“I have never gotten a B in my life,” swears Sami Gayle. “I would honestly be mortified if I got a B. I’m so academically driven.” In fact, the 17-year-old actress almost turned down a role in director Mark Waters’s adaptation of Richelle Mead’s popular teen novel, Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters, because filming of the movie in London clashed with her AP human geography exam.
Luckily, Gayle was able to find a solution, enabling her to play vampire Mia Rinaldi and take the exam in the classroom of a local school. “I’m digging the schools in London,” she says. “So much greenery.” It’s impressive that Gayle, who also stars in the hit New York cop show Blue Bloods, still finds the time to study at all. Last May, she arrived on the set of Vampire Academy straight from the Cannes red carpet, where another of her films, The Congress, premiered. The part live-action, part animation movie, in which Gayle plays the tomboyish daughter of Robin Wright’s character, imagines a future where actors are scanned so that they can be replaced by computer-generated avatars. Not that Gayle actually believes CGI will ever displace humans in the movies. “There are certain qualities to a person that are inherent to being real,” she says. “The Congress raises awareness about actors and their vulnerability. Actors are seen as celebrities, but they’re just real people with families.” Family is important to the Florida native. Gayle’s dad is an attorney and her mother owned her own business before selling it to become her manager. Gayle faced her first family-versus-work dilemma at age 11, when she was offered what would have been her debut Broadway role in How the Grinch Stole Christmas on the same Thanksgiving weekend as her brother’s bar mitzvah. Brother won out. But opportunities kept coming, and before she was a teenager, she had moved to New York to pursue acting full time. Director Tony Kaye soon cast her as the young prostitute who is befriended by a teacher played by Adrien Brody in the 2011 drama Detachment. Gayle, though, makes it clear that she chooses her roles for substance. “I was offered something rather large and I turned it down,” she says. “I wanted to stay on a career path of the likes of Natalie Portman. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into a certain genre. I sort of believe that slow and steady wins the race.”