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Published: Thursday, 4/21/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

HOLLYWOOD CONNECTION

Gracie Dzienny next in Toledo area's Tinseltown tradition

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Gracie Dzienny as Amanda in 'Supah Ninjas' Gracie Dzienny as Amanda in 'Supah Ninjas'
NICKELODEON Enlarge

Hollywood gave us the Rat Pack in the 1960s and the Brat Pack in the 1980s.

So what to call a small crop of Toledo actresses currently making it big in Tinseltown? The Glass Pack, perhaps?

This minor phenomenon unofficially was launched by Katie Holmes, who found success in the late-1990s with The Ice Storm and Dawson's Creek, and has since grown to include Alyson Stoner of Disney's Camp Rock and Step Up 3D, and Adrianne Palicki, formerly of Friday Night Lights and Lone Star, who most recently was tapped to play the latest TV incarnation of Wonder Woman.

Gracie Dzienny, costar of Nickelodeon's new action-comedy series, Supah Ninjas, looks to be the latest addition to the group.

And what does she attribute to her and her fellow Toledoans' success in Hollywood?

"I think it's just that we're all so grounded, I think it's hard to find that sometimes," Dzienny said in a phone interview. "I think we're all just real people. Sometimes it's just better to hire somebody like that. I don't know. I'm just glad it's like that."

Supah Ninjas is about three high school teenagers who lead double lives as super ninjas charged with fighting crime in the fictitious Empire City. The show, which also stars George Takei (Star Trek's Mr. Sulu), airs at 8:30 p.m. Saturdays (Ch. 21 on Buckeye CableSystem). While landing her first acting role in the series is a major accomplishment for the 15-year-old, she's hardly an overnight success.

She began modeling at 5 after winning a Loreal contest. She later took up dance, including tap, jazz, ballet, and hip hop, and modeled during summers. Her big break came while home in Maumee before the start of her freshman year at Anthony Wayne High School, after Dzienny's agent suggested she audition for the part of Supah Ninjas' Amanda, a smart and resourceful teenager skilled in martial arts, and passed along the script.

"That morning my mom taped me doing it before school and I had the biggest bags under my eyes. It was the worst videotape ever. But she sent it in and they called and wanted another videotape. So then we did a better one. We had someone tape it for us and we sent that in. And then about a week later they called and asked me to come and audition out in L.A.

From left, Carlos Knight, Gracie Dzienny, Ryan Potter, and George Takei star in Nickelodeon's 'Supah Ninjas.' From left, Carlos Knight, Gracie Dzienny, Ryan Potter, and George Takei star in Nickelodeon's 'Supah Ninjas.'
NICKELODEON Enlarge

"So we flew out to L.A. and we did five or six more auditions. It was a long process. Then I found out I got the pilot and I stayed out there and did the pilot, and then I went back home and got some regular high school in. I got to go to homecoming and some football games and kind of get a little bit of taste of that.

"And one day at dance class I found out that we had been picked up and my mom came running in and told us all. It was so much fun. We're all in our tap shoes and we're like dancing around."

Dzienney and her mom, Tara, moved to the L.A. area in November. Not surprisingly, they turned to two of her fellow Toledoans for advice.

"I've known Alyson through dance since we were little. After she moved away we kept in contact, so when I was moving out here she really helped me find a house and get with a manager and find an agent, so she has been very helpful. We also talked with Katie Holmes' mom when we were about to move out here too because my dad works with her dad. I've had connections with both of them. I think they're all really good role models and they've done a lot and made a good name for themselves."

Despite being on a TV show on a major cable network, the teenager's life remains fairly normal. Her mom and dad, Mike, shuttle between the family's home in Maumee and Los Angeles to "baby sit" Dzienney. Meanwhile, the teen actress is required to take time out of her film schedule, along with her costars Ryan Potter (Mike Fukanaga) and Carlos Knight (Owen), for school work.

"I have to do at least three hours of school a day. We do that during our 10 hours [on set]. It all depends," Dzienney said. "We have all these things we can do. We can bank school and then they can use that and take it out when we don't have enough time for school. And we'll do it on the weekends. We're really just working it in the schedule.

"It's definitely a different environment [than high school]. There's definitely no goofing around in class because we don't know how long we'll be in there, and we're definitely focusing on our work. Then there's the social aspect; it's like a class for three kids. It's weird to go from a classroom of 20 or 30 kids to a classroom of three, but we're getting used to it. I stay in contact with everyone through text messaging and social networking. It's like a virtual high school almost."

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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