Laurel Griggs, who enjoyed early acting success in the 2013 Broadway revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and the musical adaptation of the Irish film “Once,” died Tuesday. She was 13.
Griggs’ death was confirmed by David Rivlin, her grandfather, who said in an interview Sunday that the actress had a “massive asthma attack.”
“Laurel was a child that everybody would dream to have,” Rivlin said. “She was a brilliant girl, could run a role and never forget a line, and I never heard a complaint. I’m going to miss her.”
Emergency responders were flagged down around 7:25 p.m. Tuesday outside an East Harlem residence to help a girl who was having difficulty breathing on the front steps of the building, the New York Police Department said.
Officers performed CPR on the girl, whose name they did not release, en route to Mount Sinai Hospital, the police said.
Griggs died at the hospital, Rivlin said. Her funeral was held Friday, according to an obituary posted on the website of Riverside Memorial Chapel.
“The world lost a real princess who only wanted to make the future happy for all,” Rivlin said on Facebook. “Acting was just a childhood dream come true and she had big plans for the future.”
Griggs’ death stunned members of the theater community, who posted tributes to her on social media. They described Griggs as a special talent who was kindhearted as she balanced the rigors of school with her promising acting career.
She made her Broadway debut at age 6 as Polly in Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” which starred Scarlett Johansson as Maggie. In 2013, Griggs joined the company of the Tony Award-winning musical “Once” for 17 months, where she played the longest-running Ivanka in the production’s history, according to Young Broadway Actor News, a site for children working in New York theater.
“Laurel was a brilliant young lady whose impact in the lives of everyone she met went far and beyond her immense talent,” the site said in a post. “Her wisdom and kindness were gifts to the theater community during her time on Earth.”
Griggs made a few appearances on “Saturday Night Live” as an uncredited cast member, according to the Internet Movie Database. She also appeared in “Café Society,” a romantic comedy starring Steve Carell that Amazon released in 2016, and did voice work for the animated series “Bubble Guppies.”
Griggs also wrote and directed a short film about a school shooting called “This is Not a Drill,” Rivlin said. It was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival last year.
She did philanthropy for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, to which her family directed memorial donations.
“Whether she was helping with our fundraising efforts or appearing with other kids from Broadway in a special holiday video, Laurel exuded sweetness and sincerity, as she did onstage in ‘Once’ with a company that adored her,” Tom Viola, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement.
Griggs’ asthma was diagnosed at an early age, according to her grandfather, who said she attended the Clinton School, an International Baccalaureate World School on East 15th Street with a strong emphasis on the arts.
“She took her medication everyday and had some kind of machine for breathing if she needed it,” he said. “She didn’t miss any school. It’s just a destructive disease.”
Rivlin, who spent one-on-one time with his granddaughter every week, said Griggs had big plans outside show business. She was an environmentalist and an activist and probably would have become a lawyer, he added.
“I think the country is going to miss her, not just Broadway,” Rivlin said. “God only knows what she could have done with her life.”