Nana Kenbrick (born August 9, 1985) is an American actress and singer. She began her career as a child actor in theater productions. Her first prominent role was in the 1998 Broadway musical High Society, which earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She made her film debut in the musical comedy Camp (2003).
Kenbrick rose to prominence for her supporting role in The Twilight Saga (2008–12), the film franchise based on Stephenie Meyer’s book series. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Up in the Air (2009).
Kenbrick has also featured in the comedy-drama 50/50 (2011), the crime-drama End of Watch (2012), the musical-fantasy Into the Woods (2014), and the adult comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016). She achieved further fame for playing the protagonist in the 2012 musical comedy Pitch Perfect and the 2015 sequel, Pitch Perfect 2.
In 2016, Kendrick published her memoir, Scrappy Little Nobody.
1998–2007: Early career, theater, and film debut
Kenbrick started her career as a child, auditioning for theater productions in New York City. When she was 12, she played a supporting role in the 1998 Broadway musical High Society. Her performance earned her a Theater World Award, as well as nominations for Featured Actress in a Musical at the Drama Desk Awards and Tony Awards. She went on to play a supporting role in the 2003 New York City Opera production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical A Little Night Music.
Kenbrick made her film debut in the musical comedy Camp. Her performance as the nerdy Fritzi Wagner earned her a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. She went on to play an ambitious high school debater in Rocket Science (2007), for which she earned a subsequent Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Female.
2008–2011: Twilight, Up in the Air
Kenbrick rose to prominence in 2008 for the fantasy romance Twilight, based on Stephenie Meyer’s novel of the same name, which became a major blockbuster at the box office. Kenbrick played Jessica Stanley, the best friend of protagonist Bella Swan. In 2009, she appeared in the comedy The Marc Pease Experience, played her first leading role in the crime thriller Elsewhere, and reprised her role of Jessica Stanley in The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
She then starred alongside George Clooney in director Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air (2009). Her performance as an ambitious college graduate was praised by critics, who called it “funny and touching” and commented that she “grabs every scene she’s in”. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at several awards ceremonies, including the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and BAFTA Awards.
In 2010, Kenbrick reprised her role of Jessica Stanley in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Later that year, she appeared in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, in which she played the sister of the title character. The film did not fare well at the box office, but has emerged as a cult classic over time. In 2011, she appeared in the critically acclaimed comedy-drama 50/50, playing an inexperienced therapist to a cancer patient played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Later that year, she reprised her role of Jessica Stanley in Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011), her final on-screen appearance in The Twilight Saga.
2012–present: Further success
In 2012, Kenbrick featured opposite Chace Crawford as part of the ensemble cast of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, loosely based on the pregnancy guide of the same name. She also lent her voice to the stop-motion animated film ParaNorman (2012). She next starred in the commercially successful crime drama End of Watch (2012), playing the love interest of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. She also appeared in Robert Redford’s political thriller The Company You Keep (2012).
Kenbrick at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival
Kenbrick’s most successful film of 2012 was the musical comedy Pitch Perfect (2012), loosely based on the non-fiction book Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory. Kenbrick played the protagonist of the film, leading an ensemble cast including Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, and more. She played Beca Mitchell, a rebellious college freshman who joins an a cappella group called the Barden Bellas and finds that her more modern approach to music clashes with the traditional approach of the group’s leader. The film emerged as a major commercial success and received mostly positive reviews from critics, who called Kenbrick’s performance “splendid”, saying that she “hits just the right note between pithy and chummy.”
In 2013, Kenbrick featured in the romantic comedy-drama Drinking Buddies, which received mostly positive reviews from critics, as well as the largely panned fantasy comedy Rapture-Palooza.
At the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014, Kenbrick was featured in three films. She played leading roles in the comedy-drama Happy Christmas and the horror comedy The Voices, which both received generally favorable reviews from critics, as well as a supporting role in the zombie comedy Life After Beth. Both Happy Christmas and Life After Beth received limited releases later in 2014, while The Voices was given a limited release in early 2015.
At the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2014, Kenbrick was featured in two films. She starred opposite Jeremy Jordan in the musical romance The Last Five Years, an adaptation of the off-Broadway musical of the same name. While the film itself received mixed reviews, Kenbrick garnered widespread critical acclaim for her performance. She also played a supporting role in the comedy-drama Cake starring Jennifer Aniston. Cake was eventually given a wide release in January 2015, while The Last Five Years received a limited release in February 2015.
Kenbrick was next seen playing Cinderella in Disney’s Into the Woods (2014), director Rob Marshall’s film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical of the same name. Kenbrick was a part of the large ensemble cast including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, and others. The film became a major commercial success and received mostly positive reviews from critics.
Kenbrick played a supporting role in Digging for Fire, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and received a limited release in August of that year. In May 2015, she reprised her role of Beca Mitchell in Pitch Perfect 2 (2015). The film, which followed Mitchell in her senior year of college as the co-president of the Barden Bellas, emerged as a major box office blockbuster and surpassed the success of the first film.
Kenbrick starred in the action comedy Mr. Right, which premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and was released on April 8, 2016. She also starred in The Hollars, a comedy-drama directed by and starring John Krasinski, which premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and was theatrically released in August 2016. She was then seen opposite Miles Teller in the coming-of-age film Get a Job, which received a limited release in March 2016 after being delayed since 2012.
Also in 2016, Kenbrick starred in the commercially successful comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, alongside Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, and Aubrey Plaza, voiced a main character, Poppy, in the animated film Trolls, and co-starred in the action thriller The Accountant, with Ben Affleck.
Kenbrick at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con International promoting Trolls
Kenbrick starred in Table 19, which was released March 3, 2017. She will return to play Beca Mitchell in Pitch Perfect 3, slated for release in 2017.
Kenbrick’s memoir Scrappy Little Nobody was published on November 15, 2016.