We sat down with Power Book IV actress Gabrielle Ryan to discuss her first series regular role in the new instalment of Power, Power Book IV: Force.
Power Book IV: Force landed on our screens in early February, the newest instalment in the Power universe. The television network Starz has firmly made a visual impact on the London streets, with buses adorned by the promotional posters and train station advertisements of the show across the capital. Now that Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora) has turbulently left New York, this Power book is set in Chicago with many new faces, including British actress Gabrielle Ryan.
Gabrielle joins us at GUAP, bringing a vibrant energy to the studios, reflected in the images that we shot. Just like her character Gloria, she carries a warm smile and an energetic voice that commands the room. We start off our conversation by gushing over our love of the Power series, with Gabrielle clearly a huge fan of the show before she landed the role. Power Book IV: Force”, in which Gabrielle stars as restaurant owner Gloria, who finds herself in a love triangle between Tommy and rival Vic Flynn. We caught up with Ryan to discuss her acting background, how she got into the character of Gloria and her first series regular experience
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
So tell me a bit about where you grew up.
I was born in London but raised in Brighton – I’m such a Brighton girl. I love coming back to Brighton; I always go straight there. It was such an amazing place to grow up. So progressive, open and welcoming.
What were your parents like? Were they encouraging when you started to think about going into acting?
My mum was not that encouraging of Acting (understandably), it’s a tough industry. She was born and raised in Nigeria – she’s mixed Nigerian and Irish and probably would’ve wanted me to do anything apart from Act. My dad is an actual artist. So he was always way more open to me being creative. My mum’s come round to the idea of me acting a few years ago, so that’s good! She’s also a huge fan of POWER.
What was your earliest experience of acting?
My mum always tells me this story of when she took me to see Buttonmoon when I was a toddler. And that was the only time I was just silent watching a show. And from then, she knew.
So moving from acting school and landing your first roles, what was that experience like?
I was always interested in method acting, but there weren’t many places in the UK. So, of course, the best place was Lee Strasburg (Method Acting School) in New York. When I first went to New York, I was very young. I stayed with a family friend’s friend who happened to live by my school. Her name is Claudette. She’s like a second mum/grandma, full Jamaican, so she’s the best cook ever. She always had breakfast, lunch and dinner waiting for me. Every time I go to New York, I stay with her. She’s such a wonderful person in my life.
What were you most afraid of at that time? after taking the risk of moving abroad.
When I look back at it, I had zero fear. If I knew how long it was going to take, I probably would have never done it. But also, even going to New York, not knowing anybody, was just fearless.
And do you still carry some of that now, being quite fearless?
Definitely not like how I had it back then. However, I think just to act in general, you have to be pretty fearless. You put so much into every audition, and you never know what’s going to come back. You do have to have a lot of fearlessness, determination, and tenacity to keep going.
So tell me about the first role you landed where you were like ‘Okay. I’m really in the business.
It was a show on Netflix called Bonding. It wasn’t on Netflix when I auditioned – it was an independent project. I absolutely loved it. It did so well at the festivals that Netflix bought it. And that’s when it kind of blew up.
How did it feel when you heard Netflix had picked it up?
Yeah, it was incredible. My family typically doesn’t get to see my work because it’s on networks in the States, but this time it was on the platform that I know they all have – everybody has Netflix. So that was cool.
So tell me about your role in Power. The audition process, how you found out about the role and what was going on in your life at the time?
At the height of the pandemic, we were basically locked down in New York. I was in my apartment in Harlem, so the entire audition process was via Zoom. It was over seven weeks – the longest seven weeks of my life. I taped and found out they wanted me to progress to the next stages quickly. Then we didn’t hear anything. I’m talking; for like weeks, I heard nothing. I was calling my agent 24/7 asking ‘Hey, what’s up with the Power audition”. And then Thanksgiving happened, and they said they wanted me to audition again. Then, I was on zoom with all the producers, including Courtney Kemp, for the final stages. That was when I was chemistry testing with Joseph (Sikora), who plays Tommy, which was a wild experience. But we made it work, and I got the role!
What was it like working on the set?
Working on set was incredible. Joseph is such an amazing actor and human. I learned so much working on set with him. And it’s just so wild because I was such a big Power fan prior to being in the cast. And Tommy was always my favourite character.
And what was it like filming in Chicago? How does it compare to other sets you’ve worked on?
Chicago is incredible. They were so welcoming, and the people were so lovely. What was even better was that Joseph is a Chicago native. So is Kris Lofton, who plays Jenard, the younger brother. Also, JP (Anthony Fleming). There were a bunch of Chicago actors.
What was the research process like for Gloria?
The storyline originally was that she’s ex-military, which was removed before filming, but at the time that played a huge factor in how I was preparing for the audition. I was working out like crazy. I knew they’d only see me from the waist up on Zoom, so I was working my arms like crazy – it was another level. It was like I was in boot camp. And it was the middle of the pandemic, so gyms weren’t open. I had a peloton and weights in the house. Everyday. Twice a day. I was ready.
So you described Gloria as a wild one, and you know, not for the kids. How would you say that your character is like you?
She is feisty, fiery and determined, which I am. I wouldn’t say that there’s a lot more, but I mean, she doesn’t go out looking for trouble, but she does find herself very much in the mix.
How would you describe yourself, in general?
I’m very bubbly but also very calm. I think you have to have a lot of confidence to be an Actor. You have to believe in yourself. Oh, and very proud British!
Without giving anything away, tell me about your favourite scenes.
I like the opening scene I had with Joseph when Gloria and Tommy meet each other because there are a lot of silent moments where a lot is being said without words, which is always really fun to play.
Who would you be if you could play any other character on the show or any other book of Power?
Well, I could hire Symphony, from Raising Kanan, to come and work in my bar. And I always say it would be pretty fun to play Cane on Ghost. He’s a wild one. And Holly. There is no other character like Holly, but I do love Angie.. I’m a fan of Angie – she was my favourite out of everybody.
What were the most challenging moments of taking on this role, if any?
I wouldn’t say that anything felt challenging because I was so prepared for the role. This has been such a long journey for me, not just for this role, but in terms of how often I auditioned over the years and how long it took me to get my first “big role”, as it were.
What was your reaction to Book IV having one of the most viewed premieres in Starz history?
Oh yeah, that was incredible. It was Super Bowl week in LA. So LA was already buzzing. Joseph happened to be in town and the rest of the cast. 50 was in town for the Superbowl. So yeah, we definitely celebrated.
What would be your advice to young actors who are just starting out, have a university background or the training, and want to get into the business?
(After school) I was working on a craft. I appreciate how difficult it is with things like Instagram and seeing that many things seem very instantaneous, but typically they’re not. Like I keep saying, this was not overnight. This is many years of hundreds and hundreds of auditions to get my first series regular. After 8, 9 years being back and forth to the States. So yeah, work on your craft.
Do you think the states is where you need to be to get the sort of roles you would like to have, especially for actors of colour? Do you think that there’s more opportunity in the States?
I think everybody’s experience is different. I can’t compare my Acting experiences in the UK to the US because I’ve only had a US experience. However, there are a lot more platforms in the US, a lot more networks/stations in America compared to the UK, so there are many opportunities. We have very limited platforms here in the UK so that plays a role.
Power Book IV: Force premiered in the UK on STARZPLAY and is available to stream now.
Words : JK Abuah
Photographer: Shenell Kennedy
Creative Direction and Styling : Gloria Iyare
Make-up Artist : Blessing Kambanga