Blair Gainey walks into the room with a commanding presence, a smile spread across her face, an outstretched hand waiting to greet you. “Hi there,” she says as she bounds into the room.”
Taking a seat and scooting up in the chair so her feet don’t dangle too far from the ground, she adds, “I’m happy to be here.”
Her personality envelops the room like that of an adult who has been interviewed time and time again, but in reality she’s a diminutive, bubbly 7-year-old who is a second-grader at Butler Avenue Elementary School. She’s also the only local youngster to have won a speaking role in the just wrapped movie “Tarnished Notes,” which was filmed on location in Clinton last month.
Gainey plays Jennifer Daniels, the youngest daughter of Jim and Judith Daniels in the fiction-based-on-fact story of a minister of music whose 1984 murder was plotted by his wife and their lover.
“I was so excited to find out I got this role,” Gainey recalls of the day she was told her audition had struck pay dirt with the film’s producers and casting director. “I was surprised too. When they told me, I really didn’t know what to do.”
She smiles an impish, dimpled-cheeked smile as she raises her hands to her head. “I really had no idea I would get a part, but when I did, I just couldn’t quit smiling.”
Blair, the daughter of Amy and Brian Gainey, is an admitted ham, someone who loves singing, acting and dancing. Being in front of the camera to do any or all three, she’ll tell you, is a dream come true, and something that doesn’t strike one bit of fear in the youngster.
“I love it,” she said, giggling under her breath, almost taken back by being ask if she was afraid to perform.
“I like to act and I love, I mean I love to sing … and to dance, too,” she attests, her eyes growing bigger as she speaks. “Ever since I was 2 I’ve been taking dance. Well, I did stop for a little while because I threw a fit one day because I was tired and sleepy. It had been a hard-day at pre-school and I was exhausted.”
She doesn’t skip a beat as she describe life as a pre-schooler, pointing out that after that one day of exhaustion she learned how to take things in stride.
“I knew there would be days like that, but all of this, singing, acting, dance, is what I want to do. It’s hard sometimes, but it is worth it.”
She takes dance from instructor Suzi Faircloth Matthews and musical theater from director Angela Martin and is quick to point out that she has danced on stage before. In fact, she’s also got her own YouTube videos, something she and he mom decided to try.
“One day I was sitting down playing with my Barbies, singing to them, and my mom came in and had the idea to do the video. I was all for it.”
It was that video plus her engaging personality that won her the “Tarnished Notes” role.
According to Craig Theiman, director of photograph for ‘Notes,’ not only does Blair love the camera, the camera loves the little girl. “She was great to work with. Anything the director (Mitchell Maxwell) told her to do, she did, and she did it well.”
Maxwell concurs. “She was just lovely to work with, quite the little professional.”
On set, young Blair was mesmerized by the activity and became fast friends with many of the other young cast members, like Skylar Maxwell, who played her on-screen sister Jessica, and other locals like Stephanie Prestage, Rachel Blanchard and Perry Daughtry.
And she was awe-struck by the opportunity to work with on-screen parents Cari Moskow and Elijah Chester.
“I love “One Tree Hill,” and so when I found out that Cari was going to be my mom in the movie, I got so excited I barely could speak. I thought that was really, really cool. And she is so nice. She really helped me get my blocking right. And Elijah, he was just great.”
Of course, to the second-grader, everyone on set became like a second family, doting on her and showering her with what director Maxwell said was well-deserved praise. “These kids did fantastic. We expected a lot from them, and they delivered. We were thrilled to have Blair in this movie.”
And Blair was thrilled to be in it. “I had no idea what was involved in being on a movie set. I thought it would look different and be different. But it was cool any way, really, really cool.”
Her role required the second-grader to dig deep for emotions not that easy for a youngster to find, particularly one who had never acted professionally before, but Blair hit the mark in every scene, Maxwell said.
“The young girls were a part of the funeral scene, and they had to act really sad because their daddy was dead. That was asking a lot of them, but again, they came through.”
Blair said she wasn’t sure she’d be able to pull it off, but sitting at the Clinton Cemetery with “the sad music playing,” all of a sudden she felt like she was really a part of what was going on. “I suddenly felt like my character and I felt like that was my real dad up there (in the coffin).”
It was that same set of emotions she drew from during a late-night shoot when Judith Daniels, Daniels friend Trudy and the girls pull up to the church to find Jim Daniels’ body lying on the lawn. “I was really into that scene. We (the girls) were singing and cutting up, and then we hear my mom scream. I was so into it, I really wanted to jump out of that car.”
But Blair said she also knew it wasn’t real either, just her and her cast members acting out a scene. “You learn that when you act,” she points out matter-0f-factly.
She said she enjoyed making the movie and making many, many friends during her days on set. “Mr. Maxwell was so nice. He was patient with me and gave me great direction. And Cari and Elijah were great. Then there was Skylar; we’re good friends now.”
She leans forward a little more in her chair and looks around. “Oh, I have to thank some people before I finish,” she points out, her tone turning serious. “I need to thank Mr. Maxwell, Cari for supporting me and Elijah Chester for just being funny and Skylar for playing with me … and Ms. Sherry for writing the book. All of them helped make my dream come true.”
Her first film finished now, the youngster admits that acting is now firmly in her blood. “I loved every minute,” she said, sitting back in her chair. “This just made me love acting even more. I mean, it’s kinda neat to think you might have fans one day, that you might get famous … I’m just saying,” she adds, flashing that million dollar smile.
Reach publisher and editor Sherry Matthews at 910-249-4612. Follow her on Twitter @sieditor1960; follow the paper @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.