Tati Gabrielle had just about made her first trip in many years and was getting a call from an agent. The call was for an unnamed Greg Berlanti Project, which Tati Gabrielle had previously turned down.

“About two weeks later, they came back again and were like, ‘They’ve gone through all of their options and they really want to see you for this project,’” said Gabrielle, recalling her agent’s words. “‘They still won’t tell us [what it is], but they want you to do a chemistry read with Penn Badgley.’”

She quickly responded, “Oh, well, say no more.”

Gabrielle loved the hit Netflix thriller series “You” before joining the cast in Season 3. Like most 25-year-olds, she grew up watching Badgley as Dan Humphrey in “Gossip Girl” during her teenage years. Now, she’d be filming her first sex scene with the early aughts icon, becoming his character’s obsession for the season.

Tati Gabrielle plays “Marienne Bellamy” in Episode 301 of “You.”

Based on bestselling novel by author Caroline Kepnes, “You” follows bookstore manager Joe Goldberg, who embarks on a blood-stained killing spree, season after season, in the name of doing anything for love. Under the guise of being the unassuming “nice guy,” Goldberg ensnares various women one by one as innocent crushes morph into something more insidious.

That is, until he’s forced to marry Love Quinn. Despite their unholy matrimony, in Season 3, Joe’s wandering eye lands on Marienne Bellamy, a no-nonsense librarian and cautious single mother grappling with addiction and a custody battle.

In Season 3 of "You," Joe’s wandering eye lands on his boss Marienne, a no-nonsense librarian.
In Season 3 of “You,” Joe’s wandering eye lands on his boss Marienne, a no-nonsense librarian.

Following the chemistry read, Gabrielle asked “You” showrunner Sera Gamble if the show would honor her race in the depiction of Marienne.

“I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t this sort of oblivious nature at all to Marienne that I didn’t feel comfortable in playing or just letting so many things go over Marienne’s head. When we speak to our family members or our friends, it’s like, ‘You know dang well, in that horror film, the Black person would have been so much more clued in than that,’” she said with a laugh.

When the news of Gabrielle joining the cast was released on Twitter last year, users assumed her character would finally put an end to Joe’s reign of terror. With previous roles such as Gaia in “The 100” and, recently, the witchy Prudence Blackwood in Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” fans were expecting a takedown only a seasoned horror actor like Gabrielle could execute.

Ironically enough, she doesn’t even like horror films.

The self-proclaimed “biggest scaredy cat in the world” couldn’t watch “Jurassic Park” without cowering in fear until she was 16.

“Horror was never in my scope,” Gabrielle said. “I have two older siblings and when I was 7 years old, they strapped me down and made me watch the original ‘It.’ I was just traumatized for life from that and stayed very far away from horror my whole life prior to doing ‘Sabrina.’”

Along with Adeline Rudolph and Abigail Cowe, Tati Gabrielle attends the red carpet premiere of Netflix's "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" in 2018.
Tati Gabrielle is pictured with Adeline Rudolph & Abigail Cowe at the 2018 red carpet premiere of Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”.
Rachel Murray via Getty Images

She continued, “​​I feel like it’s almost like the universe playing a joke on me. But it’s been fun and it has been a really good challenge for me because I’m so the opposite of what the horror genre sort of presents. It does allow me to take a different perspective on life at times, which I enjoy as an actor.”

A theater kid drawn to films, Gabrielle developed a love for acting from watching stories such as “Léon: The Professional” and classics like “Poetic Justice,” but “Colombiana,” starring Zoe Saldana, resonated the most.

“‘Colombiana’ was a really big thing for me when I was a kid, just being able to see a Black woman as an action star,” Gabrielle said. “I am a black belt in karate and did sports my whole life, so to see this kick-ass Black woman go on a vengeance spree was really cool to me.”

Growing up in a family of strong Black matriarchs and HBCU alumni, she was raised to attend Jack and Jill of America monthly meetings and watch the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. sisters bond.

She traveled to Atlanta with her brother, Morehouse College student, from San Francisco. There she studied drama at Spelman College.

“It was really beautiful being a part of the drama department at Spelman. Being able to do all of these Black plays — August Wilson is one of my favorite playwrights — it’s a different kind of energy,” Gabrielle said. “There’s a different kind of vitality that’s in Black creative work, especially doing certain plays and things. There’s this added sort of layer of celebration through struggle.”

Tati Gabrielle played Prudence Blackwood on Netflix's "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina."
Tati Gabrielle played Prudence Whitewood in Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”
Paul Archuleta via Getty Images

During her second year, anxiety and depression set in.

“While I did very much enjoy my time at Spelman,” she said, “within the little society that we’ve built, there’s still division somehow. This place was created and built for the benefit of all. [uplifting]While we work together for the betterment of Blacks, it is still possible to create division and put others down. It really got to me in my second year. I was like, I need to find a way to shake myself out of this.”

Her best friend called her inviting her to Los Angeles. When she was younger, Gabrielle always said she wanted to be a working actor before age 20 — so she took the leap of faith.

Gabrielle has been playing a wide variety of characters since that time, including roles on The CW and Disney. In order to understand the role of Marienne as a mother, Gabrielle needed to change her perspective.

“I was able to speak to a mother, who … lost her child due to her own addiction. On the side of her being a recovering addict and trying to find a new path, I have family members who have gone through addiction and rehab,” she said. “That was something that was not foreign to me at all. I had to dig deep for that to sort of inform little moments with Marienne and her struggle within herself.”

To prepare to portray Marienne, Gabrielle had to learn what it means to be a mother fighting for her child.
Gabrielle learned how to fight for Marienne in order to prepare her to play the role.

Gabrielle was a fan of Penn Badgley and loved playing Marienne. She was admittedly anxious when she had to shoot the more sexual scenes. But Badgley comforted her and reassured.

“I loved working with Penn. He’s so compassionate, so giving, so generous,” she said. “As an actor, he’s very communicative, which is something that I really appreciate. It came to the sex scenes. I came on set that day like, ‘Penn, I’m gonna be so honest with you. I’m so nervous right now.’ He was like, ‘It’s gonna be OK. We’re going to talk through it.’”

Gabrielle is most impressed by the common theme in every role she plays. It’s the stories of each character’s struggle with trauma. When people look at Marienne, Gabrielle wants them to be able to see that women are the creators of their own destiny, not “some man that we decided to invite into our lives.”

Gabrielle loves to celebrate Black triumphs, but she also hopes to make her own stories and projects that are focused on Black celebrations.

“I want to be able to demonstrate the strength of Black women in the most truth that I can. I want to be able to show Black women and Black people in a light that says that no, we can, we do, and we should celebrate,” Gabrielle said. “The legacy that I want to leave is showing us in a full fashion, not just what society or the world wants to view us as.”

Source: HuffPost.com.

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