By Donna Furey | LB Indy
For five weeks last summer, Laguna Beach resident Sawyer Pierce rehearsed with cast and crew in Louisiana for his walk-on part in the recently released hit movie “Maze Runner.”
Despite the stultifying heat and humidity and a brown recluse spider bite that sent him to the emergency room, that experience “clinched it for the movies,” said Pierce, who nonetheless turned down an offer for a return part in the sequel to finish his final year at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Its selective drama program admits just 24 students a year from among 2,000 applicants.
“We saw the movie on Friday with a bunch of friends who whooped it up every time he appeared on screen, which is about a dozen times,” said Russell Pierce, Sawyer’s dad. “As a parent, it was kind of a surreal experience to see our boy up on the big screen in a hot movie.”
The sci-fi thriller grossed $32.5 million in its opening weekend in September and 20th Century Fox plans a sequel, “The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials,” intended to open Sept. 18, 2015.
Though Pierce played baseball at Laguna Beach High School, acting was always his passion. Mark Dressler, who teaches drama at Thurston Middle School and LBHS, remembers Pierce as a talented and creative actor, who took direction well and had a broad range of ability at a very young age.
“He was in every major production in high school, including ‘Annie,’ ‘Footloose,’ ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Anything Goes’ to name some,” Dressler said.
This past summer Pierce also starred in the play, “Freaks,” written by classmate Sam French, at the Fringe Festival in New York City.
If his performances this spring in Carnegie Mellon’s showcases in New York and Los Angles don’t attract an agent, he’ll pursue getting work and representation on his own, he said. College friends who are recent graduates are working as nannies, waiters and yoga teachers in New York, but they’re getting auditions and jobs too, he said.
Pierce has reason to be optimistic about his prospects given the success of other former LBHS thespians. Dressler’s son, Luke, who graduated with Pierce from LBHS, obtained his Screen Actor’s Guild card and has credits in several movies. Noah Plomgren, who also attended Carnegie Mellon, is in a national tour of the musical “Hair,” and in a production of “Titanic” in the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmford, N.Y. Christian Marriner, a 2004 LBHS grad, has won roles for productions by Musical Theater West in Long Beach, Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J., and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Sabrina Harper has worked steadily in Europe and the United States since graduation from LBHS in 1996 and next month will appear in the national tour of “Pippin” at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles and Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa.
For his part, Pierce, who would be just as happy working in theater or television, says of his future, “It’s going to happen; it’s going to work.”