Nancy Drew directors Larry Teng and Amanda Row have helped craft many of the show’s most iconic moments over the years — and that includes the culmination of Nancy and Ace’s love story.
During an exclusive interview with Us Weekly on Wednesday, August 23, Teng and Row celebrated the show’s legacy while reflecting on their individual journeys behind the camera. Row, who directed the series finale, was excited to wrap up the story while introducing Nancy (Kennedy McMann) and Ace’s [Alex Saxon] next chapter.
“There was tons of pressure — but I didn’t really feel burdened by it — because I knew that I had the fans’ and also Nancy and Ace’s best interest in mind,” she shared with Us. “What I wanted to do — and what Kennedy and Alex and I talked about in that scene — was that it was about relief and it was about joy. I know that all that anyone has ever wanted to see between the two of them is just enjoying each other and being happy with it and comfortable.”
Row noted that the couple’s final moments set the tone for their future together.
“That’s why there’s so much smiling and giggling. It’s that giddy, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m in love and I found [my person] kind of moment.’ That’s why my camera is still,” she explained. “The whole episode prior to that [moment] was shot on a crane. It was big sweeping moves and lots of score and then the camera slows down and it just becomes about these two characters. It was such a satisfying moment to shoot. Everybody on the crew cried and it was absolutely beautiful.”
Row also revealed that the original ending for Nancy and Ace was much longer. “I would love to release the six-minute last Ace and Nancy scene. I knew we didn’t have that much time for it, but my director’s cut is pretty fun,” she said.
The director offered Us a glimpse at what the full version looked like, adding, “I really was embracing the joy, and it was about laughter and about them being so giddy together. I had this moment [since] Alex is a professional dancer where he dipped Nancy in a romantic [way]. To me, it was kind of a nod to the drama of the series, but then it ended in this sincere little kiss and look at each other. It was too long and it just didn’t sit in the episode but I thought that was really nice.”
Nancy’s connection with Ace has been a central part of the show throughout the show’s four seasons. The fan-favorite pair faced ups and downs while trying to break Temperance’s death curse, which was keeping them apart during season 4. Their star-crossed love, however, wasn’t always the ultimate plan.
“I directed season 1 episode 14 when Nancy and Ace are in the library and they read that love letter from Ryan and Lucy to each other. I remember this so vividly,” Row said. “I remember Kennedy and Alex coming up to me with these mischievous grins on their faces saying, ‘I think that Nancy and Ace maybe have a thing. I feel like they have chemistry and this could be a really interesting thing to explore. In the moment, I remember looking at them and thinking, ‘Well, you guys have the same color eyes. Maybe there’s a twist later that you are siblings?’ So I had them read the love letter to each other and they were so right about their chemistry.
She continued: “Them just telling me was just really informing me [as a director]. I think we’ve got this thing. People latched onto it so strongly and the fact that the show has ended with their instinct I think is just so cool. It’s so awesome and is a testament to them as actors and understanding their audience.”
Teng praised the writers’ room for exploring a story that wasn’t initially on the page.
“The fans have always been a huge part of this show. And I remember Yana Grebenyuk Noga [Landau] saying at the end of season 3, ‘Let’s give them what they want,’” the co-executive producer told Us about how he directed Nancy and Ace’s dreamscape experience in the season 3 finale. “It was a really important moment that needed to feel real and grounded and connected between the two of them. … It was honestly not hard for them to pull off.”
According to Teng, McMann and Saxon’s hard work helped make the final product so much more memorable. “I just had to make sure I didn’t mess it up with what I was doing,” he joked. “But I think the tenderness and the sincerity behind it is what that relationship deserved. I got to portray them in some ways — in a future life if you will — in this very honeymoon phase of them coming together. I just wanted to make sure that it hit. I wanted to make sure that none of it felt false or insincere.”
He concluded: “[Nancy and Ace were] never endgame in the very early days. It was never even a thing. It’s that beautiful thing that comes out of creating a show and getting to 62 chapters of a story and all of a sudden it kind of takes you somewhere.”
During the series finale, Nancy and Ace broke their death curse after spending the entire season wondering if fate was keeping them apart or bringing them together. Row relied on parallels from the season 4 premiere — when Ace found out about the curse — to influence the direction for their emotional reunion.
“I directed season 4 episode 1 [which was] right after Larry’s [season 3 finale] episode. To me, the [focus] was on Ace’s part. It was like, ‘Is there something here?’ And in the last scene of season 4 episode 13, I actually did the exact same camera setups as I did for their scene in Icarus Hall in [the season 4 premiere],” Row detailed. “[I did it] intentionally to show that this was their second try, without all of the burden of information or whatever. [This was them] ultimately being courageous in that moment and growing from what they’ve been through, which was so satisfying to shoot.”
Teng said it was “beautiful poetry” to have him direct the series pilot while Row brought the series finale to life.
“It was my first pilot and it gave me the confidence to establish the look of a show. The way a show would be shot and the methods in which we would tell a story. It allowed me to build a culture on set that I was proud of,” Teng told Us. “It reinvigorated my resourcefulness and it reminded me why I made movies in the first place in college and high school. I’m just so grateful for the job that I have and the fact that I get paid to do this.”
Row, meanwhile, broke down how she evolved since joining Nancy Drew in 2019.
“It absolutely taught me that in television — regardless of what it is — you still have to be resourceful. For Nancy Drew, I think that has resonated over the four seasons. It’s always been character, it’s always been who our Drew Crew are and it 100 percent has influenced me as a director,” she noted. “There’s a lot of characters, but you have to kind of focus on who matters in this moment [and] what is going to resonate with people. The show 100 percent showed me and reminded me what the core of that is.”
Teng concluded the interview by offering a shout-out to the cast and crew.
“For a lot of these actors, this was people’s first show as a series regular. They bought into the system that we established and they bought into the culture that we wanted to create, Teng said. “We always abide by the fact that the only thing that matters is how we do it, not how anyone else does it. … It’s always been very much a crew first, family first mentality. I’m so proud of it and it proves to me that it works. You can create a situation and an environment like this — that’s healthy — where you can tell these stories and be safe and go home feeling fulfilled.”