When filming a big production like His Dark Materials for months at a time, it can be difficult to stay in touch with friends and family – but when she was cast as lead character Lyra in the new BBC adaptation, the then 13-year-old actor Dafne Keen managed to sidestep any homesickness issues handily.
How? Well, her dad, professional actor Will Keen, ended up cast in the series as well, playing the malevolent Magisterium figure Father McPhail. And if that wasn’t unusual enough, he’s probably the villain most keen to get his hands on the character played by his own daughter…
“I had one scene with him, and he was very creepy,” Keen, now 14, told RadioTimes.com.
“He’s a very nice guy in real life, OK, he’s not as scary as he looks. He looks like a psychopath but he’s really, really nice!”
Keen, who is probably best known for his role as royal secretary Michael Adeane in the first two series of The Crown, has previously also acted in shows including Sherlock, The Musketeers, Wolf Hall and Foyle’s War –and this isn’t the first time the two generations of Keens have starred together, with previous collaborations delving even darker depths…
“My first job was with him,” Dafne told us. “My first job ever he played my alcoholic dad, who shot me. And killed me.
“So I am kind of used to that,” she laughed. “Anything’s better than that!
“And then I also have my mum [Galician actress, theatre director and writer María Fernández Ache] on set who’s my coach. So it’s like the whole family’s on set.”
“The thing you need to know about Dafne is, her parents are actors,” Keen’s co-star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Lee Scoresby in the series, told RadioTimes.com.
“Will Keen and Maria [Fernández Ache], and they’re really wonderful actors. And they keep her so grounded. She’s such a normal kid. So that’s a joy.”
He added: “So I’m gonna miss her, honestly, when we don’t share scenes. It’s weird to be in Cardiff and not spend every day with Dafne and Maria, who is a big presence on set.”
Clearly, His Dark Materials really is a show the whole family can enjoy – and work on.
His Dark Materials airs on BBC One on Sundays at 8pm