*DISCLAIMER* This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.
Hendrix Yancey could be seen starring as Young Jan Broberg in last year’s Peacock drama series A Friend of the Family, which is currently streaming on NOW TV in the United Kingdom. A Friend of the Family is a true crime story based on the life of Jan Broberg and her family, and saw Hendrix work closely with the real life Jan and cast members including Jake Lacy (as Robert/”B”), Colin Hanks (as Bob Broberg) and Anna Paquin (as Mary Ann Broberg). Also last year, Hendrix played Gwen in an episode of George and Tammy, and her previous projects have included joining Series 4 of Stranger Things as Thirteen, playing Angelina in the feature film Charming the Hearts of Men (working with Anna Friel), and she attended the Golden Globe Awards when she played Daisy in Unbelievable. Later this year, Hendrix will be appearing in the indie film DWELLER, and is in talks for a number of future projects. Answering our questions, Hendrix spoke to us about her time starring in A Friend of the Family as Young Jan Broberg, joining the cast of Stranger Things as Thirteen and attending the Golden Globe Awards with the Unbelievable cast.
You star as Young Jan Broberg in the Peacock drama series A Friend of the Family, can you tell us about the show?
A Friend of the Family is a true crime story based off of the life of Jan Broberg and the Broberg family. Jan is abducted two times by a family friend named Bob (or “B”) and is tricked into marriage at just 12 years old. “B” was a very close friend and she loved and trusted him and he ended up manipulating her, along with her entire family.
What was Jan Broberg like to portray and how was it telling her story?
Jan was a really rewarding but also very difficult character to play because not only is it a really tough story to tell, but I also had to learn to do a bunch of different things including wear coloured contacts, play the piano (a song by Bach), sing two solos, on top of telling a story that was very emotional. In the end though, I’m really proud because I feel it was really important to tell the story so that we could bring awareness to the fact that it’s not always a stranger that can be scary or cause damage, actually most of the time it’s someone you love and trust. That’s an important thing for kids to be taught and a big reason my parents let me take this role – it’s a lesson that I needed to learn and understand too.
How did you prepare for your role and what was it like reading the script for the first time?
I prepared for the role a couples of ways: I watched parts of the original documentary (Abducted in Plain Sight) with my mom, looked at as many pictures of Jan as a child as I could find online, and I also tried to spend as much time on set with Jan as I could – to get a feel for her energy and how she acts in real life.
When I read the script and watched the documentary for the first time, my first thoughts were sadness for Jan and honestly how creepy I thought it would be to film. I was trying to imagine how it would be to film it. BUT, it was actually the opposite! I became very close to everyone on set and never felt creeped out or scared at all; plus, if you notice, Jake Lacy (who plays B) does all the creepy faces and remarks behind my back. I didn’t know how creepy B (Jake) actually was in the show until the show aired! And that’s really how it was for Jan in real life – she saw him as a close friend for most of her life.
What was it like filming alongside the rest of the cast and working on set of the series?
It has been my favourite and very best experience to date! It was also my first series regular lead project – so it will always be really special. I worked almost every day for six to seven months so this has been my biggest growth in acting also. I learned so much! I still talk to several of the cast and crew on a regular basis; they have become like family to me.
How was it seeing the viewers’ response to A Friend of the Family and your portrayal of Jan Broberg, and why would you recommend watching it?
My mom always tries to share the good reviews and comments with me when she sees them – I love reading them. It makes me really happy to see. To me, those good reviews are really icing on the cake because my main goal from the very beginning was to make the real Jan Broberg happy. I put my heart and soul into telling her story accurately and doing her Justice. So knowing that Jan is proud is the best reward for me.
Do you have any favourite highlights from your time working on A Friend of the Family?
Yes! APRIL FOOLS DAY! I played sooooooo many pranks on people! I filled Jake’s trailer with mayonnaise bottles because he HATES IT! Also, I put black rice in Colin (Hanks), Anna (Paquin), and lots of the crew members’ trailers (it looks like rat droppings and they all freaked)! And I carried a loud blowhorn around set to scare people! Everyone was pranking everyone all day… It was too much fun!
What was it like playing Gwen in George and Tammy alongside Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain as your on-screen parents?
It was really cool – Michael and Jessica are so talented so I loved watching them work and learning from them. Jessica is really fun and bubbly and brings a great energy to set! My favourite part was getting to learn a song and sing it with Michael Shannon; it was a surreal experience. He’s so talented. Also, on my producer’s session for A Friend of the Family, Eliza Hittman (one of the directors) asked if I could sing and then on the spur of the moment asked me to sing a song, so since I was just coming off George and Tammy, I sang Nothing Compares, which is what I sang with Michael! Full circle moment!
How much did you know about Stranger Things before auditioning and how did you feel finding out you’d booked the role of Thirteen?
I literally knew everything about Stranger Things because I watched every season like seven times! I’m a super fan for sure and it was my bucket list show to work on! I actually originally auditioned to play Young Eleven but was told I looked so much like Millie (Bobby Brown) when she started the show at 12 and they needed someone that looked a lot younger (like six or seven years old) since it was a flashback. I was so bummed! It was the first role that I was devastated I didn’t book. But when I got the call I’d booked the role of Thirteen a few months later, I was so happy. My mom came to school and pulled me out of class to the office (I thought I was in trouble!) because the Duffers wanted to know if I would shave my head for the role – I started crying and obviously said YES! I was a little nervous about shaving my head but it was so worth it!
How was the experience on set of Stranger Things and how was it joining the cast for Series 4?
It was so fun because there were soooooo many kids on set – I’m usually one of a few or the ONLY kid on set – so this felt like a big party every day. I made so many lifelong friends (I’m actually at the beach with Lana (Jean Turner) – number 07 right now). It was also really cool to be on a set that I’ve grown up watching… it didn’t feel real! It was such an honour to be associated and to work with so many of the people I’ve looked up to for so long.
What was Thirteen like to play and how was it getting into character?
To get into character I rewatched ALL of the previous seasons and made predictions in my head about how Season 4 would go – I only got a partial script because the Duffers really do keep it so top secret! When I rewatched it though, I paid really close attention to how Millie (Eleven) behaved in Season 1 because I knew my mannerisms had to be similar to her experience coming from Hawkins Lab. And honestly, the minute production shaved my head I literally felt like a different person… I feel like I took on the persona of Thirteen! It’s funny how drastically changing my appearance immediately made me feel more in touch with my character.
Can you tell us about playing Angelina in the feature film Charming the Hearts of Men?
Ahhhh one of the things I remember most about this film was how excited I was to shoot the party scene at the end of the movie. Everyone in the cast was there and I was so looking forward to it (it was set to shoot on my last day of filming). I went to hair and makeup and was waiting to go on set when lightning struck! We had several weather delays that afternoon… Until I PUMPKIN’d (which means my time allowed on set was up – due to restrictions of being a child)… So I didn’t end up getting to be in that final scene. But filming overall was a lot of fun. My mom on set – Tina Ivlev – was filming a show in Atlanta when I was filming Stranger Things and she came to visit me! One of my favourite parts of acting is making friends; I’m actually even still friends with Anna Friel’s daughter, Gracie, who I met when she came to visit her mom on set!
Oh! And this is a crazy fact! I had just auditioned for Stranger Things while on set for Charming the Hearts of Men and Anna Friel found out and literally said to me, “Every child actor I’ve ever worked with has gone on to work on Stranger Things… Just saying”, and she winked. Then BAM! I booked Stranger Things and continued her trend! I think Anna is a lucky charm!!
What do you remember most from filming Unbelievable as Daisy and how was it attending the Golden Globe Awards?
Unbelievable was my first big SAG set experience, so I learned a lot about actually being on a set. And I remember our PA, Tina, was a lot of fun! This is where I really learned to appreciate the value of crafty. 😀
The Golden Globes was AMAZING! Seriously best night ever! I loved my dress so much (the pockets were my favourite part), Lindt was a sponsor so there was chocolate EVERYWHERE, and I danced the night away! I danced so hard that I ended up being featured in the LA Times for being the life of the party on the dance floor.
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
My mom knew from an early age that I loved to perform, so I started singing and dancing around the age of four. Then when I was about five, my mom’s friend, Holly Wolf (who also happens to be a casting director), met me and knew immediately I needed to get into acting. I don’t know how she knew, but she just knew. So she helped us avoid a lot of common mistakes when people try to get into acting and she connected us with her friend Shanelle Grey, of Grey Studios and from there it actually happened really quickly. I started acting lessons, participated in the acting studio showcase, got an agent and manager and booked my first television series all in about six months. That’s how my parents really knew it was meant to be – I think they weren’t so sure before all that!
We know I’m doing what I’m meant to do because my happiest place on earth is when I’m on set… or when I’m with kittens… kittens make me really happy too!
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch and how do you like to spend your free time?
I LOVE Fear Street and my dream job would be to work with Sadie Sink on the next one! I am currently watching The Summer I Turned Pretty, Never Have I Ever, Stranger Things on repeat (duh!), Young Sheldon, and Dateline – my mom and I watch a LOT of Dateline!
I live on 10 acres in a small town in Arkansas, so in my free time I do a lot of bike riding, rollerblading and skateboarding, tree climbing and rock hunting. I also love to game (Fortnite and Roblox), create art, and I just started German lessons.
Have you been given any advice over your time as an actor so far that has stuck with you?
My amazing set acting coach from A Friend of the Family, Meghan McGarry, taught me some really great things. One is “don’t act, just be,” and she helped me learn how to find the through line of a character. She also gave me a trick to memorising monologues in a way that will never seem like it’s memorised – get with her if you want to find out that trick lol! I had a lot of monologues and long prayers in A Friend of the Family, so that helped a lot!
Also, McKenna Grace taught me something that Elisabeth Moss taught her… the power of music and different set playlists to set the mood of your character.
Do you have any projects coming up that you can tell us about and what are you hoping 2023 brings for your career?
The current situation has kind of changed things up lately, but I do have a few projects in talks for the end of the year. 😉 That’s all I can say about that! Stay tuned! I also believe an indie film that I was in from several years ago is set to come out this year. If you like scary movies, be on the lookout for DWELLER.
As far as my career goes, obviously I would love to be in Fear Street 4 – Hey Netflix! Have your people contact my people!
I would also LOVE to play some sort of butt-kicking, strong warrior-type female. I come from a family of athletes (my dad was a D1 basketball player, my grandpa played for the Miami Dolphins and my aunt participated in the Olympic Trial Camps for high jump) and I would love to showcase my tough, athletic side.
Follow Hendrix on: