Dafne Keen | Cloudless, With Endless Visibility

Via Issue 184, The Tempest Issue, out now.

Written by

Eloisa de Farias

Photographed by

Dominic Clarke

Styled by

Cher Coulter

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ACNE STUDIOS dress and gloves andstylist’s own necklace.

17-year-old actor dafne keen instantly charms me by asking me about my day. She furrows her brows and nods attentively in response. It then strikes me that I can forego any clichéd talk of the weather. It would seem wherever Keen goes is sunny, bright, and perfect for picnicking. 

Keen’s performances thus far in her career are met with undeniably captivating energy. At her desk, she scribbles on a piece of paper, trying to figure out what kind of handwriting her character might have. In her mirror, she twitches her mouth and nose in an effort to learn what their resting face might look like. Her preparation is tireless. 

The British-Spanish actor commenced her career at the young age of 10, starring as Ana “Ani” Cruz Oliver on the television series The Refugees in 2015, which tells the story of a rural Spanish community coming to terms with a refugee crisis. Her breakthrough came in 2017 when she landed the role in the superhero film Logan as Laura. Her acting was praised highly and she took home an Empire Award for Best Newcomer.

On being in the acting world from such a young age, Keen tells me the naked truth. “I think it’s a very interesting and terrifying age to be an actress,” she says, “because now is the moment when I’m no longer protected by the fact that I’m a kid. I’m coming to terms with my new job that I’m on right now, because it’s very strange—I’ve never entered a job as a woman.”

LOUIS VUITTON dress and stylist's own necklace.

In 2019, Keen began starring as Lyra Belacqua in the hit BBC/HBO television series His Dark Materials, a fantasy drama based on the trilogy of the same name written by Philip Pullman. The show follows headstrong and willful Lyra, who is on a quest to find a missing friend. On the way, she discovers a secret that leads her to learn about numerous kidnappings. Keen promises that the largely anticipated season 3, which will premiere in December, will be full of new adventures for Lyra and company. 

You could say Keen and Lyra grew up together. Inseparable as ever, the two investigated first love, sexual awakenings, and dealing with death and grief simultaneously. Keen started filming His Dark Materials in peak adolescence; The world has accordingly watched her and Lyra metamorphose into adults. “I think that was why Jane Tranter (executive producer) decided to hire an actress who was the age of the character,” Keen remarks. “Because it’s really been quite easy for me to empathize with the growth of Lyra—I was going through a real-life version of what Lyra was going through.”

PRADA jacket. 

His Dark Materials is significant and intelligent, particularly when it presents the idea of dæmons. Dæmons are the physical manifestation of one’s inner self. They present themselves as animals capable of human intelligence and speech. Their purpose? To help understand one’s soul. Lyra’s dæmon is a Pine Marten named Pantalaimon. Keen elaborates, “I think one of the best metaphors in His Dark Materials is: when you’re a kid you have a very clear sense of self, and then when you hit your teenage years, you don’t anymore. As you get older, what you have to do is kind of try to get to that place you were in when you were a kid, but from an adult point of view, which I think is what happens with Lyra and Pantalaimon. You have to break the bone to rebuild it again.” In other words, dæmons equate to healing your inner child.

JW ANDERSON coat and dress.
LOUIS VUITTON dress and stylist’s own necklace.  

Keen lives up to this idea effortlessly. On her co-star Lin-Manuel Miranda’s last day on set, they filmed in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, amongst luscious quarries and mountains. The 5 am air was brisk, and the actors held hot water bottles to their chests. “As we all know, Lin is an amazing rapper and an amazing freestyler,” Keen remembers of navigating the moment with youthful openness. “He came up with the idea of doing freestyle rap battles. However, everyone was super bad except for him. Then we had warm tea and played hot hands. It was childish and just very fun.”

adidas x GUCCI sweater, pants, and shoes. 

As of late, Keen has taken on a project that she can’t disclose much about, but she did tell me it involved intricate preparation. A testament to her boldness, she tackles the challenge openly. “​​I feel invincible when I’ve done something that I was too scared to do before,” she asserts. “For example, I’m doing a job now for which I need to do some training, and every time I manage to do something that I wasn’t able to do the day before it’s amazing.” We might have skipped talk of the weather, but one does wonder what the forecast might be like for Dafne Keen this upcoming season? We wait and see. But rest assured, she won’t be needing an umbrella. 


Photographed by Dominic Clarke
Styled by Cher Coulter
Written by Eloisa de Farias
Hair: Narad Kutowaroo at Carole Hayes Management
Makeup: Sara Hill at The Wall Group
Location: Kingsland Locke, London

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Dafne Keen, His Dark Materials, Isabel Marant, JW Anderson, Acne Studios, Prada, Louis Vuitton, adidas x GUCCI, Logan