BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — When Gracie Dzienny was a sixth-grader at Fallen Timbers Middle School, she saw a flier about tryouts for the musical Aladdin.
While she had done modeling and dancing, her singing was limited to the shower, and her acting – well, she’d never tried.
On December 20, the 23-year-old returned to Fallen Timbers to share with fifth-graders how she ignored the discouragement from some of her peers and tried out, landing the main role of Princess Jasmine. The next year, she was Cat in the Hat in Seussical, Jr.
On December 21, Gracie and her family and friends filled the movie theater at The Shops at Fallen Timbers to see her in the sixth Transformers movie, Bumblebee.
“I play this mean girl, Tina York. It’s not something I’m used to,” Gracie said. “In between scenes, I apologized to everyone, because that’s not what I’m really like.”
The 1987 clothing and makeup, and an entire can of Aqua Net, prepared her for each day’s filming, which took place in San Francisco and Santa Cruz in August 2017.
“It was freezing out, and we were all wearing thin clothing and pretending it felt like summer,” she said.
When her agent gave her the script, Gracie didn’t know it was for a Transformers movie. She thought it was a movie about a misfit teenage girl in the ’80s. So when she saw the names of the movie’s stars – Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena – Gracie said she was completely humbled to have been chosen.
On the first day of filming, she found 60 extras dressed in ’80s clothing standing around a crane near a cliff. She had to muster her strength to act out her part in that first scene in front of a crowd – a nerve- wracking experience.
While the main character is a huge robot, she never saw a Transformer on the set. Instead, a long pool stick with a tennis ball at the top served as a point of reference.
“We’d look up and talk to the tennis ball. That was Bumblebee,” she said.
Attending the movie premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame was surreal, she said.
“When I got to the red carpet, I just stood there. People with cameras are yelling your name. You try to act normal, but it’s not normal at all,” she said.
Bumblebee is the first movie for Gracie, but her IMBD profile details how she’s filled her days since moving to Los Angeles as a 14-year-old.
She played Amanda McKay in Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas, Greer Danville in the TV series Chasing Life, and Clementine Lewis in the TV series Zoo, which is now available on Netflix.
As Clementine, she acted out the part of a woman giving birth – something she’s never done. So she called moms, read a lot and watched videos.
“I’ve learned a lot of new skills,” she said of her acting career, listing martial arts, holding her breath under water for a long period of time, riding a motorcycle and driving a truck with a manual transmission.
“Usually, when you learn how to drive a stick shift, it’s on flat ground. I was doing it on a hill and I kept rolling backwards,” she laughed.
With each new challenge, she dives in with gusto. When she first had the opportunity to audition for Supah Ninjas as a freshman, she stayed up all night reading the script and then had her mom record her performance at 5:30 a.m. before heading to Anthony Wayne High School. Nailing the script is essential to getting asked back.
“I was always a big reader. I think that helps me now because every day I read a new script. I get to tell a story in a different way,” she said. “I’ve been really lucky. I really love it.”
She credits the support of her parents, Mike and Tara Dzienny, for believing in her dream and helping her make the move to LA.
Fallen Timbers Middle School teacher Mike Black recalls Gracie as a diligent student when he was a teacher at Monclova Primary School.
“She set a lot of goals. She worked really hard and sacrificed a lot,” he told students last week. Mike and his wife, Miriam Black – also a FT teacher – invite Gracie to speak to students every year when she’s in town to visit family.
“This is huge for the kids to see someone go and work hard to succeed,” Miriam said.