Small Talk: Tati Gabrielle

Everyone's Rooting for 'You''s Tati Gabrielle

The actress behind Joe Goldberg's obsession, Marienne, says her "survival instincts" as a Black woman helped her escape.

Like any sane person, Tati Gabrielle wants to think she would know better than to be caught dead (as it so often ends for his victims) in the same room as Penn Badgley’s Joe Goldberg. Unfortunately, that doesn’t save her character Marienne Bellamy (former librarian, current Joe Goldberg escapee) from sitting at the receiving end of his delusions yet again as we rejoin the pair in the two-part fourth season of You (out Feb 9. and March 9, respectively). And it all begins with the internet’s favorite serial killer adopting a fresh new alias (Jonathan Moore) — and a fresh new scheme — after tracking Bellamy’s location across the pond to restart his life in London. 

That’s not to say Marienne’s compromised anonymity wasn’t for lack of trying. As one of the only subjects of Joe’s obsession to ever make it out alive (if you need a refresher, the former addict regained custody of her daughter and fled to Paris in wake of Joe’s alleged “death” at the end of season 3), Gabrielle assures fans that Marienne won’t go down without a fight when reacquainted with her stalker’s existence in You’s latest installment — a fire the actress admits was influenced by personal attributes far more than audiences may realize. 

“Something that was very important for me from the jump was that Joe's previous obsessions were a bit more oblivious to certain things, and I wanted to make sure that with Marienne being a Black woman and stepping into this world, that the traits that come innately with being a Black woman still stood true,” Gabrielle, who is both Black and Korean, says of her portrayal.

Small Talk: Tati Gabrielle
Blazer: Dablood. Skirt: Keburia. Earrings and ring: Pomellato.

Tizano Lugli

What were those traits, exactly? Only the exact tools that helped Marienne escape Joe unscathed the first time around. “Things like being a bit more clued in, being a bit more aware, having a generationally inherited or inherent survival instinct,” the actress explains. “And wanting to make sure that those things still coincided with what was needed in order to carry the story along.”

For those unfamiliar with Gabrielle, weaving these attributes into her characters is nothing new. She did it when leading the Weird Sisters as Prudence Blackwood in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, hunting for treasure alongside Tom Holland as Jo Braddock in Uncharted, and, most recently, scheming as Hannah Kim in Netflix’s buzzy choose-your-own-adventure heist series, Kaleidoscope; the later of which was a personal favorite for the star: “I get really excited by whodunits and TV that you have to really think about,” she says. 

Being an actor is actually a really wild thing and this is why all actors need therapy.

For the 27-year-old California native, taking on these roles is all a part of bringing more robust, fully formed portrayals of women, specifically Black women, onto screens both big and small — and Gabrielle sees the task as an absolute honor.

“I've always said that I want to tell the stories of people who can't tell their stories, or the stories that are going to be missed as people walk through life,” Gabrielle says. “It's been an honor for me to be able to play these women and give credence to the true power and experience of women that are out here in the world.”

How Marienne’s story will play out this season as she tries to evade Joe’s schemes for a second time? Still TBD, but what Gabrielle can say is that (as always) viewers should prepare themselves for a “mind-blowing” twist.

“When I get these scripts, every time I find myself at the end like, ‘Nuh-huh. No way.’ I just could not see any of the twists coming,” Gabrielle says. “Even [writer] Sera [Gramble] gave me a rundown at the top of the season of what the season was going to be, but of course wouldn't give me the details. And she's like, ‘You'll read it. Get to it when you read it.’ And I'm like, ‘Oh man.’ I didn’t see them coming, and I love that I didn't see them coming.”

InStyle talked to the You star about navigating emotionally draining scenes, her favorite filming experience (so far), and turning Penn Badgley into an on-set rockstar.

How did it feel to return to You for the first time since 2021? How did this season of filming differ from the last?

Of course, the biggest difference is that we're in a whole new place, which I think lends itself in a different way for both Joe and Marienne to go about life, because they've been taken out of their norms. They've been launched into a whole different culture. I think, in some ways, by leaving America Joe is able to maintain his incognito-ness a bit more, at the same time, he's dealing with a different culture. Especially European culture, they're still a bit more clued-in.

Watching the trailer, [his new colleagues and neighbors] are asking him all of these questions, which isn’t something that would've necessarily happened had he stayed in the U.S. 

In what ways has Marienne changed?

From last season to this season, it was really wonderful to me to show Marienne in her most grounded self, or in her most real self. She gets to drop the librarian act and drop any filters that she was putting on in order to fit into Madre Linda and to stay under the radar while working toward getting her kid back in her custody battle. She's freer this season, much freer. I think we get to see her in her rawest form, in more ways than one.

Throwing it back to before season 3, what was it like originally joining the cast after it had already gained such an immense following?

It was really exciting and nerve-racking. I mean, you come into this huge show that already has a cult following, and it's like, “All right, I hope that the fans will accept Marienne as a character.” But that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to do anything to tailor your performance to fan reception. I was just leaning on Penn [Badgley], leaning on [writer Sera Gamble] to just guide me through this world. 

Small Talk: Tati Gabrielle
Blazer, shirt, and pants: Tommy Hilfiger. All jewelry: Pomellato.

Tizano Lugli

In what ways are you surprised by the audience's reception to your character? Did this make it any easier or harder for you to dive into season 4?

It was definitely surprising in general for Marienne to be received in the way that she was. I was a huge fan of You before stepping onto the show, and I knew that fans wouldn't necessarily denounce her, but I just wasn't expecting everyone to champion her in such a strong way. If anything, that made it easier going into season 4, because although Marienne didn't know, Tati knew that she had a bunch of people rooting for her. People wanted her to win.

In that way, I think it made me stronger when stepping into season 4 with Marienne. It just pumped up that survival instinct and pumped up the confidence that I had in myself as well as in Marienne to stand in her truth. And to do that unapologetically, to carry on from the energy that she had in season 3.

With You containing such heavy material, how do you navigate filming emotionally draining scenes? 

Well one, having a scene partner like Penn is the biggest gift one can receive as an actor doing this kind of work and this kind of content. I always felt that wherever the place was that I had to go, I always knew that there was going to be somebody there to catch me and help me not go too far. To just bring me back down to reality and be like, "Hey, everything's OK. We're not in this actual crazy world. And we're safe here."

Because for me, when it comes to doing very emotionally charged work, I have to be able to fully go there. I'm not an actor that can just turn it on and off. I have to mentally prepare myself. I'll probably be in a very secluded energy or space for most of the day. So it’s nice to know that I have people like Penn and our crew that will be so supportive in that and give space for it, but also be like, "Hey, do you need anything?" If I have to go outside and cry for a while after we're done, everybody's like, "It's OK, take your time. We'll bring you some juice." So, it feels nice in the way that it doesn't make it so scary to have to go there.

What's the hardest part about filming this kind of content?

The hardest part, and this is for You and for any other project that I've had that contains heavy content, is to not internalize it. I was talking to a friend recently about this, about the idea that your body doesn't know [that you’re filming a show.] Being an actor is actually a really wild thing, and this is why all actors need therapy, because when you put yourself into heightened situations — like you see in the trailer like Marienne running for her life, right? Me, Tati, knows consciously that this isn't real, that we're filming a TV show, whatever. My body, on the other hand, does not know that.

So, when I put my body into a state of adrenaline or a state of fear or a state of anger, sadness, whatever the case is, my body's going to remember that. And so it's important to have a lot of tools and wellness tactics to make sure that I don't internalize those things into my body. And to be able to let it go at the end of the day, whether that's joking around with Penn after, giving Penn a hug to make sure my body knows, "Hey, yes, he was just chasing you. But the real Penn loves you. This is OK. And this is good.” The hardest part, I think, is just finding the balance, and grounding oneself to come back to reality.

Are there any other ways that you try to keep things light when you're on set? 

It depends on the day. What I've loved about working with Penn is that we have a lot of deep conversations in the green room, just about life and philosophy and the world and whatever. And so those are always really great ways to decompress and relieve. Also, Dallas Skye, who plays [Marienne’s daughter] Juliette, and I have always loved coming off of set and just playing a game or laughing about something, her showing me TikTok videos. If it's not necessary for me to stay in the moment or stay in the field that I'm in, I will often try to come out of it when I don't have to and just find a way to play back in life.

Last season, season 3, it was while we were shooting that final scene with Marienne and Love and Joe's paralyzed on the floor. I brought my guitar to set and handed it to Penn and I was like, "Play." Because I was a really big fan of Jeff Buckley and he played Jeff Buckley in a film a few years ago. And so I was like, "Can you play this song?" Fun things like that of us trying to alleviate the tension ended up turning into a whole jam session, which was really awesome. Just always doing things to remind us all like, "Hey, at the end of the day, we're making a TV show. Nobody should hold onto this."

Like every season of You, this one comes with its fair share of twists and turns. Were you able to predict any of season 4’s big twists when reading the script for the first time?

No, and that's why I love the heck out of Sera Gamble. Oh, my god. And our writing team, like I said, I was a huge fan of the show before stepping on it. When I get these scripts, every time I find myself at the end like, “Nuh-huh. No way.” I just could not see any of the twists coming. Even Sera gave me a rundown at the top of the season of what the season was going to be, but of course wouldn't give me the details. And she's like, "You'll read it. Get to it when you read it." And I'm like, “Oh man.” So yeah, no, I didn't see them coming. And I love that I didn't see them coming. I'm so excited for people to see this season because this twist is mind-blowing.

Between You, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and most recently Kaleidoscope, was there any one series you most enjoyed filming?

I think that Sabrina was definitely one of the most enjoyable out of the three. I enjoyed shooting all of them, but Sabrina was just really special because the cast and the crew, we just had a really special relationship. We were like a big family and together all the time. That was really beautiful. 

Which show aligns most with your own personal TV-watching preferences?

From an audience standpoint, like I said, I was already a fan of You before stepping on, but I think that Kaleidoscope would actually be even more my forte. I get really excited by whodunits and TV that you have to really think about, where the satisfaction is not just given to you as an audience member. Shows that you've got to zone in and pay attention to detail and you really get captivated by it. 

But I mean, Sabrina, too, I was a big fan of Sabrina the Teenage Witch when I was a kid. I called my brother when I got cast for Sabrina, and was like, "You'll never guess what I just got casted in." And we cheered and screamed together on the phone. I feel like in that way, I always pick TV or content or film — whatever it may be — that I think I would watch myself or be into myself. Because I feel like if I don't understand it, even from reading the scripts, then I don't feel like I should be the person to play this. It should be given to somebody who does understand. 

What has it been like getting to play multiple strong female leads that are all very different from one another?

It's incredible. This is what I do this for. I've always said that I want to tell the stories of people who can't tell their stories or the stories that are going to be missed as people walk through life. It's been an honor for me to be able to play these women and give credence to the true power and experience of women that are out here in the world. That's all I can say, that it's been a huge honor and I hope that I continue to do so, and continue to change people's hearts and minds with the roles that I play.

Small Talk: Tati Gabrielle
Blazer, shirt, and pants: Tommy Hilfiger. All jewelry: Pomellato.

Tizano Lugli

Small Talk 

What did your childhood bedroom look like?

I was a big artsy kid, so I had pictures that my friends had drawn and posters and Playbills. My mom actually took it down when I left for college and I was so mad, but my whole wall was just filled with art. It looked like somebody just threw up paint all over the walls and in the room. Yeah, big artsy kid bedroom.

What was your favorite playbill you had on your wall?

Avenue Q, because it was one of my favorite musicals when I was young.

Which celebrity have you been most starstruck to meet?

Spike Lee. I couldn't even talk, man. My dad wanted to be a filmmaker, and he’s where I got my film bug from. So, Spike Lee was a big idol or role model for him when he was coming up. He went to film school at NYU. When I met Spike Lee, it was this generational inspiration that he had done for my family, and I was just like, "I just want to say that you've really been a big part of my life and blah, blah, blah." 

He let me ramble for however long and then he just goes — because I had on these platform Nike Cortez's — "I like your shoes." One of my favorite moments that I've had since being in this industry.

What do you think of low-rise jeans? Yes? No?

Yes. I love low-rise jeans, but only low-rise baggy jeans because they give me this ‘90s moment, and I have a big affinity to ‘90s style. So yes, I do low-rise baggy jeans.

Do you believe in astrology? What's your sign?

Yes, I do. I think from a lot of different realms of thought, but yes, I do believe in astrology. I'm an Aquarius and very much an Aquarius. My sun’s Aquarius, my rising is a Pisces, and my moon is an Aries. I got that fire going inside.

Lead photo: Jumpsuit: One Teaspoon. Rings: Lilou.
Photographer: Tiziano Lugli. Stylist: Oretta Corbelli. Assistant Stylist: Allegra Gargiulo. Hair stylist: Suzette Boozer. Makeup: Elie Maalouf.

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