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‘Just Mercy’ star Karan Kendrick on staying focused and finding your path

“It’s all the stuff that you have to work through to get to the acting that’s the hard part,” she says with a chuckle. “For me, staying ready means eating well and getting rest and working out. It means therapy, having a support system and a healthy environment, being clear about what I want and allowing myself to look forward to what I want. Being kind to myself. Being patient with myself.”

When she was taking her first steps as an actress, Kendrick had to learn how to relate to characters even when they may have been far removed from her life and outlook. It was while working on a project with the late Ruby Dee that she was forced to examine her approach early. “I was in a role that featured a character whose life choices felt very unfamiliar to me at the time. In my self-righteous 20-year-old mind, I was like ‘I would never.’ I was judging her. I couldn’t share her story because [of that], and it was really getting in the way of the work.”

The legendary Billie Allen was directing the project and she took Kendrick aside. “She was my mentor until she passed away. [She] challenged me in a way I’d never been challenged before. That was my call to action.”

Kendrick has stayed ready. Now, as her star rises and her film is one of the most talked-about movies of the new year, she’s taking it all in stride. But she’s also taking it all in.

“Over the course of Just Mercy, there have been a lot of [affirmations], she said. “This process has reminded me to be open to the possibility of every single thing that I have ever wanted. Sometimes when it doesn’t come at the time or in the way that you think it will or should, you begin to doubt. ‘Maybe these things don’t exist. Maybe I was thinking too big.’ This entire experience has been a moment of yes to what you dream. … You may not see how it will come to fruition, but it can and it will if you keep walking toward it. Just keep going.”

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