Not many 17-year-olds could claim to have worked as an actor for over eight years, but for Dafne Keen it was inevitable. Born between two cultures, Keen is the daughter of British actor Will Keen and Spanish actress María Fernández Ache. Growing up, she loved speaking both languages, calling herself “hybrid”, as she spent her entire childhood navigating the world between the dual perspectives that British and Spanish culture had given her. “I don’t have a favourite language but it’s very satisfying to use them both to my advantage.”
Words by Charlotte Coquelin.
Keen grew up with the support of her parents to pursue her dream of acting at such a young age, with the proviso that she continued her education, “My parents were very good at keeping me grounded.” However, the contrast between studying and being on set was a tough balancing act,“I am still completing my studies on the side as I want to have a plan B.” Outside of acting, Keen uses her off-duty time to take pictures, “I would love to be a photographer and to study film directing.” And although Keen first worked with her father in The Refugees and His Dark Materials, she still hopes to one day share the screen with her mother.
Despite her youth, Keen has travelled the world, and her favourite places are Ronda in southern Spain, which she visited whilst shooting His Dark Materials; Puerto Rico, which she visited for her role in Anna 2, and New Mexico. Madrid will always be her family home but soon she will be fleeing the nest and settling in London, “I am going to be renting my first apartment in January and I am really excited about it.”
Whilst she is grateful for the opportunities and experiences her acting work has afforded her so far, Keen admits to her struggles with negative online attention and internet trolls that come with fame. “I used to read horrible things about myself,” but now she has trained herself not to read the comments nor to take anything personally. Keen understands that social media is just another tool to promote her work and also a place to share her photography. What’s evident on her socials is her love for fashion, “When I am off-duty I am very playful with my looks”, and she names Jane Birkin as her ultimate style icon and her reminder to be confident in one’s body.
"whatever you want and need with them, have fun with it."
Keen believes that self-confidence is imperative for her acting career, “There are so many roles I have got excited by and I didn’t get, the work behind each audition is intensive and the rejection can really affect your motivation.” Now Keen has learnt that not getting a part “does not always come down to you and what you have done, it’s very important to keep that in mind.” She tries to keep as calm as possible during auditions and learns her lines to perfection, “Once you know them by heart you have more freedom to do whatever you want and need with them, have fun with it.”
Keen has found the job she hopes to do “for the rest of my life… I think my dream acting job is to continue acting.” With one step and audition at a time, no doubt she will continue to learn and live from her dream.
"for the rest of my life… I think my dream acting job is to continue acting."
Discover Dafne Keen on BBC iPlayer and HBO Max this December for the third and final season of His Dark Materials.
You can find this piece in the Fall Winter 2022 Issue 9: Purchase your copy here.