The Newest Witch In Town: Tati Gabrielle
Tati Gabrielle has been building up an acting career ever since she was born. Gabrielle, a Bay Area native, grew up doing art and playing sports and later attended the Oakland School for the Arts. Gabrielle’s mom always referred to her as a drama queen, so she auditioned for both visual arts and theatre. Gabrielle recalls, “[The day of the audition], I forgot my sketchbook. Because of that, I was only able to audition for theatre. It was actually a good thing that happened, I got in for theatre!” At the Oakland School for the Arts, Gabrielle began to build the foundations of her acting career. “We had an amazing staff that really took us deep into acting and taught us how to create a character. There is so much I learned in my time there that I still use now. So many things my teachers said to me still ring in my mind. I am so blessed to have an arts education; it is something that so many kids now aren’t able to receive. Being at that school is what sparked my true passion for acting. It became something that really meant a lot to me, to try to reach people in the most real way that I could.”
From the beginning of her career, Gabrielle has been challenging her boundaries and the roles she played. Gabrielle’s first role was Lemony Snicket in A Series of Unfortunate Events. “I was originally cast as Violet but I really wanted to be Lemony Snicket, so I asked if I could play him instead.” Lemony Snicket, traditionally played by a man, is the narrator of the play. “I think [the experience] really taught me how to command an audience with just your voice and tell a story as it is happening on stage.” This came in handy for Gabrielle later as opportunities to voice characters came her way.
Gabrielle voiced the character of Addie for The Emoji Movie. This was a challenge that Gabrielle took on and learned a lot from. She explains, “[Voicing a character] is very different. Just before The Emoji Movie, I had done a series for TBS called Tarantula. When we did that we recorded together, so it would be three actors in the same recording studio. The Emoji Movie was very different because I had to do it by myself. I wouldn’t be able to bounce off other actors in the room and feel their energy. By the time I began recording, all I had seen was what my character looked like. I learned a lot by really challenging my embodiment of a character with very few resources.” This is where Gabrielle’s visual arts background comes in handy; she was able to imagine what the world of her character might look like without many resources.
Gabrielle was also seen in The 100, a sci-fi surrounding the survival of 100 young prisoners sent back into a post-apocalyptic world to test its habitability. “Before being on The 100, I had watched the show, so it was really exciting for me to be a part of something that I loved. Doing sci-fy and being in this fictional world was really cool! It was my first long-term experience in the film and television show, so I was very nervous coming in. But the cast was so open and welcoming. They answered every question I had about the industry. I learned so much.” Commenting on the shift in genre from her previous roles, Gabrielle replies, “The post-apocalyptic nature of the show is really awesome. It takes on a lot of question like ‘What are people willing to do’ and ‘How far will they go to survive?’ It was so cool to dig into that and build a character over the course of a season.” Gabrielle’s character, Gaia, made the experience all the better. On how she identified with her character, Gabrielle shares, “I related to Gaia a lot, in the way that she is a warrior, and I feel I am the same way. There is a lot in my early life that I had to fight through, like Gaia. She is able to remain peaceful through all of that. She is very different from Prudence, the character I am playing now [on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina]. Before Gaia, I had really only had small light roles on Nickelodeon that were more fun, so it was my first real deep role.” Gabrielle will be back for Season 6 of the show.
Gabrielle’s most recent role is Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the Archie comics by the same name. “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl who is half-witch and half-mortal who is trying to figure out what path to take. Prudence is Sabrina’s archnemesis in the teenage witch world. She really challenges Sabrina’s faith and her take on their witch culture. It is definitely a little scary and dark; it deals with cults and witchcraft. For those who are fans of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, this will be a fun new look at that story.” The character of Prudence is very different from anything Gabrielle has done before. “Playing the enemy has been a really fun challenge because I am naturally a very happy person, so this was my first time playing a character like Prudence. At times it felt a little weird but definitely fun to really step outside of myself and fully embody a completely different person that was so unlike me. It was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had as an actor that really allowed me to go there. I can still relate to Prudence in the way that she is so close to her faith and commits to what she believes in. She is not willing to back down from that and is strong in her conviction. Her inner strength is something that I see in both of us.” The show has the potential to really speak to a lot of young people, and Gabrielle wants these messages to get across to the viewers. “I think anybody that is on a path or journey to discover who they are can find a lot of connection with the Sabrina story. It reminds us that you choose your path and nobody can make you do anything. I hope that people who are trying to find their place in the world will watch this and be able to solidify that there is nothing to be ashamed of. All women should know that they have power. We can take over; there is no reason to step down.”
When it comes to representation, Gabrielle wants to make sure she is able to play as many different types of characters as possible. “My goal is to be able to tell as many stories as I can, especially the stories of people who may not have the opportunity to tell it themselves. I believe that for every character I get, there is someone in the world that is just like that who may not have a voice to be able to be heard. So my hope is just to tackle as many characters as I can and give a voice to those who maybe have previously been made small. I think Hollywood needs to give everybody an opportunity. What I have learned is that people can be so narrow-minded. I hope that moving forward the industry begins to open its mind and realizes that somebody’s color or the way that they look does not define who they are. A character can go so much deeper than just looks. What I do is if I read about a character that I like but don’t fit the description for, I go to my manager and agent and ask them to put me up for the role anyway. It is just a matter of people opening their eyes because the whole purpose of film and television is to reflect real life. You cannot do that unless you have diversity in your cast and the way that you portray characters.”
Tati Gabrielle leaves us with a simple but beautiful message: “Never make yourself small for anybody else.” She continues to do this in her work by taking on roles that challenge her. You can watch Gabrielle on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, currently streaming on Netflix.
STORY ANA SANDOVAL
STYLIST CHARLIE BRIANNA
STYLIST ASSISTANT RITA SOUNTHONEOPHOM
HAIR GAVIN WATTS, JUNIOR ADUSEI
MAKEUP ELIE MAALOUF