Gabrielle Elyse stars on the hilarious Nickelodeon show, NICKY, RICKY, DICKY, AND DAWN. She comes from an impressive background at Second City and The Groundlings. She has a tremendous amount of experience and is incredibly passionate about her work, something extremely rare in an actress her age. I caught up with the talented young actress about her work on the hit show, her improv background, and what are some scenes she is excited for the fans to see this season.
Tell me about your training at Second City and the Groundlings.
Gabrielle Elyse: First of all, as young as I was when I took class at The Groundlings (I was 14), I was just in awe that I had an opportunity to be there. People know about the talented performers that have come out of both these institution. So coming from the middle of America you think that you’re a world apart and that an opportunity to learn there is out of your reach.
Both Improv schools teach about the same curriculum: improve, long form, and writing. It’s their focus and approach that are different. At The Groundlings you’re taught about big character development and to be bigger and wilder. Think Will Ferrell type characters and Jimmy Fallon. Second City teaches character relationships within a scene. It’s less big character and more “real people” as to not “push the funny”, think Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jane Lynch, or Amy Poehler.
It’s a good practice to experience different approaches to improv and comedy. These schools know that actors typically do just that. And you find what speaks to you as a performer and where you need improvement. Right now I’m learning about Upright Citizens Brigade.
How did you apply what you learned there to your work on Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn?
Improve has helped me become more confident in my comedy and in my personal life. It’s helped me make bolder comedic choices and to be comfortable in my skin being over the top with characters. It’s helped me think on my feet on and to be able to take directions and re-direction quickly and to also to be consistent. It has taught me how to play off of other actors, go with the flow. It’s a technique called “yes….and”. These skills have been helpful on the set of NRDD. But it’s now part of my skill-set so I’m able to use it in all kinds of settings.
Did you always want to act? What made you want to pursue it?
I did. But when I was really young I didn’t realize that that’s what it was. I always had an active and vivid imagination. And, in addition to that I was a really independent spirit. If I could conceive of it, to me, there was no reason why it couldn’t happen. “No” was not in my vocabulary. It was always “yes”! I didn’t keep my imagination to myself either. I shared it freely. It got to the point where my teachers would need to ask my mom to corroborate my stories. For instance, my parents were talking about moving back to California…. When they retire. To me the matter was settled, we were moving. So I went into class the next day and told my class, during show and tell that they needed to say their “good-byes” to me because we were moving next week. Yea, my mom got several calls about that one. Or the time I told my class that my dad was a secret Samurai. Well, why not? My dad is half Japanese. He had Samurai swords on display and (shoes) and a kimono in his closet. It all came together for me when my dad took me to go see “The Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise. (Not the most serene movie to take a young one to. And mom my let him know it too. LOL)
I roped my friends into putting on sketches with me for our parents. Actually I didn’t need a cast. I often performed for my family solo. I remember pointing at the movie screen or television and telling my mom, “I want to do that.”
What was one of your favorite scenes you’ve shot with the quadruplets?
Well, my most favorite so far is in an episode titled “Quad-ventures in Babysitting”. It hasn’t aired yet so I can’t say much about that episode. So then I’d have to say shooting the scenes in the episode titled “Scaredy Dance”. In my Halloween costume I looked like the legendary Lucille Ball, as a well endowed, red headed lunch lady. The Quads liked poking my prosthetic hinny, switching out normal height chairs for low chairs, off set, so it would make it hard for me to sit down, and just adjusting to my new physical space so I didn’t bump into them while filming. And they repeatedly group hugging me so I couldn’t move. No matter the scene it’s fun filming with the quads!
What’s in store for Josie and the quad?
What’s in store is always a surprise to the cast. We get the script typically one to two days prior to the rehearsal of that script. That’s when we get to learn what the writers have in store for the characters. It keeps you on your toes! But what I can say, is that there’s a lot of bonding, love, and troublemaking headed your way!
Are there any scenes coming up that you’re really excited for the fans to see?
YES! The episode, “Quad-Ventures in Babysitting” is where the writers really introduce the character of Josie to the audience. You’ll better understand the importance of Josie as it relates to the Quads and her role in the show. From a personal point of view, this was the episode where it really hit me that I am a working actor. I’m part of a team or professionals who know my name; my input is welcome and matters. Making a scene work is rewarding.
Do you think the quad can learn to work as a team more? They’ve struggled with that in the past, will they work well together in the future?
That’s the beauty of the Quad’s relationship. It’s like the typical brother/sister that’s our audience. Like them, the Quad’s are continually learning about themselves and how to relate to siblings, parents, mentors, and friends. It’s an ongoing lesson just like life.
You can watch Gabrielle on NICKY , RICKY, DICKY AND DAWN on Nickelodeon.