BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Gracie Dzienny has battled villains in Supah Ninjas, bitten into necks as a vampire in First Kill and used her superpowers as Ruby Red in Jupiter’s Legacy, but it was her first role in sixth grade – as Jasmine in Aladdin – that launched her acting career.
On April 20, the 26-year-old visited with 100 fifth-graders at Fallen Timbers Middle School to talk about the work it takes to build a career in the TV and film industry.
When she was a student in Anthony Wayne Local Schools, Gracie enjoyed reading Junie B. Jones and Princess Academy books. She did some modeling and danced in Company C and for the Ballet Theatre of Toledo. So, when she saw a flier announcing the musical Aladdin, she tried out, even though her friends said it wasn’t cool.
“I was bit by the acting bug,” she said. She landed roles in other school musicals and community theater and learned about how to audition for a Nickelodeon show. After attending high school for one week, she learned she’d landed a role in Supah Ninjas, packed up and moved with her mom to Los Angeles.
Supah Ninjas was super fun during its three-year run, Gracie said. She learned martial arts, played a “name that showtune” game with co-star George Takei and finished high school on the set.
In 2018, she appeared in Bumblebee, a Transformers franchise movie, and walked the red carpet for the premiere in what she calls a surreal experience. Gracie has had roles in numerous TV shows, including All American, Zoo, Jupiter’s Legacy and – coming out this year – First Kill on Netflix.
“It was interesting doing a show after COVID where you’re biting people,” she said of the show, in which she plays Elinor, a vampire. Correctly pronouncing lines while wearing vampire teeth was also a challenge.
“I had the worst lisp,” she said. “It made the person I was supposed to bite laugh. I wasn’t scary.”
Getting into character for an audition or a role is her favorite part of the job, she told students.
“Acting is a form of storytelling,” she said. “I get to be inside the book – be a character.”
To prepare, she does research about the character, the era and events going on at the time. When she has lines to memorize, Gracie writes and rewrites them several times, then sleeps with them under her pillow – a superstitious habit, she admits. Audi-tioning and rejection are part of the career.
“I’ve had times that didn’t go my way. I was up for Jumanji, and it was between me and another girl. I auditioned for Riverdale six times,” she said. Still, she believes that with her talent and hard work, she’ll land roles that are right for her.
Along the way, Gracie has gained some new skills: learning to drive a stick shift, riding a motorcycle, using martial arts and holding her breath under the water for a long time. Acting has given her insights into other people’s lives and experiences and knowledge about different eras.
She’s also had advice from fellow Toledo native, dancer and actor Alyson Stoner, and some of her TV show moms. Her parents, Tara and Mike, have also been supportive.
Since she was home for the Easter weekend to visit family, Gracie decided to stop in to speak with the middle school students, who eagerly greeted her with hugs, paper for autographs and lots of questions.
“This is my first time meeting a celebrity!” said Madalyn, calling Gracie an inspiration.
As a middle schooler, Gracie was a great student, punctual, organized and kind to everyone, said Miriam Black, who was one of Gracie’s sixth-grade teachers.
“We knew she was going to do something good,” she said.