Delaney Keith: Local girl to rising star

Susan EspirituNorth Knoxville

As a child, Delaney Keith had three answers when asked about her future: “Sometimes I’d say I want to be a fashion designer or a monkey veterinarian, but once I started getting proper theater training, I began to say I’m going to be an actress.” Watching this beautiful, talented, genius of a young women thrive in a challenging industry leads me to share at least some of her incredible journey.

Delaney is the middle sibling of three equally talented children of Hillary and John Keith, with the oldest being brother Colin Malcom, who is eight years her senior, and sister Grace, who is two years her junior.

Delaney says, “I was always creating characters and enlisting my little sister to perform with me. My parents were willing audience members. I remember a time when I charged a small fee for my parents and their friends to watch us recreate a musical number from the new hit Disney Movie, The Cheetah Girls.”

Delaney was constantly hungry to perform and she took it very seriously whether it was a church play with 30 people in the audience, or singing with her middle school choir in East Towne Mall.

Middle school passions to perform led to attending the Clarence Brown Theater Camp the summer before her  ninth grade year, which “opened the floodgates to my curiosity about acting as that was the first time I got to work alongside professionals. The time and care these instructors took with all of us campers made me think for the first time, ‘I can actually do this.’ From then on, I was quite stubborn about forging a path for myself as an actor.”

Delaney went on to do many high school plays, was drama club president, and decided to pursue a degree in theater. She worked hard to be cast in plays and musicals in college and even got a minor in dance because she was told she needed dance lessons by a choreographer.

Delaney began acting professionally in Nashville theaters towards the end of her collegiate career and after graduation. She did several plays with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival and Nashville Rep. She visited Knoxville for a summer to do Shakespeare on the square.

Sunshine Girl’s cast mates: Shay Carlisle, Emma Steiger, Delaney Keith, Harley Walker, Brittaney Mallory

She says, “I look back on this time with such gratitude for all of the lessons I learned and wonderful people I met doing these plays. Live theater is a uniquely bonding experience that you truly couldn’t know unless you’ve done it.”

Delaney expanded into the world of film and television during this time and decided to move into the Atlanta market. During the pandemic, she started to shift her focus onto film. The first real film she booked was A24’s Zola in 2018. She auditioned on tape and was called back in person to improvise an entire scene.

She describes this first call back: “When I booked it, I was thrilled, and showed up on set as green as could be. I was attempting to hide my nerves when Riley Keough, one of the film’s stars, came up to me on set after my first take and said, ‘That was really good. You’re really funny.’ That small moment meant the world to me and made me think I deserve to be here. When the movie came out, my scene was cut. That’s the biz for you.”

However, Delaney began booking television shows like Monarch, Queens, The Game, The Resident and most recently Found on NBC. She said of this success: “I have always loved film and television, and it’s really exciting to be a part of that world. I wrapped the first lead role in a feature length film last year, and it was such a blessing to have a creative environment to spend time in alongside the cast and crew.”

Crew/cast of Squint, the short film written and directed by Delaney and Meg Ha in LA this April. Robert Martin , Joseph Leitess, Delaney Keith, Meg Ha, Hudson McNeese

Delaney has gone on to be in more shorts, videos, commercials and even started making her own shorts saying, “I realized I don’t have to wait to be cast or given work as an actor, I can make it happen for myself.”

Delaney lives mostly in NYC, recently signing with a new agent there, training with The Barrow Group regularly. She says the training she’s received there has been transformative and she sees herself continuing there throughout her career.

Now when asked about future plans, Delaney reflects, “Although I’ve been acting since I was a child in some capacity, I do strongly feel that I’m only at the beginning of my career. I am excited to have new opportunities, ask new questions and keep learning every step of the way. I just want to keep doing it. I want to keep pursuing this career and live authentically, which is ever changing. I want to keep an open mind and heart, and a beginner’s brain. I remember my parents telling me from a young age, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Which I ran with, but now I think I’d change the wording to ‘the work will be worth it.’”

She remembers, too, her desire to be taken seriously, “My desire to be taken seriously is quite funny to me now, as I believe taking everything less seriously, myself included, is a path to freedom.”

Watch for our hometown Delaney Keith in episode 9 of Found on NBC and Sunshine Girls is the film that is currently in post-production with no anticipated release date as of now.

See clip of Delaney here: Delaney Keith.

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