The Gagliardi family learned the business of show biz when their son Henry found success in acting
At the 2012 Comic Con in Philadelphia, 6-year-old Henry Gagliardi stood in front of more than 600 people and asked Chris Hemsworth, an actor who played Thor, who his favorite superhero was when he was a kid. When an audience member caught the interaction on camera, with Hemsworth asking the question back and whispering into the microphone to tell Henry to say “Thor,” and Henry whispering “Thor” back, the moment would lead to years of auditions and acting roles for the now 11-year-old boy.
According to his father, Dominic, Henry — a student at Hartford School — was always an outgoing child, unlike his parents and older sister.
“We never knew what to do with him,” Gagliardi said. “When he was little, we were like, ‘how do we funnel this, what do we do with it,’ and then the acting just sort of happened.”
Following Comic Con, Henry’s parents submitted his information to a local Philadelphia agent, and much to their surprise, he booked his first three auditions — the role of principal in a Six Flags commercial, a photo double for the NBC show “Do No Harm” and a principal in a radio shack commercial.
After seeing Henry thrive in the acting environment, his parents sent his information to a New York agency, Take 3 Talent, which represents him. A couple of years ago, Henry also became a member of the Screen Actors Guild, a labor union that represents film and television performers worldwide.
“He gets to be around adults, he gets to act like an adult, he gets to be the life of the party, and that was something he had always wanted,” Gagliardi said. “It wasn’t our nature, so we didn’t know how to feed that when he was so young, but then this came about and we were like, ‘oh my goodness, he is thriving.’”
Since his start four and a half years ago, Henry has been to more than 300 auditions and has booked 29 jobs, including the CBS television show “Limitless,” the award-winning short film “Embers and Dust,” and a lead in the live theater production of “Radio City Christmas Spectacular.” Most recently, Henry was cast in “Law and Order: SVU,” and will be filming the horror film “The Luring” this summer.
“I like the experience with the directors and the crew, and mostly the experience I get to have with my dad. We get all that bonding time, and we now have code words that we understand. My dad is my best friend,” Henry said. “I like the challenge and also being able to be different people, like seeing things from different points of view, such as when I was in ‘Embers and Dust,’ I was a 1930s farm boy, and I was walking around reading my really old graphic novel, meeting an alien.”
According to Gagliardi, they typically won’t find out about an audition until the night before, causing the family to learn quick-planning skills when they hear they need to make a trip to New York City.
“It has to be your primary focus while you’re doing it; it’s not something you can just dabble in and expect success,” Gagliardi said. “We keep track of all of his auditions, he’s had almost 300, and over 250 have been in New York City. When you think about that, and even though it’s been over four and a half years, that’s a lot of trips back and forth. When he was non-union, there were times when we were going back and forth three to four times a week.”
Aside from acting, Henry is also a gymnast, however, he is taking a break to let nerve-damage in his foot heal. He’s also a member of the drama club and problem solvers at the Hartford School, and enjoys playing recreational soccer and taking art classes in the summer.
“We always ask him at the end of every job, ‘do you want to be a normal kid and stop this, or do you want to continue?’ and he always puts acting first,” Gagliardi said.
Alongside Henry, younger-brother Samuel, 8, has also taken up acting as of last year in his first role as Hans in the horror short film, “Krampusnacht.”
“We took a chance, I submitted him, and they wanted to see him for an interview and an audition, so he went up and got it against quite sizable competition, New York actors. They were all young, but people that had been doing this their whole lives and he had never done it and he beat them all out,” Gagliardi said.
“I like getting to do stuff I don’t normally get to do,” Samuel said.
In June, Samuel will be filming his next role in the upcoming feature drama film, “Sno Babies,” a story about America’s suburban heroin epidemic.
“We always said he has an incredible imagination and that if he wanted to do this, he could be very successful, and he had shown us that’s the case,” Gagliardi said. “The director actually said he was doing things in his audition that she has 35-year-old actors that can’t do, such as the way he was transitioning, so we know he can do it.”
Samuel, a student at Springville Elementary School, will be going for his black belt in Tae Kwon Do this fall, plays on the travel soccer team and enjoys practicing American Sign Language.
“It’s definitely an adventure, that’s how I refer to it most of the time and it’s really interesting. I’ve seen Henry benefit many ways, aside from the minimal fame or the money, it’s really what it’s done to his personality, his confidence, his ability to handle rejection,” Gagliardi said. “I think it could benefit Samuel the same way.”
To complete the family of talent, the oldest of the Gagliardi children, Gianna, 15, hopes to take a step into the limelight once her braces are removed and get into modeling or acting. Gianna has had experience in background work on her brother’s projects and hopes to soon carve her own path in the industry. A former NASA Sister Scholar and current Bishop Eustace Scholarship recipient, Gianna is a member of the crew team and science and engineering clubs at school.