Tati Gabrielle Has A Utopian Vision For The World
There's no easy way to define a generation (trust us, because we've really tried with millennials), but who wants to do that anyway? Rather than trying to put a whole cohort of people born within the same 15-year span into some kind of box, let's just celebrate them, in all their distinctiveness.
More specifically, let's celebrate Gen Z, a generation who refuse any attempts to be seen en masse, and instead can best be understood through their individuality, their unique hopes and dreams, desires and demands. They are idealistic and unafraid, motivated and headstrong; they are icons and iconoclasts, and they make us excited for the future.
Last year, we took a look at 25 Gen Z'ers changing the world, a group that included activists, musicians, and actors. This year, we narrowed our focus to Hollywood, and are excited to share with you five young actors who are all primed to be the next big thing. Get to know them, below, and get ready to see them everywhere, soon.
It was about two minutes into our conversation that 22-year-old Tati Gabrielle not only revealed to me her vision of a utopian future but, also, what was preventing the world from achieving it: "Utopia means a place where peace comes first. And while I do think humans need conflict, because we grow from conflict, I believe that with the proper utopia, it's peace first, chaos second, and everybody moves with a mindset of: Let's spread light and love." Then, Gabrielle looked right into my eyes, concluding: "Let's try to make the world a better place from the inside-out."
In other words, it took about two minutes before I started thinking to myself, Maybe utopia is possible after all? Well, maybe I wasn't quite sold—but that's probably because I'm part of a far more cynical generation than is Gabrielle. Still, though, talking to her made me want to believe in a better future for everyone, and even made me believe one might be possible.
I wasn't necessarily expecting to discuss utopian possibilities with Gabrielle, and certainly not within a couple of minutes of meeting her. But Gabrielle is the kind of open person who seems almost incapable of small talk—she just lets loose with whatever is on her mind, talking about everything imaginable, moving fluidly from topic to topic, encouraging your mind to race right alongside hers.
Gabrielle credits her openness to her upbringing; she grew up in northern California, in the Bay Area, which, she told me, "has such a good vibe; it's such a welcoming, open place and I'm really blessed to have grown up in that, because I think that environment is a big reason why I am who I am now."
And while who Gabrielle is now is a curious, quick-witted, sunbeam of a person, you'd perhaps be forgiven for thinking that she might instead be a reflection of the character she plays on Netflix's Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, the deliciously wicked, ultra-devout witch Prudence Blackwood. Originally serving as a sinister foil to Sabrina, Prudence has evolved over the show's two seasons from a mere antagonist and into a complex antihero, as, Gabrielle told me, Prudence "starts to reconcile with her identity and builds strength from that, despite being neglected or jaded."
And while it's always a mistake to mix up actors with their characters (and particularly so in this case), Gabrielle is so skilled at embodying Prudence that I understand why I had half-expected she'd be similarly goth in real life, while instead, she's more the type of person to talk about her obsession with fairies (Gabrielle really wants to go to Iceland and explore the country's "fairy doors") than with witchcraft. But, Gabrielle said she connects to Prudence in that she's "always been a firm believer in the supernatural," and said, "at the end of the day, we only think things aren't real because we haven't witnessed them—but just because you haven't witnessed something doesn't mean it's not real, that it's not there."
This sensitivity to the feelings surrounding a thing, this acknowledgment that there is probably more to a person than what you see when first meeting them, has allowed Gabrielle to give a multidimensional portrayal of Prudence, instead of what might have otherwise happened with the character. Television, after all, is filled with many examples of white hero narratives, where characters of color—and specifically Black women characters—are presented in a reductive way. In less capable hands, it's possible to see that this could have happened with Prudence, who is set in opposition to Sabrina—the blonde, white "chosen one" played by Kiernan Shipka. But this didn't happen, because Gabrielle has made Prudence the most nuanced character on the show, imbuing her with a sensitivity and depth that's uniquely compelling.
Gabrielle explained to me the challenges of playing Prudence, saying, "I'm very spiritual in the way that I deal with my characters, in that I believe they are a soul that's in the world, and that they have a story that needs to be told—and that shouldn't be judged." Gabrielle said she's been frustrated when Prudence is just "called this mad Black woman," and explained to me that what she brings to the role is an "understanding of where Prudence came from, how she had to fight—literally—for her place and fight for her importance as an orphan, and respect for her climb and respect for her feelings."
"I believe that with the proper utopia, it's peace first, chaos second, and everybody moves with a mindset of: Let's spread light and love."
Gabrielle is highly empathetic, and that's also something she brought to the part; she told me, "Prudence definitely presented quite a few challenges—especially in the beginning. She's someone who is seen as evil but doesn't believe herself to be evil. And I don't believe Prudence is evil. That's the stance I knew I had to take from the jump. I had to see her side."
Perhaps Gabrielle is so good at seeing other people's sides because, as she told me, she grew in such an open environment. And perhaps it's partly innate; she told me, "My mom called me her bohemian child because when I was a kid, I was very affectionate, very loving." And, Gabrielle continued, "My mother's Korean, and my father's African American, so living in a dual-cultured household really automatically set me up for this merged world—because that's the world I lived in, and I could see outside of that, but I saw the world moving more toward that aspect, of opposite sides of the spectrum coming together." She laughed, telling me all this, finishing: "So, yeah, all that put together made little hippie me!"
It's this openness that makes Gabrielle seem so emblematic of her generation, one which has become known for wanting to be a force for good and to heal the damage that prior generations have caused. Gabrielle said that's something she hopes will be in her future, telling me, "I'm excited to see how far I can grow artistically, and see how many different outlets I can reach. I'm also really excited to use my platform and see how I can leave my footprint on this world in the best way possible. That's probably the thing I'm most excited about, figuring out how I can be of service, whether through my career or through philanthropic efforts, or whatever, but just using my platform for good."
It's easy to see that whatever future Gabrielle imagines for herself is one she can make happen—not because she's magic, but because she believes in herself and other people, in what's around us, in what we have to work with. She knows it's a lifelong project, doing good, and it's one that, in addition to her acting, she's happy to be working on, telling me before we say goodbye: "You have to allow your consciousness to develop on its own and not be socially conditioned; you have to figure out who you are and what you have to bring to the world and how you can best contribute to what's already there." Sounds pretty utopian to me.
Director: Dani Okon
Co-Producers: Charlotte Prager & Alexandra Hsie
Production Manager: Alison Yardley