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How Dafne Keen's Mom Inspired Her To Break Hollywood Stereotypes - Exclusive

With her 16th birthday only just behind her, Dafne Keen has already accomplished so much in such a short span of time. At 11 years old, she teamed up with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and made a blood-tinged splash with her breakthrough role as X-23 in the critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated flick Logan. Next, she nabbed the titular role in Ana, a comedy-drama that saw her sharing the screen with Hollywood veterans Andy Garcia and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Soon after that, Keen took on the lead role of Lyra Belacqua (aka Lyra Silvertongue) in BBC One and HBO's His Dark Materials, the epic fantasy series based on Philip Pullman's trilogy of novels, which just announced production of its third season.

With commanding performances in both a major Marvel movie and a beloved fantasy-drama on her resume, Keen has made quite an impression and established herself as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Off screen, the rising star is undoubtedly inquisitive, wise beyond her years, and quite PR-savvy, to say the least. During a recent exclusive one-on-one chat with Looper, Keen spoke about more than just her bustling acting career — she also took some time to chime in about the many tropes of female characters depicted in the books and films she grew up with. Who helped Keen to identify and crush those stereotypical depictions at such a young age? Her mother.

"I'm honestly so happy, because as a girl who's grown up in the world that we live in, I've spent my entire childhood watching extremely sexist films and reading extremely sexist books," Keen told Looper during a discussion about the recent surge of strong female superhero roles (including X-23). "When I was little, I remember my mom — we had these stories and she used to change the pictures to be men. For example, if there was someone cooking, she'd paint a beard and make it a man, because it's just absolutely atrocious, just bringing up children against themselves. It's teaching a woman to be against herself by being sexist."

Keen continued, sharing how grateful she is to have had the opportunity to play such strong characters that will hopefully be a positive influence on children, especially young girls. "I'm really honored to have been able to play the characters I've played, which have been very empowered young women, which is really, really great," she told Looper. "And I really hope it does at least something for other young girls who watch it. "

Dafne Keen's mother is 'mentor number one'

One of the key ingredients to Keen's mature viewpoints and tactical career choices thus far is the valuable nurturing provided by her parents, who both have acting experience of their own. Keen's mother is a writer and theater director who also serves as her acting coach on the side. Her father is longtime actor Will Keen (The Crown), who also co-stars alongside his daughter as Father MacPhail in His Dark Materials. Keen is upfront about what she describes as a "privileged and weird lifestyle," and she sees herself growing more independent when it comes to selecting her own roles. Though this professional growth will happen in the not-so-distant-future, Keen will always be eternally grateful for her mother's guidance.

"I now have more power [to choose roles] than I used to because obviously I started acting when I was eight and I'm not going to pick my parts at eight," said Keen when asked about her acting gig selection process. "My mom has always been there for me. My mom's a writer, a director, and an actress. She honors me with her acting skills. My mom's been there since day one. She helped me get my first audition, my first job, she's always there — she's 1,000 percent. She always gives me advice on jobs, and funnily enough, every time we've turned down a job, it's just turned out that she was right. She's mentor number one."

Keen recognizes that her upbringing is unique and that not all young aspiring actors are born into families that consist of writers, directors, or acting coach mentors. So, what's her advice to those aspiring actors who look up to characters like X-23 or Lyra Silvertongue and dream to one day star in a big movie?

"I'd say watch good films, watch good theater — go to the theater as much as you can, because that is the source, that is where films come from," shared Keen. "I'd say learn, be curious, be creative and try to practice as much as you can. I know practicing acting is quite hard, but when I go home, I rehearse my scenes. I'm very disciplined about how I do my work. I analyze, I do my research. I do everything. And then in my free time, I'll get into character and I'll just do an improvisation. Do empathy exercises. Try to imagine what it's like in another person's life. Just try to stay in contact with your emotions mostly, I'd say."