Tati Gabrielle has been making a name for herself in Hollywood since her breakout role as Gaia in The CW's post-apocalyptic drama The 100. Since then, she's continued to grace our screens with more colorful, courageous characters — like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's Prudence Blackwood and Kaleiodoscope's Hannah Kim — who not only left an impact on their respective series, but also on fans' hearts.
And now, to celebrate the release of You's fourth season on Netflix, I sat down with the talented actor — before the season premiered — to discuss the transition of her character Marienne Bellamy on the series, improvising lines on set, the ideal way she'd like to see Joe go down, and more!
1.You went from being Joe’s friend and lover to his most sought-after target. How did you react when you first found out Marienne would be a main focus for Season 4?
It's a big leap! But I think that we just started to sort of get into the meat and layers of Marienne toward the end of last season. And this season, we definitely go full force and sort of dig more of those layers up, and dig some of her demons out to be addressed and reconciled. But it was very exciting to be on this journey — this obsession journey — which has been very different than previous ones. So, it's been really cool.
2.Coming from Season 3 and transitioning into Season 4, how would you describe the evolution of your character?
I would describe it as a coming out in a way, because we definitely see a realer version of Marienne than we saw last season. She was on her best behavior in Madre Linda, due to the circumstances that she was in trying to get her child back. We see her come out of her shell a little bit more [this season]. She finds new parts of herself, new strengths, and she really gets to challenge her resilience. I think we're going to see just how resilient and just how strong Marienne's survival instinct is.
3.What do you enjoy most about playing Marienne?
I just love how honest she is. She's always been that way; not afraid to call somebody out. She's definitely not afraid to look in the mirror herself, which I so respect. It was one of the biggest things, that me as Tati, have taken away from Marienne — that self-accountability and willingness to own up to the things. We all take missteps in life, but the judge of character is how you overcome those missteps and what you do thereafter. So yeah, that's been my favorite part about Marienne, just how brutally honest she is and has been.
4.You kind of touched on this in your last answer, but has playing Marienne taught you anything about yourself or just life in general?
She's reinforced this idea of accountability for me. Being able to play a character like Marianne, she's — I give credence to the way that Sera Gamble and our writing team writes this show. There's levity in the show, as well as thriller and intense moments, but it's also so grounded. [Sera] really tries to keep it as real as possible, and as a means for people to be able to connect.
I've taken away a lot of Marienne's accountability and a lot of her unwillingness to be a victim of circumstance. It's taught me a new way to go through life. Not that people shouldn't ask for help — we all should know when it's time to ask for help — but to first try to do it on your own and to never give up on oneself. That's definitely, I think, the biggest takeaway that I got from her. Also, to keep your Instagram on private...like, period!
5.Outside of running lines, did you and Penn Badgley get together to help restore that dynamic between the two of you?
We didn't necessarily get, like, tons of time outside of set, because Penn is literally working all the time every day. Praise that man for his work ethic and energy levels! But just in general, when we were on set from Season 3 to Season 4, one of the things that I love about working with Penn is going back to the green room in between setups and having very intellectual, thought-provoking, philosophical conversations about life — the world, issues, politics...all kinds of things. That's been one of my favorite ways to bond with Penn.
6.What is one of your favorite behind-the-scenes moments from the You set?
I remember this one moment where we had to shoot all the pictures and stuff for a promo video. It was a very hot day, but it was one of the few days that the entire cast was there, so a bunch of us sat out in this little grassy area outside of our studio. At lunchtime, we all sat around in the grass, shades on just chatting, and it was one of my favorite bonding moments with the rest of the cast. Marienne doesn't really interact with the other side, so it was nice to just be able to bond with everybody in that way and have our own little picnic, basically. It was really sweet.
[Tati pauses, waiting for my next question, then quickly remembers another memorable BTS moment]
Wait, Ninja! Sorry. Oh, my God, that's very important! We played Ninja. I was like, "Does anybody want to play a game?" And then they're like, "Yeah, okay. Let's do it." And I was so excited about how much everybody got into it because I'm a huge kid and I really get into games. Have you ever played Ninja? It'll take me a while to explain it, but it's a good game! Look it up and play it with your friends. It's awesome!
7.The writers of the show have kept us hooked for seasons, but I always wonder if the cast ever has any influence on how scenes ultimately turn out. Do you ever give any input on how a scene should be played out or what your character would say in a certain scene? If so, can you tell us one instance that stands out to you?
It's definitely a very, fully collaborative effort in that way. That's something that I'm very grateful for with Sera Gamble and our writing team, because it's not something that you necessarily get all the time as an actor. Some people are, and no shade to them, very precious about their work and their writing and want it to be word-for-word. But Sera does leave room for you to improv, if necessary...if it fits. I know a big scene for me last year, where there was a line that I was bent on adding, was in Episode 3, I believe — the "Missing White Woman Syndrome" episode. Marienne says that speech to Joe about the fact that women of color go missing all the time and nobody says anything. I made one change of a word, but to me that one word changed a lot, because there was a line that separated Marienne from the group of being a woman of color.
So, I wanted to change the word from "them" to "us" — to be inclusive and to show just how much this meant for Marienne. Her saying this is not just stepping on a soapbox and preaching for the sake of preaching, it touches her in a way. Though she's never gone missing necessarily, Marienne has been disadvantaged and ignored for many parts of her life. And Sera was like, "Oh, absolutely!" Sera has always been open to things like that. I'm very grateful to her for it.
8.In a perfect world, what would you want Joe’s fate to be and who or what would be involved with it?
Everybody's like, "Joe needs to die!" And I'm like, "I think that death is too easy of an escape." Let that man rot somewhere! Put him in a box. Put him in a cage somewhere and let him rot! Let him go crazy as he sits with his internal demons and thoughts. Whatever the case may be, make him sit in it! That would be my ideal scenario.
9.Would Marienne be a part of his demise in any way?
Ah, that's a good question! I think she would definitely want to facilitate it. That's just the type of person that she is. If she sees that justice is not being brought, then I feel like she's one to initiate it. But I also think that because Marienne does have a really big capacity for empathy, I don't know that she'd necessarily revel in watching somebody suffer. I think just the knowledge of it would be enough.
10.What are you hoping fans take away from this new season?
I want them to be mind-blown, because I sure as heck was getting through this season. I also hope people take away some sort of value to life and maybe refocus some priorities. They may have to question what the most important things in life are to them. Is it money and social status? Or is it your love, family, and togetherness? So, yeah, that's something that I hope people take away from this season.
11.I love looking back on your past roles, because they’re so diverse, yet they usually share a common theme: being a strong woman. What do you look for when it comes to choosing roles?
First and foremost, I always want to play roles or participate in projects that I feel have a message or have something to take away from. That's always very intentional. And then with the characters themselves, I just always want to make sure that they are accurate to whatever is trying to be depicted. In Marienne's case, making sure that her existence and experience, as a single mom and a recovering addict, isn't troped or stereotyped. Things like making sure that Prudence (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) wasn't just, excuse my French, a bitch for the sake of being a bitch.
I want the characters that I play to be layered. It's always been my goal to change the world through storytelling, and how you do that is when people resonate with the characters that they're going along the story with. In order to resonate with those characters, those characters have to be layered and have to be grounded in some capacity for somebody to be able to feel a connection to them. Those are the things that I really look for in playing characters. I just want somebody to feel something from my characters.
12.What has been the most rewarding and the most challenging part about navigating your career as a young, multicultural woman in Hollywood?
The most rewarding part is what we just talked about — starting to gather how many people that I've touched. That's the whole reason I really came into film and television, specifically. I wanted to change the world through storytelling and I wanted to reach as many people as possible. If not for that, what else is this for, because the fame is not important to me. So, yeah, that's definitely the most rewarding part: Seeing the lives that I've touched.
I think the most challenging part of my career is the loss of anonymity. I'm a very shy person. Most people are always like, "Really?" And I'm like, "Yeah, actually I have the worst social anxiety!" But yeah, the loss of anonymity and being treated as a commodity at times instead of like a human being. It's a catch-22, because I'm very grateful for the things that I've received and for the career that I've had and the life that I'm able to live, but I feel like that shouldn't come at the cost of my humanity. I feel like our industry also is just as guilty, in general, of treating everyone like they're expendable. I think that then sort of starts to radiate outward to how the public views people. I've had situations where people have literally completely disregarded me as a human being but have been wanting nothing of me, like I was a living action figure. And I'm like, "Wow, okay." That's definitely the most challenging part.
13.What’s one role fans would be surprised you auditioned for but didn’t get?
There's a few, but the first thing that came to mind was I auditioned for 13 Reasons Why as the lead, Hannah Baker. I don't know if that would be something that people will be shocked to know, but yeah. If I made it to the second round of auditions, I don't think I made it to the third.
14.If you could join any series cast — whether it’s currently on the air or not — which would it be?
I would love to do Euphoria! I just really love that show and the commentary that it's making on the experience of the youth in today's America. Yeah, I would really love to be on Euphoria.
15.Lastly, which character made you feel seen growing up?
One of the first favorite movies that I had when I was little was Colombiana with Zoe Saldaña. I've been doing karate since I was 10 years old. I'm a black belt now, so that was in the beginnings of that. To see one of the few mixed-race, Black actresses that I was aware of at the time be this badass and kicking butt left and right, I was like, "Oh, my God!" She was taking what's hers in this very profound way. It was more than just going and killing all these dudes; it was for the sake of family and seeking justice. Zoe in that role really hit different. It set me on a different path.
[Writer's Note: Zoe Saldaña is Dominican and Puerto Rican and doesn't identity herself by race or physical traits.]