Leave No Trace’s Thomasin McKenzie: ‘The bees have left the deepest mark on me’

The young star of Leave No Trace (one of the Guardian’s top-ranked films of the year) talks about the survival skills she learned for the role – and her passion for the wild

You filmed Leave No Trace early in 2017 and it has been nearly a year since it was in festivals. Does it feel like another world ago?

It does, partly because I have shot four other films since then and they have each taken me into very different cultures, time-zones and experiences. But my actual life has quite a lot in common with the life of Tom in Leave No Trace. I have a forest right next to my house and I go there a lot with my dog – though in New Zealand we call it the bush. And I have continued my passion for bees back home. They need a lot of help worldwide right now. I guess Leave No Trace planted a lot of seeds in my life that I want to continue, so yes, it is always with me and always will be.

One of the film’s most memorable scenes sees you handling a hive of honeybees with your bare hands. How scary was it?

Not so much scary as amazing … I think the bees are what have left the deepest mark on me from Leave No Trace. Standing there in front of the hive and feeling the warmth and hearing the noise of that hive was a deep experience for me. These little creatures had the power to band together and kill me if they decided to. I just had to trust them as they settled on my bare hands, and be open to their power. Watching them work together in such an intricate pattern was profound. Actually – it was a lot like watching a really great film crew.

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