TATI GABRIELLE | Witchin’ Ain’t Easy, but it’s Necessary

by Andrés Gudiño

Any witch worth her salt is fluent in the art of channeling spirits. The jury is out on whether actor Tati Gabrielle has herself dabbled in the dark arts, but her role as Prudence, and the skill she shows as she embodies the spirit of the occult antagonist in Netflix’s latest nostalgia-fueled binge-watch The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, give cause for suspicion. From the producers of Riverdale and based on a comic book series published under the Archie Horror imprint of Archie Comicsfans can expect to be thrown into a similarly twisted take on the recently reascendant Archie-verse. Off the small screen (Gabrielle is also a cast member in the CW’s Armageddon aftermath series, The 100), she is a compulsive creator: an artist that looks for stories in every part of her life. The young actor’s innate curiosity and empathy means she is always looking deeper, beneath the surface.

As a Bay Area-native with a background in performing arts, Gabrielle has been in front of the camera since she was five years old. She began her career as a child model for Macy’s and Nordstrom, and by the third grade she landed the role of Lemony Snicket in an elementary production of A Series of Unfortunate Events. She pursued theatre in high school and college before relocating to Los Angeles in 2015 to take her career to the next level, which she has done through her consistent dedication and studied precision when it comes to her roles. “Before I become them, I want to know them as if I have known them my whole life—as if they’re my best friends,” she divulges. This proved challenging in the case of Prudence: the leader of a trio of malevolent witches known as the “Weird Sisters.”

From the start, Gabrielle was intent on bringing complexity to the character. “I didn’t just want to be the mean girl,” she tells me. “I went to my showrunner, asked as many questions as I could about backstory, as much that they had figured out thus far—How do they think? What are their intentions?” As Gabrielle developed a layered understanding of the character, she developed a deep empathy for Prudence, akin to making a new, radically co-dependent friend. Although Gabrielle admits, Prudence isn’t exactly the friendliest person to keep around. 

It was important for Gabrielle to fully examine the fabric of Prudence’s personality, building her character as a tightly woven mast durable enough to withstand the storm of ideas that creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa will inevitably inflict upon the cast. We spoke on the transient nature of television—its ever-changing sub-plots and the convoluted web of characters—and the mental gymnastics required to understand a character who moves through the world so differently from herself. “I’m a very bubbly, very happy, loving person, and Prudence is the opposite of those things. I had to think of her unique method of madness. And in figuring out how someone so evil would behave, I had to ground her thoughts into something with meaning.” As it turns out, acting is slightly more participatory than channeling. Gone is the meditative emptiness of the host; in its place stands human consciousness, coloring characters with personal interpretations.

Tati Gabrielle is bright and effervescent. I could hear her smile over the phone, in the love that beams out of her when she speaks about her profession and her characters. Her compassion gives Prudence a rare edge; a depth grounded in empathy that adds a human dimension to the cliché of the high-school mean girl. Whether she relies on witchcraft for her talents, or (more likely) has built them up through her unceasing inquisitiveness and instinctual compassion, it seems Gabrielle is intent on using her powers for good.

Photographed by Mitchell McCormack.

Styled by Monty Jackson at Starworks Artist.

Makeup by Robert Bryan using Marc Jacobs Beauty.