At just 22, Weston product Sami Gayle already has a 10-year entertainment career behind her: Broadway; a successful TV series; and now, a Netflix flick that dropped last week with a storyline centered on bright kids.
And she is its lead actress and co-producer.
Not bad for a former Everglades Elementary School standout whose big break came after fifth grade, and despite the accolades remains a South Florida girl.
“I’m coming home from New York this weekend,” Gayle says. “And as usual, I’ll hit all the usual places, things I remember doing as a child: Joe’s Stone Crab take-out; a walk on Lincoln Road; a stroll through the Aventura Mall. My mom had a Hot Nuts concession stand at the mall near the movie theater for years.”
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With her girl-next-door-meets-big-city-star looks, Gayle was born to Sunrise probate lawyer Larry Klitzman and store owner Robin.
While going to Everglades Elementary, she found an affinity for dancing and eventually started spending an increasing amount of time in New York dance schools.
Before her 12th birthday, she was headed to Broadway.
“There was an open call for Gypsy,” she says, “and, like, 1,000 kids showed up from all over the world. Some of them didn’t even speak English.”
She got the gig alongside theater legend Patti LuPone, and one job led to another.
At 13, she had a recurring role in the soap opera "As the World Turns" and at 14, she got the gig of Nicky Reagan-Boyle on the CBS police series "Blue Bloods" starring Tom Selleck. The series is now in its eighth season, and remains one of network TV’s top-rated shows.
At 15, Gayle played a hooker in "Detachment," a little known movie with Oscar winners Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, and Aventura part-timer James Caan.
The life lessons she got from "The Pianist" star Brody stuck with her.
“That was my first film so it meant a lot to me, but Adrien specifically taught me something invaluable,” says Gayle. “He told me not to work for money or fame but for passion. Be passionate about your work, don’t worry about anything else.”
Which brings us to the Netflix movie "Candy Jar," which premiered last week and takes place in the world of high school debate tournaments.
Chad Klitzman, Gayle’s older brother and a graduate from Weston’s Cypress Bay High School, wrote the script. He drew from his own background as debate champ.
“I worked with him on his debate skills and trained with him,” says Gayle, “so this world is not foreign to me.”
Which is why the 22-year-old felt comfortable in the skin of a high school student for the movie.
“My brother tailor-wrote this role for me,” says Gayle.
While Gayle appeared comfortable being interviewed about anything, she was a little flustered when asked how she reconciles starring on "Blue Bloods," which features frequent gun violence, and growing up a few miles from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Does she think TV violence leads to real-life massacres?
Gayle says she knows "people directly affected by the shooting" and prefers not to talk about it.