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Gabrielle Ryan: “Power has something for everyone”

Gabrielle Ryan, one of the stars of Power Book 4: Force, tells us about working with Joseph Sikora, and 50 Cent throwing her a special birthday dinner

Gabrielle Ryan in Power Book 4: Force

Joseph Sikora is back as Tommy Egan in Power Book 4: Force, the new TV series in the Power universe. Now based out of Chicago since he burned his bridges in New York, it isn’t long before Tommy is making new friends, like Isaac Keys‘s Diamond, and Gloria, played by Gabrielle Ryan.

The manager of an inner-city bar, Gloria’s one of the first people who encounters Tommy once he decides to stop off in Chicago. Soon enough their lives are entangled, and he’s offering to help her out. Despite living under the thumb of the Flynn family, a powerful syndicate who’ve a lot of sway for the city, Gloria is adamant she doesn’t need anyone’s help.

How true that is remains to be seen, but we caught up with Ryan to talk about how she mold Gloria from a performance perspective, fitting in with the rest of the cast, and what it was like to shoot during lockdown. Ryan tells us about how much Sikora is truly like Tommy, and the time 50 Cent surprised her with a birthday dinner – in a manner of speaking.

The Digital Fix: Hi, I’m Anthony from The Digital Fix, how’re you?

Gabrielle Ryan: Hi Anthony, thank you so much for having me. Hello from sunny Los Angeles!

Awesome – just to start, how did you become a part of this Power series? Were you aware of Power before?

Was I aware? Anthony, I was only the biggest Power fan ever. In all seriousness, I loved Power, I really wanted to be on the original show, never auditioned, and then, you know, the the opportunity came around with the Tommy’s spin-off, and I jumped at it, obviously, I did my tape, sent it to my reps, and it ended up being a seven week casting process, you know, for Zooms, and a couple of tapes.

It was a very stressful experience, because I wanted the role so badly. I think my agent hated me over those seven weeks. I called regularly because the thing was they gave us feedback really early on that they were interested in me to chemistry test, and then we didn’t hear anything for about four or five weeks, and Thanksgiving went by and at that point, my agent’s kind of hinting to me, but not really hinting like, ‘I think we should just forget about that one’. And I’m like, ‘No, we have to find out what’s going on’.

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So yes, I was a huge fan before, I was very aware of the Power world, and I was a huge Tommy fan. I had a big crush on him.

Great, I guess the first episode was very exciting for you.

[Laughing] Yes I was ready, I was very ready for that scene with Joseph.

With Gloria, from the episodes I’ve watched, there’s shit she has this intense history. How in-depth did you go with her background?

Yeah, you know, one of the things about Gloria is she has suffered a lot of loss, and I don’t think that’s too hard to relate to for anybody, because everybody’s suffered loss in some capacity. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be death. So that was something that I worked on a lot. I do like to definitely go deep with the characters, and that was something that I worked on a lot. I like to use music and I worked out really intensely over that time.

She was such an interesting character to play. She’s very similar to me in some ways, but very different in other ways. I think that her drive and tenacity is very similar to me Gabrielle, and also her constant working towards getting out from under the Flynn family, and having her own restaurant and having her own rules. But as I said, it’s quite similar to acting, constantly auditioning, and not getting the roles and then getting one and then maybe something happens. Those two worlds are quite similar, when it comes to Gloria, I would say.

One of my favourite lines of hers is when she tells Tommy, ‘I got myself into it, I’ll get myself out if’, really establishing her independence. As an actor, how did you establish her personality, making sure we understood she wasn’t just there to please Tommy?

What’s interesting about that scene is, even though he is making the joke, and he was being playful to me, Tommy’s a playful person, he is saying, ‘I can handle that for you if you want’ and she is very adamant: ‘Absolutely not’, my line is ‘Put your cape away’. I don’t need a man to save me. I did get myself in, and I’m going to get myself out.

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That’s something that I always had in the forefront with Gloria, that she doesn’t need a man, she’s not looking for anybody when Tommy comes into her bar. She’s intrigued by him, but she wasn’t sitting there waiting for a knight in shining armour. She’s already got her dramas with Vic going on. She definitely doesn’t need something else in the mix. But it just happens that it’s Tommy and it’s very difficult to say no to Tom, clearly, as we see happen.

Everyone’s spoken really highly about working with Joseph Sikora. You have some very close scenes with him, did you have the same experience?

Absolutely, it’s so cliché, but I’m not joking when I say Joseph Sikora is literally one of my most favourite people in the whole world. That man is so lovely just as a human in general, but as a leader on the show, and he is so are brilliant at playing Tommy, this character is so beloved by all communities young and old, he has captured so many households and so many hearts playing this character, which is why he got a spin-off. We’re all here because of Joseph, and how amazingly he played the Tommy character.

Also, funny side note, we couldn’t walk two seconds without somebody stopping us for a picture of Joseph, it was really intense. The fans are awesome, and they love him. Yeah, he’s amazing, and he’s so giving in scenes, you know, I learned so much from him. He knew that this was my first big role, and he just made me so comfortable. It was such an awesome working experience with him.

Tommy and Isaac talked about being welcomed into Power with open arms. What was it like coming into the fold with Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson and Courtney A Kemp?

50 Cent actually came to visit us on set really early on in the filming schedule, and it’s quite funny, I always joke that I wasn’t on set the day he came. So I was gutted that I didn’t get to meet him. But we actually had a really small cast dinner the night after, and it happened to be my birthday. So I really felt like 50 Cent was throwing me a birthday dinner. Forever, I will always have that as a story.

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But in all seriousness, he was so wonderful. He was quite instrumental in my casting process as well, and so I’m forever grateful to him for that, you know, that man changed my life. He was so complimentary with the things he was saying to me about the performances that he’d seen of mine. He’s 50 Cent, he doesn’t have to take time out, and he took time out to talk to me and give me advice.

He’s an absolute genius when it comes to these projects, because every single one is a hit show, you know, him and Courtney Kemp have created this absolute phenomenon, culturally, right now. Everybody knows Power, whether they watch it or not, it’s always that thing, even though it’s a different story. But they know about Power, which is a testament to 50 cent and Courtney Kemp.

Gloria has this restaurant and bar that she runs, where many of her scenes take place. Can you tell me about the bar as an extension of her personality?

Cooking is what Gloria does, that’s where she thrives, and I think it’s also sort of an outlet for her. Like I said, she has had a lot of loss in her life, and I think that was her way of dealing with it and knowing that she’s good at this. Gloria is the kind of person that whatever she puts her mind to, she’d be good at.

It just happens that she chose being a chef and her end goal is to be out of the Flynns hole and to have her own restaurant. The bar is definitely an extension of Gloria. It’s awesome when we have the scenes in there, and it’s also where she first meets Tommy and, as you see, where Vic frequents a lot.

Yeah, Vic always seems to know where Gloria is.

He’s always around, Vic always knows where Gloria is, he has eyes everywhere!

You’ve worked on a number of TV shows. How did filming this differ from your other projects – I understand this was all shot in lockdown?

We were in the height of the pandemic. Nobody had been vaccinated yet. We were in a complete bubble getting tested every five seconds. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere or do anything. We were definitely still in a lockdown, so that was a little different. What would actually be quite funny is we would do these intimate scenes, and on-set Joseph and I, we weren’t allowed in each other’s trailers. So that was always quite funny. We would joke about that.

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It actually made us even closer. I would say, our whole cast is like a true family. Nobody’s making that up. We all got on so amazingly from day one, and everyone with each other. It’s not like there’s cliques or anything. We all could be around each other individually, and we all would get on like a house on fire. It was awesome.

Having Thomas Flanagan on set as well, you know, I’ve always loved him as an actor, and having somebody from back home was awesome. I had a few scenes with him. He’s an incredible actor as well, so that was amazing to experience. I can’t say enough good things about everybody on the show.

This is the latest Power spin-off, and it just keeps growing. As someone who’s just come into the wheelhouse, what is it that allows the world to keep expanding, do you think?

Gosh, I mean, you know, what’s interesting is, I didn’t think my mom would be into Power. When I was auditioning for this, I told her to watch it. I thought she’d watch a couple of episodes, you know, just to be nice. She watched the entire six seasons in I think it was a week and a half. My mom is older. She’s not into crime or violence or heavy sexy at all, but she thought it was fantastic. And I think that’s a true testament to Courtney Kemp’s writing, the stories were so compelling, there was something for everybody.

There was something that everybody could relate to in the original storytelling, and we’re just an extension of that. Fantastic actors as well. It was something for everybody in the initial Power series. Everybody had such strong feelings about their favourite person.

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I was an avid Tommy fan, he was always my favourite. I was always team Tommy, I also loved Angie, which I always feel like wasn’t the general consensus, but I was definitely an Angie fan. Whenever there’s a situation where people have that intense feeling about their favourite character, you’ve got a hit on your hands. And then obviously like 50 coming in in the series is like the cherry on top.

The music is incredible as well, I’m sure you noticed the music and art is amazing, our theme tune, the music video, it’s the whole package. It really is the whole package. I really, really hope and believe that the fans are going to enjoy our season just as much as the past six seasons.

Power Book 4: Force premiered on February 6, with episodes available weekly on STARZPLAY