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At the beginning of the COVID-19 quarantine, I noticed a growing shift in love for FXX’s well-received comedy, DAVE, starring rapper Lil Dicky (Dave Burd), loosely based on his real-life adventures. It even featured his real hype man, GaTa (Davionte Ganter), who in the fifth episode of DAVE’s first season (“Hype Man”) was front-and-center in a storyline involving his real-life bipolar disorder. It’s a subject the Black community—all minority communities, honestly—need to speak out on more, and thrust GaTa into the spotlight, a place where he’s more than comfortable being.
GaTa’s been on the road for a decade-plus, entertaining the masses at some of the biggest festivals across the country. While he says he never had plans to act, GaTa tells Complex that this was all part of a greater plan. “I feel like God was grooming me to entertain the world, just because I was traveling for the past 10 years, entertaining people.”
Ahead of the June 16 Season 2 premiere of DAVE on FXX, GaTa talks about people reaching out with their own stories of mental health struggle, getting props from Bun B and Leonardo DiCaprio, and his plans for the future, both as an actor and as a creative director.
What was 2020 like for you? How was your quarantine?
Man, 2020 was amazing, man. My quarantine was lit. After I finished shooting DAVE, I went and bought the trendiest dog out there, a French bulldog. So I enjoyed my quarantine with my dog. Of course, watching DAVE, laughing every night. I’ve been staying busy. You know what I mean? Creating new projects, I’m working on a bunch of different projects and I just really been grinding every day, man. Staying positive, taking it day by day.
You’ve been getting a lot of buzz off of your work on DAVE. Have you been surprised by the reception you’ve been getting?
No, I wasn’t surprised with the feedback, because it’s the number one show on FX and Hulu. I really was surprised with all my celebrity peers that reached out to me, like Leonardo DiCaprio told me, “Great job,” and stuff. I wasn’t ready for that type of feedback. But the fans and stuff like that, I expected that because people like anything that’s new, funny, [and] makes them feel good. I just wasn’t ready for all the NBA players and everybody to tell me like, “Man, we love you.” I just spoke to Bun B. Bun B was just telling me like, “Yo, you one of my favorite characters on the show. Like when I watch the show, I feel like I’m watching us.” So it’s just good to just get a lot of love from a lot of celebrities and people that I look up to.
Where were you when you spoke with Leonardo DiCaprio?
I was in an undisclosed location in Malibu. I can’t say who house I was at, but I was at another celebrity’s house and I walk in with my crew. And then it’s like a circle of, let’s say, friendly white people. And I’m knocking into this friendly circle, and then one of my people started tapping me on the leg and they’re like, “Yo, look, look, look.” And I look up and it’s Leonardo DiCaprio. And he’s like, “Yo, I loved your episode, man, what you did for mental health and everything like that.” He’s like, “It touched my soul.” And then I just basically started telling Leo how much of a fan I was. But yeah, that’s how it happened, man. I got the picture of me and Leo on my Instagram, too, just in case you want to get a fact check.
Did you ever have aspirations to act?
No. I never had an aspiration to be an actor, but always knew that I would be a great entertainer because I’ve been traveling the world for the past 10 years and performing in all these places from Madison Square Garden with Fall Out Boy, Lil Dicky. I done did all these festivals. I feel like God was grooming me to entertain the world, just because I was traveling for the past 10 years, entertaining people.
So you hear that there’s a character that’s going to be based on you in this show, but you’re going to have to audition for the role. What was your process? Did you go to acting classes? How did you work out how to play yourself in an audition?
I never been to acting classes or anything like that. I just speak from passing a struggle, because I’ve been through so much. So that’s why I’m able to just give out these vivid, lively performances, man. Because I feel good about stuff and I’ve been through so much. I’m just acting out of joy and pure excitement to be in a position that I’m in.
It’s kind of like being a rapper. You always are in front of the camera and stuff, so it was easy for me to transition because I done shot music videos, I done been on some of the craziest music video sets from a lot of people. So I think I was just grooming myself to be a star all those years touring.
Was it weird trying to figure out what the DAVE version of GaTa is going to be?
No, because to be honest with you, for number one, I’m from South Central LA, so I’m from the heart of the inner city. You know what they like to say, people ghetto, all that, whatever. So at first, I was kind of trying to hold back and censor myself, like, “Hey Dave, you sure I’m going to be able to say the ‘N’ word” or whoopdie-whoop and cuss, because that’s just how I talk. It’s not a good thing to be speaking improperly, but I’m just a product of my environment. But come to find out, man, FX was loving the shit. You know what? They’re like, “You ain’t got to read every line on the paper. We going to let you improvise, do your own thing because you come up with stuff,” just genuine sayings that I get from around my neighborhood. Like if I tell you, “it’s cheese on the moon, bring crackers.” Like I got that from a bum on the street. No writer could have told me that. It’s just genuine sayings, stuff that you hear when you’re growing up, like lines and some stuff that I use that I’m always inspired by.
It was just good to be able to be myself, man. That’s one of the hardest things they say to do on camera, is to be yourself.
Maybe that’s why some people get into acting. It’s harder for them to deal with day-to-day. They love getting into the persona of somebody else.
That’s why I just got to experience, man. I got to cast for another role for this short film and it just felt so good to be somebody else other than GaTa. Because to me, it’s easy to be GaTa. Man, I’m the dude that’s just trying to be cool 24/7, man. It’s easy to try to be cool, but it’s not easy to let people know that you bipolar. It’s not easy to let people know that you feeling this way. So that’s what I like doing, just letting people in to real moments and being vulnerable.
That scene in the show was based on a real-life situation, right?
Yeah, yeah. Definitely, man. I was really in that padded room for 72 hours. They didn’t show all that, but yeah. I was definitely considered 5150, bipolar disorder. I really was in the hospital. My moms called the sheriffs on me, the whole nine, man. But we just dumbed it down a little bit for TV.
I remember the impact of that scene. It’s amazing to hear that it’s connecting with not just Leonardo DiCaprio or Bun B, but with Black people, or people in the community in general. Has it been difficult? I imagine a lot of people were reaching out to you and kind of sharing their stories and how they’ve had to come up. Was it hard dealing with a lot of that?
No, it definitely wasn’t, man. Because just like you said, a lot of people deal with these mental issues already, but not just in the Black community. So we don’t speak on it, it’s a stigma around mental health in the Black community. So when white people come up to me and be like, “Yeah, man, I really connected with your story. My mom is,” whoopdie-whoop, yada, yada, yada, it touches me, no lie. I feel it, but the minorities have [fewer] resources. So when a Black person come up to me and tell me, “Oh man, Episode 5, man it really connected with me,” it just makes me feel some type of way. Because I know that 9 times out of 10 the minorities are less fortunate. So for them to say, “You know what? You made me realize that I’m the same way,” it makes me feel good, because in the minority community, we really don’t talk about these problems. So when people that look just like me tell me that they connected with me, man, it feels good, man.
We talk about a lot of the great stuff that came out in 2020, but there’s a lot of bad, too. Black people specifically, we’re dealing with a lot. Are there any suggestions or tips that you could suggest for people who might need a way to speak out and can’t really have the resources?
Oh yeah, definitely, man. I got a few exercises and a few tips for people that want to express they selves. The first thing you need to do is sit down, write your thoughts down. Whether they’re good or bad, it don’t matter. Just write your thoughts down on a piece of paper. Whether you reflect on them in a week, a month, a year, you will be able to look back at that sheet of paper and be like, “OK, I was feeling like this because of why? X, Y, and Z. This is what triggered me.” You’re going to remember while you’re writing it down, because these are the problems you facing. So when you self-reflect, that’s the best form of therapy. So write your thoughts down.
The next step would be to share these thoughts with somebody. And don’t be afraid to be judged. If you say, “Hey, man, I’m feeling crazy today. I want to go jump off a cliff,” write it down, and then make sure you tell somebody so you can get some help. Because communication is the best therapy. Sometimes you’re not always going to be able to get to the top-notch doctor or a therapist, so you need to tell somebody that you’re comfortable with. Whether it’s your lady friend, whether it’s your brother, a homie, whether it’s a person at your job, but communication is the best therapy. And it’s free.
Season 2 is coming. Can you talk a little about what we will see from GaTa in Season 2?
You guys will be seeing GaTa and Dave deal with the success that we chasing, the fame and the new position that we getting put on our journey and stuff like that. We also want to continue to make you guys laugh. We going to share real-life moments with y’all. We’re definitely going to keep inspiring, motivating, and we just going to keep having a great time, man.
You mentioned that you landed another acting gig.
Yeah, they should be editing it right now as we speak, man. But I worked with two great directors and a actor. Her name is Alexi Pappas and her fiancée Jeremy [Teicher]. We had just a great time shooting this film [Not An Artist] in Big Bear. Really can’t say too much about the storyline. Just know your boy GaTa is getting roles in films and I’m auditioning for stuff. Anything that come across my table, I will be knocking it out the park, man. I’m really going to show people that I’m a great actor. I’m not just the cool guy, man.
I was going to say, are there any particular roles that you’re looking to get into?
I want to play a computer hacker. I would like to be in a position where I could play a good cop/bad cop type of thing where me and the opposite person are going around, stopping people. I would play a surfer. You have never seen a Black surfer.
What else are you working on?
I got a podcast coming real soon called Ghetto Brilliance. It’s me and my two homies. And we’re going to talk to people, bringing on a bunch of guests. Lil Dicky is going to be the first guest on my podcast. I’m just trying to enlighten people and let them know that you can come from anywhere in the world and be educated and you can advance in life. That’s why mine is called Ghetto Brilliance. I’m working on a cartoon and I’m working on a reality TV show. I’m getting something together right now to pitch to these networks.
Like I said, eyes are on me. We got the No. 1 show on FXX and Hulu and stuff like that right now. I’m just trying to play chess, man. If I’m in a position to create, I might as well take advantage, so we can have a great time and I can work on the second half of my life. I don’t want to just be an actor, man. I’m a creative director.
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