Is Hollywood Ready For Tati Gabrielle?
How the star of You and Uncharted is making fame work for her.
It was the moment every young actor waits for. Tati Gabrielle, 26, had spent the last seven years attracting devoted fans for her roles in shows aimed at teenagers (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The 100). Now, here was her first grown up role. Gabrielle would star in Season 3 of the Netflix hit thriller series You as Marienne, a young mother and recovering addict — and next potential target of Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley).
But while many actors might revel in the show’s success and toast to the next chapter of their career, Gabrielle got to work. In a Zoom call, Gabrielle tells Elite Daily that her priority upon being cast was to make sure the part met her expectations.
“One of the first questions I asked Sera Gamble and Silver Tree, our showrunner and director, was ‘I’m a Black woman, and that means Marienne’s going to be a Black woman. Are you going to adhere to that?’” she says. “Because in horror movies, Black people always die first, which the Black community is outraged by. We all go, ‘No, no. That wouldn’t happen. We’re way smarter than that. Way more keen. We see somebody run, we’re running.’”
Without giving anything away, Marienne stuck around long enough to cement Gabrielle as an exciting and versatile performer. Reserved, astute Marienne couldn’t be further from Prudence, the fan-favorite witchy mean girl in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, or from Gabrielle’s latest part, in Uncharted, a movie prologue to the video game of the same name (out Feb. 18). Gabrielle’s Braddock is teamed up with mercenary treasure hunter Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) in a race against heroes Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) and Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg).
Shooting a big budget action movie was a departure from Gabrielle’s TV work in other ways, too. The cast was smaller, and, she says, “it was strange to be treated so importantly.” She had her own driver, and she got to work opposite Banderas, who performed a dance number from A Chorus Line for her in between takes. “The man has such a joy for life that is so unmatched,” Gabrielle says, “not a single ounce of jadedness in him.”
I want to break the idea of a celebrity. Like, I’m no better than anyone else just because I’m on TV.
But Gabrielle wasn’t just excited to be part of the project. Like with You, she explains that Uncharted was an opportunity “to have these conversations with my producers about things, what my character’s wearing, this scene, and how we should change this.” Learning how to communicate in a collaborative way, she says, “made me also learn my own worth in what I can and can’t ask for and really built my confidence in a way.”
It’s also why she says she was happy to have an advocate in Wahlberg. In order to secure the part of Braddock, she first had to do a chemistry read with Wahlberg at his home. “My stomach was in my heart, and my heart was in my stomach,” she says, but Wahlberg was “wonderful, so welcoming.” She says he vouched for her to get the job and, on set, helped her navigate conversations with producers. “Mark was very much my mentor during that time and all the game he would give me to like, ‘Do this, kid. You’ve got to remember this, kid. Remember that.’ I felt like I got a crash course in a lot of things.”
SportMax coat, Calle Del Mar bra top, Hermès scarf, Wing & Weft gloves
Those who know Gabrielle say it’s no surprise that she’s bringing her own passion to the production. According to Deidre Graham, Gabrielle’s manager (whom Gabrielle considers a second mother), the actor is nothing if not adventurous. “There’s no fear pretty much in her for anything,” says Graham. “Whatever it takes to get the job done, she will do.” When they first met in 2015, Graham was drawn to Gabrielle because of her seriousness. “She wasn’t a party girl. She was really focused on training and honing in on her acting skills.” As Gabrielle’s star rises, Graham says, “she’s sometimes surprised at the attention that she gets, whereas most artists look for that; they’re thirsty for it."
Growing up in the Bay Area of California, Gabrielle was too busy observing others to seek out the spotlight for herself. “My mom says I was people-watching from the time that I was a little baby,” she says, and she still sees people-watching as the foundation of acting. She studied karate and dreamed of being an animator. She was a tomboy, and she still sometimes gets mistaken for a boy, which doesn’t bother her.
At the Oakland School for the Arts, she befriended singer Kehlani, who became a frequent guest at Gabrielle’s house and an accomplice in her mission to adopt an abandoned kitten found during a party. “The energy it took to hide this cat from her mom in her room was so funny,” says Kehlani. “She’s always been like that, you know; she’s always seen when a person that didn’t have friends needed a friend or a person or an animal that didn’t have a family needed at home.” (Equal parts caring and responsible, Gabrielle quickly took the cat to a veterinarian.) Over the years, Gabrielle and Kehlani formed a sisterly bond that became a support system as they started dealing with the pressure that comes with being in the public eye. “Only people who really, really know you and understand what you’re going through can help you in that situation,” says Kehlani. “It’s nice to have someone that I know in both ways and that I know I can rely on their advice because they love me genuinely and I love them genuinely.”
The daughter of a Black father and a Black and Korean mother, Gabrielle describes her upbringing as African American with hints of Asian culture. “If you walk into my house in the Bay” — and you do have to take your shoes off at the door, she says — “it’s decorated in all kinds of like Asian decorations.”
“I really enjoyed growing up as a mixed kid, […] the Bay being such a diverse place and this beautiful melting pot,” she continues. Gabrielle left Northern California to study drama and French at the Atlanta historically Black women’s college Spelman, and, she says, “It wasn’t until I got into college actually that it started becoming… not difficult, but it became more apparent to me that I was different or that the way that I was raised was different.”
Hollywood is the world’s template for what’s going on and how we should be reacting and who we should be.
“I had friends jokingly tell me — jokingly to them, but to me it was hurtful — in certain conversations that we were having, if it was a Black subject, they’d be like, ‘Tati, you don't count.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean I don’t count? I’m more Black than I am Asian. Like what do you mean?’”
Gabrielle says the reverse happened during a trip to South Korea last spring; she noticed that some elders didn’t consider her to be truly Korean because of her mixed heritage. It was Gabrielle’s first visit, and her mother’s first time back in her home country since she was adopted by a Black American family at the age of 4. For a month, they tried to find Gabrielle’s mother’s birth parents but were unsuccessful. “It was a very emotional trip, a very insightful trip,” Gabrielle says. “None of it felt foreign, which was really incredible to me… I got drawn to [the culture] really quickly, which was really comforting — to know that, even though you’ve never been to a place that’s a part of your roots, that it can still connect to you in such a way.”
JW Anderson top and jeans, Bea Bongiasca red and blue ear cuffs, BONBONWHIMS white earring
After her second year of college, while she was experiencing what she calls “a really bad depression,” Gabrielle dropped out. It turned out to be the right move. Gabrielle moved to L.A. to start her acting career and, within months, she connected with Graham and landed a part in Disney’s K.C. Undercover, starring Zendaya. During this time, she developed tools to help manage her anxiety, like keeping a gratitude journal and practicing mindfulness.
“Social media gives me a lot of anxiety, like, a lot of anxiety,” she says. “I don’t post as often simply because of that aspect of feeling or being scared to be judged at any turn.” Gabrielle uses her platform of 1.4 million followers to highlight causes that are important to her, including mental health, and she believes actors have a responsibility to use their influence for good. “Hollywood is the world’s template for what’s going on and how we should be reacting and who we should be,” she says. As for fame in general, Gabrielle says, “It’s overrated. It’s so overrated.”
“I want to break the idea of a celebrity,” she continues. “Like, I’m no better than anyone else just because I’m on TV. I just happen to have a different kind of job that just happens to be on TV, but I don’t believe that anybody should be glorified for that.” She seems committed to staying in touch with her life outside of acting. She is taking guitar lessons, loves to go surfing, enjoys eating candy for breakfast, and is passionate about Legos.
“Like for example, I built this,” she says, showing me a potted plant. “This is made out of Legos.” It took her four to five hours to build.
Fame is overrated. It’s so overrated.
It’s hard to imagine where she finds the time. Even now, while she’s promoting Uncharted, Gabrielle is filming another project for Netflix, a heist series called Jigsaw created by Ridley Scott and Eric Garcia. The story is loosely inspired by a real life mystery of Hurricane Sandy, when a vault said to contain $70 billion worth of bonds was flooded. Gabrielle plays Hannah Kim, a cyber security specialist for a finance company. The role is nothing like Prudence, or Marienne, or Braddock, but she’s got a little Tati in her. “Hannah is a woman that wears many hats, and she is the one character that’s not driven by money,” she says. “She’s got to put a lot of things together to figure out her way out of the situation.”
Top Image Credits: JW Anderson top, On right ear: BONBONWHIMS earring, On left ear: Bea Bongiasca earcuffs, BONBONWHIMS earring, On right hand: Blobb yellow rings, BONBONWHIMS green ring, On left hand: Cast red ring, Blobb peach ring
Photographer: Tiffany Dawn Nicholson
Stylist: Tiffany Reid
Hair: Nigella Miller
Makeup: Alana Wright
Art Director: Shanelle Infante
Bookings: Special Projects
Video: Marshall Stief