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Finding Her Voice

News Story

BFA in Acting student Brianna Gentilella ’17 talks about voicing a children’s TV character for ten years, singing the National Anthem at a Knicks game, and how Pace has helped her grow as an actor.

While most undergraduates come to Pace to jumpstart their careers, Brianna Gentilella ’17, studying for her BFA in Acting, has been a working actor and singer since childhood, boasting a wide range of stage, TV, and film roles. You might have already heard her voice over the past decade; since age nine, Brianna has been the singing and speaking voice of Molly on Nickelodeon’s Bubble Guppies—an animated children’s series featuring the adventures of a group of preschool merpeople in the underwater city of Bubbletucky. “It’s some of my favorite voice work to date,” says Gentilella. For the series’ birthday telephone line, she recited over a thousand children’s names, wishing them happy birthday. “It was a four-and-a-half-hour recording session,” she says, “but it was fun.”

Speaking with her, it’s not hard to see why she would be perfect for roles in children’s series: she has a bright, expressive, bubbly voice that kids would love. It has won her voice work in commercials as the Charmin bear, as well as a spot on the original cast of the Broadway production of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. At the same time, sounding young can sometimes be an obstacle for an actor—and that’s one of the ways that her time at Pace has helped her develop. “My teachers have been great in helping me transition between my young voice and my adult voice as I move into more mature work,” she explains, crediting mentors such as PPA professors Lester Shane and Grant Kretchik, among others.

Why did she decide to enroll at Pace? Fellow students might be able to relate: part of it was due to her mother’s encouragement. “She convinced me that education is really important,” Gentilella explains. “So I definitely wanted an education along with pursuing my acting career, and Pace allows for me to have both in my life.”

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy for her. Taking 17 to 18 credits per semester, she admits that Pace keeps her very busy, and sometimes a recording session forces her to miss class. Still, she doesn’t mind the hustle. “I love to stay busy and active,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot—like relaxation techniques for nerves, different acting techniques, and better understanding my body. It’s made me much more confident in my own work. It totally pays off in the end.”

She continues to do all kinds of work while earning her degree, including roles in Pace productions such as the recent Runaways at the Schaeberle Theater. “It was great,” she says. “I got to work with a lot of musical theater majors, and they were fun. I love meeting new people, whether they’re MFA, BA, musical theater, dance, all of that.” Recently she even sang the National Anthem at a Knicks game. She recalls practicing in the dressing room, in the car on the way to the stadium, and into a live mic while the players were warming up on the court. “It’s a difficult three-octave song, and I’d never done anything like it before. But it was really fun. Everyone was really encouraging, and it was thrilling. I’d love to do it again.”

What does the future hold for Gentilella? After graduation, she plans to continue to pursue her acting career. “Film, TV, stage—all that jazz,” she says. “Hopefully, I’ll be shooting on a TV show or getting back to Broadway.” For now, however, she sees herself being cast in more Pace productions and refining her abilities as an actor. “My teachers are challenging me to find my own voice. There’s a growing maturity that you experience in college, and Pace is a great place for young actors to explore, mature, and experiment.”

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