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Local News

LT grad lands lead role in upcoming 'Paranormal Activity' movie, out Friday

Gabrielle Walsh’s cell phone wasn’t getting any reception in the Hollywood studio where she was auditioning for a TV show, hoping to land her first big role. So, even though her agents had gotten together for a conference call to tell her the good news, they couldn’t deliver it. 

Later in the day, Walsh was exiting the bathroom at the studio when she got a call from an unknown number.

“I get a call from the hairdresser asking me what’s a good day for me to come in and get my hair done,” Walsh said. “It was a little frustrating because I knew I couldn’t scream in the studio.”

She did scream in joy as soon as she got in her car though.

Walsh, a 24-year-old actress from Indian Head Park, had landed the lead female role in the new film "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones." The film is the fifth in a series of horror movies that use security cameras and other recording devices to reveal scenes as found footage. The movie hits theaters Friday in the U.S. and Canada, and will eventually be shown worldwide. 

When Walsh watched the movie for the first time, the screaming started again, this time out of scared shock. 

“You don’t always know what’s going to make it into the film,” said Walsh, a 2007 Lyons Township High School grad. “Even the things I had seen surprised, shocked and scared me … We filmed in some dark places.”

Until landing her first role in a movie, Walsh had appeared mainly in commercials and short films. She moved to Los Angeles in 2011 shortly after graduating from Northern Illinois University and partnered with an agent, already an accomplishment for such an inexperienced actress. But for several years, she auditioned for part after part – for movies, TV shows, soap operas – and, despite getting plenty of callbacks, never snatched a major role. 

“It would come down to her and somebody who’s been in the industry a long time who had much more experience,” said John Walsh, her father. “And they go with the experience, you know.”

Although his daughter had studied under acclaimed acting coach Kathryn Gately at NIU and attended the Moscow Art Theater School, John Walsh wasn’t sure about her decision to move to L.A. fresh out of college. 

“When she first went out there, I was very skeptical about it,” John Walsh said. “It’s a shot in the dark. But she’s done very well.”

Gabrielle Walsh couldn’t reveal much about the movie, but she did offer an overview: Set in Oxnard, Calif., the film follows a young man named Jesse who becomes possessed by strange, unknown forces after investigating the site where a woman died. Jesse’s friends Hector and Marisol (Walsh’ character) struggle to save their friend as he fights the demonic forces gripping him. 

Her mother loved to watch scary movies, so Gabrielle Walsh was introduced to them when she was little. But horror isn’t her dad’s favorite genre. 

“She hasn’t really been able to tell me too much about the movie,” John Walsh said. “If my daughter wasn’t in it, I don’t think I’d be going to see it.”

But she is, so John Walsh is hoping to organize a special viewing at a local theater.

What does he think about millions of people seeing his daughter on the big screen?

“It’s pretty impressive,” he said. “I’m pretty proud of her. She’s had a dream, and she’s followed her dream.”

To watch the trailer for the movie, go to 

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