'Gifted' Premiere: Octavia Spencer, Chris Evans Praise Co-Star McKenna Grace

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Clockwise, from left: Jenny Slate, Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, Jona Xiao and McKenna Grace

"When you have talent that big, you give it room and allow it to bloom,” said Spencer.

McKenna Grace was the clear star of Tuesday night’s premiere of Gifted at the Pacific Theater in Los Angeles. Twirling down the red carpet wearing a sparkly dress made entirely of gold sequins, Grace made sure to hug every cast and crew member on the white carpet.

Director Marc Webb couldn’t help but gush about the starlet. “She’s hilarious,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “She has this weirdly amazing comic timing that’s not like Nickelodeon, God bless Nickelodeon, but it’s a different kind of sophistication that is very deep and very pure and really sincere. And to find it in a child of that age is extraordinary.”

Grace’s co-stars also had nothing but praise for the young actress who plays Mary, a child math prodigy who has lived with her uncle since her mother’s death.

“I learned [from McKenna] that when you have talent that big, you give it room and allow it to bloom,” said co-star Octavia Spencer, who plays Mary and Frank’s neighbor, Roberta Taylor, in Gifted.

“What I learned from McKenna is that you are never too young to be prepared,” said Jenny Slate, who plays Mary’s teacher, Bonnie Stevens, in the film. “She was so prepared for work, and it made me want to really be on point.”

Chris Evans, whose character Frank has been raising his niece Mary, felt that it was easy to create a special bond with Grace. “I feel a kinship with kids,” he joked. “My intellect level is kind of on par with them.”

“We knew a lot of songs from [The Presidents of the United States of America],” Grace said of Evans. “We were always singing on set … he’s a really great guy, he’s so much more than Captain America." 

The cast and crew also highlighted the themes of the movie, which encourages women in education. 

“I think [Gifted] sends a lot of messages to everyone out there, which is family is what you make it,” producer Andy Cohen told THR. “We’re hoping this will encourage girls to get into math more and know that this is kind of a cool thing and that you can still be everything that Mary is and be into math and be into science and be into things that maybe they’re not encouraged to do.”

“There’s no such thing as a girl who can’t do math or science or pursue anything that they want to pursue,” said producer Karen Lunder. “Also, family is something that can be defined in a lot of different ways. It doesn’t have to be the sort of traditional definition of family.”

“I think [Gifted] highlights what a real family should be,” proclaimed Slate. “[It’s] an environment that helps you grow and change and supports you and says you always have a place to be, no matter how you show up.”

Gifted hits select theaters April 7 and nationwide April 12.

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