By Pauline Perenack
Gabrielle Dennis knew from an early age that she wanted to work in fine arts, and quickly made a solid commitment to be involved in any way she could. After years of honing her craft in New York and DC, Dennis eventually made her way out to Los Angeles, where she made a name for herself in television shows such as The Game, and Rosewood.
But with her addition to the second season of Luke Cage, Dennis will have the opportunity to experience the insanity that comes with being involved in any Marvel series, and will be able to show another side of her as she takes on the role of Tilda Johnson, sometimes better known as Nightshade. While not much has thus far been revealed about the character of Tilda in the show, comic book fans know well of her criminal aspirations, opening up the possibilities for an interesting character addition to the show.
With the dropping of Luke Cage season two only a few weeks away, we caught up with Dennis about what to expect of her in Luke Cage, the experience of portraying Whitney Houston in BET’s The Bobby Brown Story, and what songs you can expect to find on her iPod.
Congratulations on your new role in Luke Cage this season!
But, before we get into that, tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you get into acting?
When I was little, I auditioned for a performing arts school as a dancer and actor, and if I remember correctly, I was required to audition for multiple disciplines and quickly learned that drawing was a skill I did NOT possess. Luckily I got in anyway and pretty early on I was doing commercials and small speaking roles in films whenever they came to town because they would audition kids at our school first.
Let’s talk Luke Cage. Did you watch season one, and were you a fan? Or is this all new for you?
I absolutely watched season one. I didn’t watch the first night it came out since they broke Netflix [laughing], but I definitely watched! I had already seen the two previous Marvel series on Netflix (Daredevil, Jessica Jones) and enjoyed those. Plus, I watched Marvel’s Luke Cage to support my friend Simone [Missick].
Can you tell us a little about your character? How will she be similar/different to the comic book version?
Sadly there isn’t much I can say about Tilda outside of what has already been released and I’ve never read the comic book, BUT, but I do believe there will be some major surprises for fans who are familiar with the comic book version and for the fans just learning about Tilda for the first time.
Do you have a particular episode or scene that you enjoyed the most? And if so, why?
Hands down any scene with Alfre Woodard. She is an immense talent and such a joy to watch.
Which characters in the show did you get to interact with the most?
I was thrilled to get to work with everybody, and with the exception of one character, I worked with everyone almost equally…and yes, I would LOVE to tell you who that character is but I don’t want to risk any smart fans out there reading into it and figuring out any spoilers [laughing].
What was it like to prep for a role like this, where so many people know the character, versus getting up on stage for one of your standup comedy shows?
Before filming began I sat down with [executive producer] Cheo [Hodari Coker] and was able to pick his brain a little on his vision of Tilda. Then, I really just prepared for this role as I would any other as far as finding the humanity in the character, finding her truth, figuring out her objectives, which I guess when I think about it, isn’t much different to how I would approach stand up either, revealing the truths of me that hopefully audiences can find relatable.
You’ve also recently been cast as Whitney Houston in BET’s The Bobby Brown Story. Tell me a little bit about that whole experience.
I would say it was a pretty full experience. I learned a lot about Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s life and their relationship which was really both heartwarming and tragic. I got to work with some very talented people, and I got to listen to LOTS of Whitney’s music which I will never hear the same because she means something different to me now. She’s truly special to me.
And we’ll end with an easy question – What’s your current favorite book, favorite song, and favorite TV show?
Sadly, outside of scripts, I usually only get to read on vacations but my cast-mate Sandi McCree, who plays Bobby Brown’s mother Carole, gifted me with a book called “The Warrior Goddess Way” that I am super excited to start on an upcoming trip. My TV watching is all over the place because I have so many friends working on shows and I support ALL of them so pretty hard to pick just one favorite [laughing], but my favorite song at the moment is probably “Dinero” since I just saw J Lo perform it on the Billboard Awards with DJ Khaled and Cardi B and let’s be honest, what woman doesn’t want a pocket full of money and dance moves like those!
Fans can catch Gabrielle Dennis in action when Luke Cage returns to Netflix for season 2 on June 22, 2018.
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