Brittany O’Grady’s Got Star Power

The Washington-Lee graduate may be the hottest actress out of Arlington since Sandra Bullock.

Brittany O’Grady (with Alex Mills) in Synetic Theater’s 2012 adaptation of Jekyll & Hyde. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Signature Theatre co-founder and artistic director Eric Schaeffer remembers putting Brittany O’Grady through intensive auditioning before casting her in the 2007 production of The Witches of Eastwick.

“The show would begin with her singing, a little girl onstage by herself. We needed to know we had the right person,” he recalls. “She was the one who stood out.”

It was during that production that O’Grady, then a 10-year-old Montessori student at Drew Model School, decided to pursue a career in show business. A decade later, she may be one of the most successful performers to graduate from Arlington’s public school system since Sandra Bullock received her Washington-Lee diploma in 1982.

In her biggest break so far, O’Grady plays “Simone”—the youngest and most troubled singer of the ambitious R&B girl group that dominates the storyline of Star, Lee Daniels’ gritty new musical drama on Fox. Set and shot in Atlanta, the show is punctuated with sequin-packed musical fantasy sequences and enough sex, drugs and violence to require a viewer-discretion warning at the start of its prime-time slot. The show explores issues involving race, class, addiction, human trafficking, gender identity and foster-care abuse.

“I love being able to tell stories by living them myself through the characters I play,” says O’Grady, who turns 21 this summer, exuding both modesty and confidence as she perches on the sofa in her parents’ Arlington Heights home. “I am empathetic, so acting is a great outlet for me to express myself.”

Simone isn’t O’Grady’s first TV role. She has appeared in episodes of The Night Shift and Trophy Wife, and previously played Nadia Garcia in the 2015 religious sci-fi series The Messengers on The CW. “I’ve played Latinas my whole life,” she says. The Spanish she picked up at school is spotty at best, she adds, but her wide, expressive eyes and ethnically ambiguous complexion (her mom is black and her father is white) have appealed to directors who’ve found her look quite versatile.

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