Age & Hometown: 19; West London, England
Current Role: A Broadway debut performance as Thomasina, an intelligent 19th-century teenager who discovers a mathematical theory years ahead of its time, in the revival of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.
Life as a Teen Star: The daughter of a casting agent and actor, Powley began landing TV work at a young age, most prominently as a teenage secret agent on Britian’s popular series M.I. High. “It was a really good introduction to the business,” Powley says of the show. “I had crazy gadgets, all these disguises, cool leather Catwoman outfits… it was the most fun a 13 year old could ever have.” After two seasons, Powley left the show for high school. “Most people were familiar with the show, which was fun,” she says of fitting in, “but then a bit irritating at other times when younger kids would come up screaming, ‘Ah, it’s the M.I. High girl!” After several more TV appearances, Powley shifted her focus to theater, winning raves in her first West End show, Tusk Tusk, then setting her sights on Broadway in Arcadia.
Girl Genius: “I love the contrast of how Thomasina’s so young, innocent and immature in the way that a lot of 13 year olds are,” she says of her Arcadia character, “but she’s a genius at the same time and doesn’t quite realize how clever she is.” So is Powley a brainiac like her onstage persona? “I was all right at math,” she laughs, “I wouldn’t say I’m a genius like Thomasina, but I do find jotting down all the equations when I’m on stage quite relaxing.” Powley also easily relates to Thomasina’s fixation with her suave, older tutor, Septimus Hodge (Tom Riley.) “Everyone has their first love and that giddiness of fancying someone. I had a piano teacher who went to Cambridge and was a genius and we’d spend all our lessons talking about Karl Marx and all these theories. I was just in love with him.”
Where the Wind Blows: Powley is keeping her career options open after Arcadia ends its limited run this summer. She has a spot reserved to major in history at the University of Manchester (she cites WWI and WWII as her favorite eras), but hasn’t made a firm decision yet. As for studying acting, Powely says she’s preferred “learning on the job.” For now she’s thrilled to be living in New York for the first time, where she’s keeping a notebook of all the restaurants and shops she visits. “My heart will always love London, but being here has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” the young actress says, “I’ll just see where the wind takes me.”