Rancho Cucamonga actress blends love of theater with teaching – San Bernardino Sun

Until she was about 11 years old, Stephanie Grimley was extremely shy. In fifth grade she had to give a speech in front of the class. The subject: “How to Do Something.” Grimley chose cross stitch.

“But when I got up I froze, then cried,” she said. “I was so embarrassed.”

Grimley’s teacher let her go to the restroom so she could calm down, after which she was able to do the speech. This moment was the catalyst for Grimley to push herself to overcome her shyness.

“The very next year I tried out to sing a part in the sixth-grade holiday program and in seventh grade I did my first school play,” she said. “Then in 1992, I auditioned for my first big show, Karousel Kids in Claremont. I had a really small part, but I was hooked after that.”

Grimley studied actresses she saw on TV and aspired to a career in acting. Among her biggest role models, she said, was Markie Post on “Night Court.”

Born in Fullerton, Grimley was raised in Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga, where she now lives. After high school, she was accepted into the acting program at Cal State Fullerton, which requires students to be juried during their second year so they can move forward.

“I did not pass,” she said. “I was devastated and decided to change my major to communications. I continued to act in community theater, insisting I didn’t need an acting degree to be an actress.”

Grimley took on-camera classes in Los Angeles, got professional headshots taken and did as many shows as she could. She also began appearing as a background actor on such late 1990s shows as “Chicago Hope,” “Roswell” and “Felicity.”

“I even did one episode of ‘Will and Grace,'” she said. “I got one SAG (Screen Actors Guild) voucher as a photo double in the movie ‘Queen of the Damned,’ which I’ve never actually seen.”

Grimley moved to Hollywood and was working in television ad sales while auditioning and applying for jobs in casting or other production sides of the television industry.

“Nothing was happening,” she said.

Grimley decided she would become a teacher. Her mother was a teacher, as well as her grandmother and two of her aunts.

“It was in the family,” she said. “I figured teaching would let me do theater while giving me a steady salary and benefits which I needed for my Type 1 diabetes.”

She is able to use her performance techniques, both in the classroom and while addressing parents at back to school nights, she said. While she enjoys her job as a teacher, Grimley continues to act. One of her proudest moments was winning an Inland Theater League Award for her role as Anita in “West Side Story,” she said.

“It was my first lead role and I immersed myself in it,” she said. “I had never won an acting award before so it was so special.”

Grimley is now taking her 6-year-old daughter, Sami, on acting and modeling audits and they’re seeing immediate results.

“She’s done about six short films, plus a few commercials and modeling jobs in the past year and she has representation,” she said. “I want her to try it and see if she likes it. If at some point she decides she hates it, we’ll stop, but she has a lot of fun on the sets of films and has made some friends.”

As a mother, Grimley is more selective of the shows she auditions for these days. She has recently appeared in some short films. When she retires from teaching, she said she’d like to take acting classes and submit for roles again.

“I’d be in my 60s and be the older lady in everything,” she laughed.

Grimley is currently directing her first show, “The Sound of Music” for Chino Community Children’s Theatre.

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