened. She had spoken to my agent – which was unusual – and she sat me down and said, 'We're both really worried about you.'

"I remember bursting into tears, because it was so confronting to have the two people who believed in me the most sort of challenging me about something I didn't even know."

Bite Club airs Wednesday, 8:40pm, on Nine Network.

To read more about Marny's journey back into the spotlight and what she learned along the way, pick up a copy of our monthly magazine TV WEEK Close Up. On sale now!

Looking at where Marny Kennedy is now, her career seems almost reassuringly regular. In the past year, she’s appeared in popular series Janet King and Underbelly Files: Chopper and is currently starring in the Nine Network’s Bite Club. But the star's career hit a wall at a young age that nearly derailed her career.: Marny Kennedy reveals what nearly dimmed her early career © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Marny Kennedy reveals what nearly dimmed her early career
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