Getting Into Character and Staying Grounded with Actress, Tati Gabrielle
Tatiana Gabrielle Hobson, otherwise referred to as Tati Gabrielle, is one actress you should keep on your radar.
You may recognize Tati as one of her many characters from hit television series such as The 100, K.C. Undercover, or The Thundermans, or perhaps you have seen that she will be starring in the upcoming Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. After our conversation, I personally have come to recognize her as the down to earth, sweet-spirited young woman she truly is.
In our interview we discuss the surprising way she found herself on the path to acting, her most recent roles, and how she portrays such contrasting characters with such admirable talent.
Growing up in a liberal arts community
It’s clear to see that both nature and nurture come into play regarding Tati’s love of the arts. “I grew up in the Bay Area of California and I went to school in Oakland, so I always say that Oakland raised me. It was a very diverse place to grow up, very liberal, and very big on the arts.”
Knowing the demographic of the city she was raised in, it comes as no surprise that she attended a performing arts school growing up. But what was surprising was that Tati wasn’t planning on a career in acting. “My mom found the arts school for me when I was in the sixth grade. It’s funny, I actually wanted to pursue visual arts because I loved to paint and draw. I always say it’s kind of serendipitous the way things happened...When I went to audition for the school, I forgot my sketch book. That meant that I was only able to audition for theatre, and I got in.”
That auditioning day turned out to make all the difference in Tati’s life as she continued on with theatre throughout her school years. After graduating from high school, she made her way to Atlanta, Georgia for two years of University at Spelman College, where she majored in Drama and French
More than her city and her school immersing her in the arts, it was further prominent in her home. “My dad was also in the entertainment industry. He did a lot of behind the scenes work and he always had film equipment in his office. He was even shooting one of his own films around the time that I was born! I was always a daddy’s girl growing up, so I think seeing him in the industry left a mark on me.”
The inherent ways of an actor, always studying characters, seemed to be within her from the start, as she shared with me her lifelong fascination of people. “My mom says that when I was really young I used to scare people,” Tati tells me, laughing. “Apparently, I would stare at them, expressionless. She thinks I was studying everyone. I was always people watching. I even found that growing up I’ve had a consistent fascination with people and their lives and with what makes them tick.”
Her lifelong study of people will have shown to come in handy as she took on the challenge of portraying a vast array of characters throughout her career. From drama to comedy to suspense, Tati has experience in a considerable amount of diverse genres, with equally diverse roles.
Her most current roles
From playing a biker chick on Nickelodeon’s, The Thundermans to an apocalyptic tribe member on The 100 to a witch on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Tati’s range for embodying different persona’s is extremely broad. I asked Tati to dive deeper and share with us on who we can see her playing most recently.
“We’re in season five of The 100 now. This season has been following the events of this apocalypse that has happened from a radiation wave that we call “prime fire”. Years after, some people start to come out of their bunkers, and there’s a fight for land. I play Gaia, who is the flame keeper. She is apart of the tribe called the “Grounders”, which is a civilization of humans that survived the first apocalypse. It’s sort of an aboriginal society that has this faith based around this A.I. that we call “the flame”. When we pick a new leader of the society, this little A.I. goes into the back of their neck and it holds all of the consciousness of the commanders that came before. So, as Gaia, I protect this piece of A.I. and I’m the second, and protector, to the commander.”
The worlds that Gaia and her most recent character, Prudence, live in are quite contrasting. Though as different as they may be, they both live among an other-worldly setting. “Most recently I’ve been working a new Netflix series called The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It’s based off of the Archie comics, but most people will know it from the 90’s series of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. But this time it’s done in completely different fashion! It’s dark, it’s a cult, it’s horror, and it follows the story of Sabrina Spellman reconciling her duality of being half witch, half mortal, fighting forces of evil as she goes. I play Prudence, who is the leader of a trio of girls called The Weird Sisters. She’s sort of the arch nemesis of Sabrina. It’s interesting because Prudence really nurses this grudge against Sabrina because Prudence is very devout in her faith, and she doesn’t like the way that Sabrina plays around with the faith and the things that we consider sacred.”
Getting into character
Playing characters who are as distinctive and other-worldly as Gaia and Prudence are, I was intrigued to learn how Tati gets into character. With a genuine respect for her characters, she doesn’t hesitate to dive right in to get to know every inch of who they are as people. “Of course, Prudence and Gaia are very different. I always start by getting to know my characters first. You will always get a description of your character to start, but I like to take that extra step and call the writers to ask tons of questions, whether they’ve thought of the answers before or not! I ask backstory questions like, Who is their father or mother? What kind of life did they lead before this? How old are they? I try to get as much information as I can.”
Knowing the backstory to her characters is only half the process. Tati pushes even further into her roles by treating her characters as if they’re real souls with a real story. She regards her characters with the idea that there is somebody out in the world who has a story similar to theirs that needs to be told. “I treat them like they’re my best friend and I’m getting to know them inside and out. After a while you and your best friend become sort of like the same person, you become synonymous. I feel like the more that I learn about them and the more that I treat them like a real person, the easier it becomes for me to assimilate and find a bridge that connects us. For Prudence, it’s her conviction in things and her beliefs, and for Gaia it’s her warrior strength because I did karate for ten years. When I can go deeper and find personal things that have happened in my life that line up with theirs, I go there. I find those parallels.”
At times, it can be difficult to put yourself into the shoes of your character. This is especially true for those characters that are very unlike yourself, but along with her character studying methods, Tati has a few tips on how to get into that characters headspace. “With Gaia it was a lot easier to get on set, but with Prudence it’s been a little different because overall, she is a lot more different from who I am because she’s evil. Stepping into costume and getting on set helps me to feel like her, but I also try to do a lot of imitation and put in a lot of effort to find her mindset before we step onto set. I do work with my script and try to see where she’s coming from on things, and I try to refrain from being just evil because I don’t think anyone is just evil for the sake of it. I believe there’s method to the madness. Assimilating the mindset as best I can helps me get into character the most.”
Spiritual practices and staying grounded
So, how does a successful actress like herself stay so down to earth in her everyday life? Tati shared with me about her own spiritual practices that help her to stay grounded and grateful. “I meditate pretty regularly, either in the morning or before I go on set. If you’re new to meditation, just start with five or ten minutes. Don’t feel the pressure to do a long meditation session, just start small. It’s not about how long you meditate, it’s what you do in the meditation that matters most. Meditation is all about quieting the mind, so don’t get caught up in making it about more than it is.”
Additionally, Tati keeps gratitude at the forefront of her mind every day. She believes in always being grateful for every moment, which in turn creates an atmosphere of being present, because you never know when that moment will pass. To stay strong in her appreciation for life and it’s little moments, she often enjoys keeping a gratitude journal where she starts her day by writing everything she is thankful for.
Being grateful and present goes beyond her own thought process. Going deeper into our conversation it became clear that Tati’s mindset extends beyond herself and reaches those around her. The advice that she has been given that has stuck with her throughout the years truly lines up with her values and reflects who she is as a person. “I was told to always be good to your crew. That has really gone a long way for me, and not because it’s something I wouldn’t have done on my own, but it’s good to always be thinking about being kind to those around you. The crew are the people who take care of you more than anybody. You have to remember that everybody has work to do and everybody wants to go home to their families at the end of the night. Nothing should ever just go over your head. You should always be humble, stay grateful, and be aware of those around you.”
For new and aspiring actors, Tati’s advice is invaluable. Delving deeper into your characters, treating them as if they are your best friend and a real soul, and finding the connection between yourself and them will equip you to embody a character in new and tangible ways. But most importantly, remember her advice to be good to your crew, to stay humble and to always be grateful.
You can see Tati on as Prudence on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina or as Gaia on The 100, on Netflix.