Photo illustration by Kamira Patel

Making it on the small screen: alumna Ginny Gardner joins cast of ‘Glee’

Think back to last Thursday’s episode of “Glee.”

Did you see anyone you knew?

Former Country Day student Ginny Gardner played freshman Katie Fitzgerald, Ryder Lynn’s love interest.

Gardner attended Country Day from kindergarten to eighth grade, beginning in 1999. Ten years ago, she was just one of thousands of little girls dreaming of making it in Hollywood.

Fast forward 11 years and that starry-eyed girl still hasn’t given up on her childhood dream.

Gardner began her acting career at SCDS by starring in nearly every middle-school production. Brian Frishman, head of the drama department, directed Gardner from sixth to eighth grade.

“She played the same type of part: a pretty girl with attitude–kind of a ‘Mean Girls’ character. It was what came naturally to her,” Frishman said.

Although Gardner’s parents occasionally asked Frishman for advice about her career, Frishman admits that they didn’t need much direction.

“Her mom had been a newscaster, and they had enough money to where they could support her ambitions,” he said.

Gardner moved to Los Angeles with her mother two years ago to pursue acting full-time. Gardner lived with her mother for the first year; however, once she started to be more successful and able to handle herself, she moved into her own apartment and began to live on her own.

Gardner would have been entering her junior year at St. Francis when she moved. Although most would be skeptical of the change, Gardner maintains that it was better than the alternative.

“(To make it to the auditions in LA) we would fly down, rent a car, drive home and go back to school. I was missing 3-4 days of school per week, and that’s without even thinking about the cost,” she said.

However, it wasn’t until she faced an ultimatum that she decided to make the final move.

“I was up for a really big role, a really out-of-the-blue huge role, and I didn’t get it, and I was heartbroken.

“I was so upset that my parents said, ‘Either you quit or take this 100 percent.’ They gave me the opportunity to make this a career.”

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Rather than attend school, Gardner took the California High School Proficiency Exam, which offers the legal equivalent of a high-school diploma rather than an equivalency certificate.

Gardner previously guest starred in an episode of “Hart of Dixie” in December 2011 and an episode of Disney’s “Lab Rats” last March.

After “Lab Rats” she took nearly a year off to pursue modeling, taking on various jobs and appearing in this month’s issue of “Seventeen.”

Caught up in modeling, Gardner admits that she was close to putting acting on a permanent hiatus just weeks before she heard about the “Glee” audition.

Although Gardner felt a bit star-struck by the “Glee” cast, specifically bigwigs like Jane Lynch, she said that everyone was welcoming.

“On my last day, Jane Lynch introduced herself to me—as if I didn’t already know who she was—and was really amazing and down to earth,” Gardner said.

Although she’s been on other sets, Gardner went through a completely new experience on “Glee.”

“In the second episode, I’m in a musical number. For actors, you have a line coach who will stay on book with you. They give you little corrections for the line.

“But for the musical numbers, it’s all lip-sync. They have a lip-sync coach who comes up to the actors and gives them lip-syncing directions.”

Gardner said earning the spot on “Glee” validated why she moved to LA in the first place–to pursue acting rather than modeling.

Although she can’t say much about her “Glee” future due to her contract, Gardner teased that her character will play a larger role in the March 21 episode.

“As of now, I’ve done two episodes. How many more? I don’t know yet. It could be two–or 16!”

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