All in the Family

From Hamburg to Hollywood

BY KRISTINA ROSEN

 

Meet Hamburg’s next movie star. He’s six.

More than 1,000 kids auditioned for Little Town, the upcoming movie from writer/director Dani Menkin. Grant Stevens, from Hamburg in Lexington, was chosen to play the lead.

Due on the big screen in 2022, Little Town is the road-trip story of a stand up comedian and his son on the way to a ‘Little Town’ in the mountains.

Photo by Megan McCardwell

To prepare for the audition, the character was described to Grant as “a little boy who was sad because he just lost his Mom.” Grant says, “Once my Mom read the audition out loud, we talked about it. I knew I could be that little boy.”

“I loved his audition,” says Menkin, “and my son was with me when I first looked at it, and he also thought Grant was very good,” adding,  “The funny story is that they both became best friends.”

He says, “Grant is a natural talent with the camera and a joy to work with. Grant always showed up at the ‘money time.’”

 

The Stevens family lives in the Hamburg neighborhood of Blackford Oaks.  Margaret Stevens teaches Arts and Humanities—including visual arts, dance, drama, and music—at Crawford Middle School. Dad Chris is a mechanical engineer (currently at work on the Baptist Health Hamburg project). Little sister Emily has also taken an early liking to show business. (Margaret says, “I cannot tell you what it feels like to be teaching and then have an email pop up on your Apple watch that says Ron Howard. One of Em’s first auditions was for Hillbilly Elegy.”)

Grant’s acting career launched early on when he started taking creative movement classes at age two. “I think dance is so much more than just physical activity and for younger children it is essential in their balance and gross motor skills to take dance,” Margaret says. “Grant performed for the first time on the Opera House stage at age 3.”

But she believes he first caught the acting “bug” in 2018. That Fall, she says, “I got a call asking if Grant would play Toto in Eastern KY University’s Fall Musical: The Wizard of Oz.”

Grant pulled off the performance, in tights and a full fur costume, never breaking character, while on stage for two and a half hours. Margaret says, ““His father and I were in awe. We realized then and there that this might be his ‘thing.’”

After that experience, they hired an agent and Grant began booking auditions for Nickelodeon, Disney, Comedy Central, and Marvel, which was one of his biggest audition experiences, and even included a non-disclosure agreement (so he can’t tell us anything about it).

Grant auditioned about 15 times before he got his first booking in September of 2019 with Jupiter Entertainment for a role on Oxygen Channel’s show Homicide for the Holidays.

The role required Grant to be covered in fake blood, which had his Mom worried that the experience might traumatize him. She admits now,  “Instead it was quite the opposite. It ended up traumatizing me and Grant loved it,” adding, “when it was time for the scene, it was surreal for me. To Grant it was all play.”

Despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, Grant landed three professional bookings in 2020, all within a month, including the lead role in Little Town.

 

This past October when Grant booked the role, Margaret thought she’d have to take a leave of absence from teaching to spend two weeks in L.A., but once she was equipped with the tools to Zoom, she says, “As long as I had my phone, I could have class from anywhere.”

She continues, “As most teachers around the world have experienced this year, our job has been re-invented to meet the demands to educate and conduct school during a pandemic.”

The day after the two arrived in California, Margaret spent eight hours making and editing all the videos for her dance unit, and uploading the videos and lessons to Canvas.

That following morning, she and Grant woke up at 4 am—which is 7 am Kentucky time—to begin the school day. Margaret continued to wake up pre-dawn every morning to teach her students across the country back here in Kentucky.

“I taught everyday from 4 am to 8 am. Then Grant was usually due on set. Then I conducted my office hours and parent contacts from 10 am to 1 pm on set.” Her students followed along on set virtually, behind the scenes of filming a movie.

(Amid virtual teaching and a hectic filming schedule, Margaret also pulled off the first ever virtual dance showcase at Crawford in December with help from Diana Evans School of Dance.)

Grant also juggled online school in the midst of a busy film schedule. “I think my Mom always set the alarm clock for 4 am. When I woke up, my Mom made me get on Zoom with my teacher Mrs. Simpson for the morning meeting. It was good to see my friends.”

At six, of course Grant runs across issues that might not face every actor. He says, “I was running some lines and eating a graham cracker and I lost my first tooth. My second bottom tooth fell out a few days later. So I lost both my center bottom teeth in California,” adding, “Whoops! I am 6!”

At the end of the day, filming is work. “Sometimes we had to do the scene again and again, and again, and again,” he admits. “It is a lot of hard work, but it is a lot of fun. A lot of fun!”

With the hard work comes some play. His favorite part of filming is the action scenes, “I love the running scenes. We did a lot of hiking!”

And what boy doesn’t love toys? “The film crew had a truck full of so many cameras. One of the cameras they could rig to a car. Some of our set was driving around in this really cool car.”

A kid after our own heart, he adds, “Oh and I also like the eating scenes!”

“Ithink Grant not only has a great future, more importantly he has a present,” says Menkin. “The camera loves him, and I can’t wait to see more of him, and I am excited for the audience to see his first feature film with our Little Town.”

Grant has had two auditions thus far in 2021. As for what the future holds for his acting career, ever the student, he says, “I am sure I will take some more acting classes someday.”

 

 

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This article also appears on page 10 and 11 of the March 2021 print edition of Hamburg Journal.

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