EXCLUSIVE: ‘You’ star Tati Gabrielle talks about being stuck in a box 24/7 and why acting is more than just ‘playing pretend’

Picture: Comic Con Cape Town/Supplied

Picture: Comic Con Cape Town/Supplied

Published Apr 29, 2023


When we watch our favourite movie or series, we often find ourselves thinking of the characters and plot long after the credits have rolled. Whether it is a character that you have a crush on, or a character that makes you say “Can this person just die already?”, it is the actor’s job to embody their character.

Comic Con Cape Town is once again dominating the pop culture scene at the Cape Town International Convention Centre this long weekend.

IOL sat down with ‘You’ star Tati Gabrielle on her career and what it was like being inside a glass box.

On screen, Gabrielle’s character is the epitome of a baddie. Not the baddie in a social media sense but she generally kicks ass. In person, she is sweet and down-to-earth. She also makes sure to choose her roles carefully.

“I look at the project as a whole. Is this a story that interests me, is it something that I would want to take part in? I look at the role itself, what is the role saying, what kind of message is it leaving. The role doesn’t necessarily have to be a hero or a good person. Take for example Prudence. What I love about Prudence is that she started as this dark and bitchy sort of character but she redeems herself over time. The message that that sends is that even the worst person can find light somehow, so it’s things like that,” the actress said, adding she wants to make sure that the character is sending a strong message.

“If not a positive message then a message that someone can take away or give something to think about.”

So what does that say about her character as Marienne on ‘You’?

In stark contrast to Prudence, she describes Marienne as grounded and someone you can “see in real life”. However we can all agree that Marienne went through the most and is quite the fighter.

“Especially in season 4, I had to really dig in her psyche and think how does this character take on the worst situation. I spent a lot of time, even as Tati in that box. In between takes I didn’t really go out of that box. Once I was in there for the day, I was in there for the day except for bathroom breaks.”

Sensing my shock and seeing my face that probably said “How could you deal?’, she continued: “I will never get the full feeling of what it felt like to be stuck in that box but I wanted to have that feeling of an enclosed space. Marienne is a survivor so she would break past her own psyche of being trapped and try to make the most of it like making origami birds and keeping her mind active.”

If Marienne has her challenging role mentally, she said her most challenging role physically was on Uncharted as she did all her own stunts.

“I did between 4 to 6 months of training getting beefed up and buff. I already had the martial arts training so that came naturally. I partially dislocated my shoulder (during shooting) and I didn’t know for 24 hours. I was just in excruciating pain and I didn’t know what was going on. The doctor looked at me and was like Oh, your shoulder is halfway out” and I was like ‘Oh that makes sense’.“

Whether she is playing a love-to-hate character or a role that risks dislocation, Gabrielle said she feels like all her characters taught her something.

“I feel like I take lessons from most of my characters. Prudence taught me how to be unapologetic and to stand strong in my own beliefs, Gaia taught me how to have faith in something and to let that faith be unwavering, Marienne taught me resilience and that one survival instinct can go beyond what one can even possibly begin to imagine.”

She described herself as a spiritual actor and said the roles have chosen her to teach her something and for me to learn.

“I also think its very trippy how a lot of my characters and things that are happening in the scripts are parallel to my life sometimes, so I am like okay this is weird. When I am in a role, I carry those characters everyday.”

Gabrielle has also had her fair share of mentors that helped her become the actress she is today.

“I have had several mentors. Starting from when I was very young, one of my teachers at the theatre set me on the course of how impactful acting can be and how impactful storytelling can be. That it’s not just playing pretend, that you are embodying someone. You are embodying a story, that you are letting the audience walk away with something in their hearts and heads. That you are not just there to entertain.

“Moving into the film industry, Mark Wahlberg has taught me a lot about the business of the film industry and how to carry myself and how to move through the industry.

“Isaiah Washington took me under his wing and showed me what the ins and outs of working on set is and how to move through one’s career.

“Adina Porter who played my mom is The 100, taught me how to carry myself as a woman. My manager has also mentored me, she keeps me on the straight and narrow.”