Cover photo by Corinne Louie
The Hudson Valley has its newest starlet, and her name is Gabriella Uhl. We sat down with the up-and-comer as she prepares for the release of Netflix’s 13: the Musical.
Gabriella Uhl spends her time like most Hudson Valley 14-year-olds might: she goes to school, hangs out with her family or friends, and enjoys life around the Hudson River waterfront. The only difference is that, unlike most teens of her age, the schools at which you’ll find Uhl are onstage and on-screen, as in School of Rock and the forthcoming 13: the Musical.
You may recognize the latter title, especially if you’re a theater buff. The story was originally penned for the stage by Jason Robert Brown, one of Broadway’s foremost composers, whose work has helped push the tenor of musical theater in the direction of pop and rock. Actress and singer-songwriter Ariana Grande made her professional debut in the original production, which began previews in September of 2008, launching her stratospheric career.
However, the world in which Grande booked 13 looks quite different from that of March 2020—the month Uhl attended her audition for 13 in New York City, just before the advent of the pandemic. There, she would pique the interest of Netflix’s casting directors, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In Conversation With Gabriella Uhl
Can you tell us a bit about how you started performing, and how that led to you booking 13?
I grew up in a family of performers. Hudson Valley people might know of the West Point Band—both of my parents were actually in the West Point Band for several years. And both of my siblings are in the arts. I loved performing from, like, preschool.
My first professional theater experience was with the Westchester Broadway Theater—I was in a production of Annie—and, from there, I guess I just started going on more auditions, ‘cause I loved it. Why not? That’s when I booked School of Rock—the first national tour—when I played Sophie and understudied four other parts. I had a blast with that. I was with the original cast, and I stayed all the way through to the end of the run.
When I got home, I was like, ‘Well, I can either go back to public school and be like a normal kid again, or I can keep going with this.’ And I just keep going. It was a snowball that never stopped.
What did the audition process for 13 look like?
The audition process, for me, started back in March of 2020. It was actually my last in-person audition in New York City before the pandemic. I did one audition then, and then everything kind of paused because of the pandemic, so I didn’t hear back from casting until October of 2020. I found out I got a callback for Patrice, and it was my first time doing callbacks on Zoom, which was really interesting. I found out in February of 2021 that I got Patrice.
What was it like to get that call?
So, actually, I found out in the [virtual] audition room that I had booked it—I feel like that never happens. I was in a Zoom call with all of the other kids that also ended up booking it, and the director said, ‘I want you guys to look around, ‘cause you’re looking at the cast of 13!’ And it was the craziest moment of my life.
That’s amazing! We’d love to hear more about your character. What’s she about?
Patrice is Evan’s [the protagonist] neighbor and Evan’s first friend in Indiana. She cares about the environment, she’s a feminist—I can relate to her in that way. The “popular kids” at school don’t really like Patrice because, you know, she values different things than them. The reason she’s friends with Evan is he also appreciates the things that she appreciates.
She has her sights set beyond the small town. I like to think of it as, like, she’s a big city girl stuck in a small town. I can relate to her like that, too, ‘cause I grew up in this small town in New York. But, unlike Patrice, I’m super close to New York City. I got to go on tour and go to 63 cities across the U.S. [and] two cities in Canada.
Did you make any good friends while on set for 13?
With COVID, we couldn’t really hang out outside of set, which was really sad. But I loved working with people my age—that doesn’t always happen.
Also, my other favorite people on set were the crew members. In fact, while I was on School of Rock, I had the chance to shadow different crew members—you know, stage managers, lighting [designers]—and it’s amazing to see how a show or a film isn’t possible without each crew member. And they’re so kind, and they’re professional, and they’re so good at what they do.
Beyond 13, we know you’ve done a lot of work onstage. What are the biggest differences between acting for the stage and the screen?
I feel like the biggest one is when you’re performing onstage, you have to project. You have to have your facial expressions and your lines reach the nosebleeds. It’s a huge, huge theater and you have to make sure everyone in the audience can see what you’re doing.
And in film, it’s the exact opposite. There’s a camera right on your face, so you don’t have to project at all. It was really interesting, even on the Zoom callbacks for 13, it was cool to see how different the acting method is, having a screen that you’re performing on. I like to think of it as a big canvas versus a smaller canvas.
Also, when you’re performing onstage, you finish a number and the audience is there to give you feedback. With a movie, you don’t really know what the audience is thinking. Also, one last thing: when you’re filming a movie, you have 20 tries to get one perfect shot. With theater, you have one try, but you do it eight times a week. I love both for different reasons.
When you’re not working, do you have a favorite spot to hang out in the Hudson Valley?
I love hanging out at the Hudson River. I’m really close to the Hudson—in fact, I went there yesterday with my brother. The sunsets there? Oh my gosh. Amazing. I spend a lot of time at my dance studio, I’m there over 10 hours a week, and I get to go there with people I’ve known since I was three, so I’m super close with all of them. Also, a perk of living in a small town is there are so many cute little coffee shops, parks to hang out at. I like to ride my bike there.
Outside of acting, do you have any hobbies?
I love cooking and baking. That’s probably the top one. I love spending time with my dog. He just turned one—I have a miniature Schnauzer. I also love ice skating! Like, winter activities, I love skiing in the winter with my family.
View this post on Instagram
Last but not least, what’s next for you?
Recently, I sang the national anthem at a WNBA game. I loved that and want to do it more in the future. Otherwise, you know, I can’t really say anything I’m working on till it’s released publicly.
View this post on Instagram