For the past four years, fans of the Hallmark original series When Calls the Heart have watched this talented young actress grow up right before their eyes. Gracyn Shinyei plays Emily Montgomery, a kind-hearted student in Miss Thatcher’s class. I was able to speak with Gracyn about her career in acting, her role as Emily, and upcoming projects.
You’re so young and have already been a part of so many great projects. What inspired you to become an actress? Parents, did you always know she would go into acting?
Gracyn: My Mom was an actor in LA but did not want me to act really, but then my dance studio suggested I start acting. Plus my older brother Valin is an actor too.
Dad: At the studio where Gracyn dances the owners also have a talent agency and suggested we send her out and at age 4 she started doing commercials. We did not assume she would pursue acting, but it just developed into TV and Movies roles. She is very young still and may or may not keep up with the acting as she matures. What ever she does we will support her.
How did you start? What were some of your first roles? How did you get the role of Emily?
Gracyn: My first jobs were commercials and my agent sent me out to try acting. My first role was in a zombie film, and then shortly after a movie where I played a young version of Abigale Breslin called Final Girl. I got the role of Emily by auditioning. I think I also looked right for the role because I had pig tails, and I really liked Little House on the Prairie so I knew I wanted to act on a show like that.
You have been a familiar face in When Calls the Heart for all four seasons as Emily. How has that experience been?
Gracyn: Now I have been on all 4 seasons and I really love the show and have made some great friends now. I hope it goes on forever! I have been very lucky.
I know the hearties have loved seeing you at the reunions. What is it like to be part of a show with such a strong and passionate fanbase?
Gracyn: It’s amazing and the fans are very nice and gentle people. They are always kind and chatty. I do get shy when I talk with them, as I don’t know them all, and forget their names sometimes because there are so many of them.
A lot of the hearties would say that we’ve sort of seen you grow up on the show from season 1 to now season 4. Would you agree? Is there anything you’ve learned from working on the show that has helped you in your own life as you grow up and in your career of acting?
Gracyn: Ha, I do feel like I have grown up on the show. I have been on it for half of my life now. I learned that it’s hard work and you have to keep trying to get it right. I try to use that all the time. My dancing and school need me to practice and work hard too, just like learning lines and all the long hours on set.
What is it like working on a show with so many other great young actors? What’s that dynamic like?
Gracyn: The other actors are awesome and people like Erin and Pascale help all the others because some of us are younger kids and kind of new to acting. The people in the crew are so nice too, and it’s kind of like having neighbors and a big family.
I know that you’ve worked with Erin Krakow before in A Cookie Cutter Christmas where you played a younger version of Erin’s character, Christie. And now obviously you play one of her students. How is it working with Erin and what is the relationship like between the two of you?
Gracyn: Erin is awesome and so sweet. She even called me to personally tell me that I got the role on A Cookie Cutter Christmas! She is just like her character on TV and helps everyone all the time. She is like a big sister!
Do you have any scenes that stick out to you as the most fun or most challenging to film?
Gracyn: I had a hard time in season 1 in my very last scene when I was being interviewed by Constable Thornton. The lines were hard to memorize, and I had worked for many weeks before that filming so I was super tired. I also remember a scene that is coming up this season that was emotionally hard but fun to film. I really liked getting to sing in the Christmas special this year too!
Without giving anything away, is there anything you can say about what Emily is up to in season 4? New storylines she is a part of?
Gracyn: We are not allowed to talk too much about the stories, but I can say I have an issue with a teacher this year.
For some more fun questions, besides acting, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
Gracyn: I love dancing and singing. And when I get time I like to draw and playing toys with my good friends.
What would your dream role be?
Gracyn: I think my dream job would be to play Miss Thatcher’s character, or a role like that, or perhaps be a lead on any new StarWars movie.
Finally, do you have any new projects coming out that you can tell us about?
Gracyn: I just did my first Cartoon Pilot as the lead character and its for pre-schoolers. If it gets picked up I would be the lead character. It’s kind of like My Little Kitty and sooooo cute. Plus, my brother who is a voice actor is the lead named Noddy on a cartoon called Noddy Toyland Detective and will also be on my show so we would work together.
Gracyn’s humility and sweet nature is admirable in an environment where fame can so quickly go to one’s head. This young lady brings hope for the entertainment industry of the future. Make sure to keep an eye on her, because I know she will be gracing us with her talent in many more projects to come. You can see Gracyn on When Calls the Heart, which airs on the Hallmark channel Sunday nights 9/8c. Keep up to date with all of her latest news by following Gracyn on her social media accounts:
*Photo credit to Hallmark Channel and Gracyn’s Twitter