Gabrielle Dennis is incredibly talented, hilarious, and—as a result—very busy. Currently starring in Fox’s popular rookie series, Rosewood, Dennis has built and maintained a passionate fan base throughout her career, especially due to her time on Mara Brock Akil’s The Game. Paste caught up with the actor to talk about dancing, comedy and her dream role.
Paste Magazine: Can we take it back a bit, and talk about how you got into the School for Creative and Performing Arts?
Gabrielle Dennis: It was an all-day audition for about 1000 kids and we were all tested in a variety of skills like dance, drama, art, creative writing and music. I was only concerned about the music audition because I don’t play an instrument—and the art audition because my self-portrait consisted of my unbalanced face on top of a stick-figure body. Ultimately I was accepted and placed in the dance and drama departments.
Paste: Did you originally have aspirations to be a dancer?
Dennis: Yes. My first taste of the arts was at age four, when I briefly took a dance class at my school and when I later started training regularly in the 4th grade. I absolutely fell in love! I loved the way dancers dressed and moved, and I couldn’t wait to be like the older kids and get into those shoes, but I had to train hard first—not only in ballet, but in modern, jazz, and tap. I don’t think I wore those shoes until the 7th grade, and I remember not wanting to take them off (laughs).
Paste: In 2006, you were a part of Damon Wayan’s sketch-comedy show, The Underground. How did you make the leap to comedy?
Dennis: I have always had my dad’s sense of humor which is pretty bold and quick-witted so, to me comedy was a natural fit. When I booked the show, I had already been doing stand-up and improv around LA for a little less than a year. Besides having my sketch characters prepared I didn’t know much else about the audition. Then I saw Damon Wayans sitting in the room and I was like “Oh, I better bring the funny.” And I knew I did when he high-fived me on my way out of the room. The Underground was my first series regular role, and a very fun experience.
The Game is known for being a show whose audience was intensely loyal and kept it going from network to network. Why do you think were fans so passionate about it?
Dennis: I think there are a few things that contributed. First, it was just a perfect blend of casting and writing. Second, it was a one-of-a-kind show dealing with relationships in the world of football, which interested a lot of people—especially the relationship element. And third, I feel the shows diversity was refreshing. When the show first came out I think there were only two other “black” shows on network TV, Everybody Hates Chris and Girlfriends, so the audience for the show found it appealing and gravitated to it.
Paste: In today’s landscape of constant opportunities for reboots and reunions, is there a chance the original characters from The Game could return in some form, at some point?
Dennis: I would love to see a The Game movie reuniting all of the shows regular and recurring characters… maybe two films (laughs). It worked for Sex and The City!
Paste: I’m sure the fans would love it. Can you talk about how you got involved with your latest project, Rosewood?
Dennis: The traditional pilot season process. I first auditioned for casting director David Rubin, creator Todd Harthan, and director Richard Shepard. On my way home, my agent called and said they definitely want to test me, but didn’t have any test dates in the book yet. About 10 days later I got the call to test. I went on tape on a Thursday afternoon, and the tape was sent off on Friday to the decision makers. It was a long weekend waiting for that call, but on Monday, it finally came. I screamed, teared up, let out a huge sigh of relief, and then called my mom.
Paste: You’ve got plenty going on right now, but I’m curious to know what your dream role is.
Dennis: I really want to do a period piece! I want to play a strong woman, an iconic woman, a controversial woman, a woman’s woman who inspires others. A woman who has had a place in history whether it be in politics, entertainment, or someone who simply dedicated their life to helping others. The more complex their story, the more intriguing. Women like Cathay Williams, Maya Angelou, Assata Shakur, Bessie Coleman, and Wilma Rudolph are a few on my list.
Paste: Those sound great—fingers crossed! Thanks so much for chatting with with us.
Dennis: Thank you.