There is more to this Cincinnati, Ohio, born and raised actress than meets the eye. Gabrielle Dennis is equally talented as she is beautifully. She is best known as Janay of the CW and BET’s The Game.
Dennis attended Howard University, where she earned a degree in Theater. From an early age, she knew that she become a performer. Her first acting role came in 1990 in the television movie A Mom for Christmas, starring Olivia Newton-John. Since then, she has starred in many other television shows and a television commercial for State Farm Insurance.
Dennis currently stars in Mark Harris’ comedy Black Coffee which opened in limited release January 10 – January 16 in Atlanta, Chicago, Washington DC, and Baltimore. It follows Robert (Darrin Dewitt Henson) who has not only just broken up with his ditsy, acquisitive girlfriend Mita (Erica Hubbard), but he has also been fired from his job at a painting company started by his father, which is now owned by Nate (Josh Ventura). It also turns out that Mita and Nate have been having an affair. The shell-shocked Robert gets a delivery job with his cousin and bestie, Julian (Christian Keyes), who has a disconcertingly thriving coffee business. One of Julian’s clients is a smart attorney, Morgan (Gabrielle Dennis), to whom Robert is immediately drawn. They begin a hesitant courtship, and we learn that Morgan has a jerk of an ex-husband, Hill (Lamman Rucker), who repeatedly still tries to make her life hell through his manipulative ways. However, in the glossy, buppie world dreamt up by Harris, love rules the day and every one of these characters winds up happily ensconced in the arms of their true soul mate.
PRIDEINDEX: When and how did you know that you wanted to become an actor?
GABRIELLE DENNIS: Let my mom tell it I came out the womb performing (Laughs), but I think I was in the fourth grade when I did my very first professional commercial and probably same grade when I joined the theater union.
PI: When and where did you study?
GD: I started out in fourth grade at a performing arts school (SCPA in Cincinnati), was a theater minor at Howard University, and have taken several classes in Los Angeles.
PI: What is your ideal role?
GD: I want to play a super-heroin and actually working on developing something for myself right now. Besides having super powers (laughs), an ideal role for any actor is one that permits you to show your range and also challenges you emotionally.
PI: Do you have any acting influences?
GD: Most definitely both in comedy and drama and the funny thing is all the influences that come to mind are of a certain age….so clearly I won’t say any names after saying “of a certain age,” but I will say these women have a sexy strength and refinement to them that I find very aspiring.
PI: Tell us about your role in the movie BLACK COFFEE and what did you do to prepare for the part? How did you land this part?
GD: I worked with the producers on HE’S MINE NOT YOURS and I’ve known Mark Harris for several years. Mark and I actually met back when I started out in stand up and I performed on some standup DVD in Chicago he directed. (Laughs) I’m very excited to share the experience of both Mark and Tri-Destined’s first theatrical release.
PI: Talk about your character, Morgan, in BLACK COFFEE; what do we need to know about her?
GD: Morgan is a young entrepreneur trying to take her career as a lawyer to the next level and she is searching for true peace in her life because her current love and financial situation have been more than trying. As far as preparation, I did the usual character work I would do on any other role and found things that I could relate to or substitute from my life and apply to the character Morgan and her situation in the film.
PI: What was it like to work with Darrin DeWitt Henson and the cast of BLACK COFFEE?
GD: It was nice seeing Darrin be lighthearted and funny. Actually, it was nice seeing all the leading men play against “type” or parts they are most regularly associated. Like with Darrin, I was used to seeing him play bad boys with either a shady past or a shady attitude (Laughs) and Lamman usually plays the charming nice guy, but both played complete opposites and it was fun to watch. Plus, not totally sure, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen Christian with his shirt on the entire film (laughs), but it was nice watching him as the comic relief. This was my first time working with Erica, and we only had two small group scenes together, but she’s just a sweetie and beautiful both inside and out.
PI: What was the funniest thing that happened during the filming of this movie?
GD: Hum… not sure if I should admit this, but there’s a scene when my character Morgan and Darrin’s character Robert are on a date and drinking wine and about three takes in…”two sip sally” realizes, hey this is REAL WINE!! (Insert giggles, embarrassment, and a fear of falling over in my heels).
PI: Thus far in your career you have starred in a number of comedies. Can we expect to see you in a drama or on the stage?
GD: You can actually catch me in Season Five of Justified on FX (January 14 & 21) ,and I completed my first action film Call Me King ( click here to see the trailer) , which I hear will have a release date pretty soon. I also helped to write a stage play called Cell Block Seven where I portray a male-to-female transgender. The play was nominated last year for a NAACP Theater Award (Best Ensemble), and we hope to put that on the road this year.
PI: What’s next professionally for you?
GD: For me, it’s preparing for stand up performances and pilot season. I need prayer.
BLACK COFFEE will screen at the AMC Southlake 24 in Atlanta; AMC Hoffman Center 22 in DC; AMC Lowes County Club Hills (Chicago); AMC Lowes Crestwood (Chicago) for showtimes visit www.amctheatres.com/movies/black-coffee