‘You’ Star Tati Gabrielle on Playing a ‘Bad-Ass Mom’ Who Falls for Joe

·8-min read

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the third season of “You,” streaming now on Netflix.

After working in the futuristic world of “The 100” and the witchy world of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” Tati Gabrielle moves into a new form of the heightened genre landscape in the suburbs of Madre Linde on the third season of Netflix’s “You.”

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As Marienne, the latest object of Joe Goldberg’s (Penn Badgley) obsession, on paper she may have seemed not long for that world. But she is a far cry from the women of his past, with darkness in her own past, and that changed things.

“She doesn’t trust this guy, she is going to be a little timid and trepidatious in the way that she moves,” Gabrielle tells Variety.

Marienne is recovering from addiction issues and got herself out of a relationship with an abusive ex (Ryan, played by Scott Michael Foster) but is still tied to him by their daughter. As a beloved local news figure, Ryan has much more sway than Marienne and threatens to take away their daughter. Over the course of the season, Joe learns Ryan is still using and decides to take him out of the picture, but that does not mean Marienne is free and clear of danger.

Love (Victoria Pedretti) figures out that Joe has his eye on Marienne and originally plans to take her out, as well. After a tense confrontation in Joe and Love’s home — while Joe is lying paralyzed on the floor, mere feet away from the women — Marienne’s daughter comes in, which changes things for Love. She lets them go, although warning Marienne against Joe.

Here, Gabrielle talks to Variety about developing Marienne’s sense of trust in Joe, filming that pivotal final scene with Victoria and where her future with the show stands.

In developing Marienne’s sense of standoffishness around Joe in the beginning, how much of that was about her specific instinct when it came to him versus being informed by what she had experienced with men like Ryan?

I think it’s a bit of both. I think that Marienne naturally has a distrust of men in general, but in Joe’s case, to start, it’s more so informed by her distrust of the town and these privileged, entitled people that she’s surrounded by constantly. She just doesn’t trust anyone in this town; she knows she’s the outsider. So most people that she meets are guilty until proven innocent.

When did you feel things really started to change for Marienne with Joe?

I don’t think that she really started to gain trust for him or find common ground with him until he opened up about his childhood and about his past. I don’t think, prior to that, Marienne had — or even me as Tati, I couldn’t see any moments in which Marienne would be like, “Oh maybe this guy’s not so bad.” She’s a very guarded person, but when she found the common ground with him, she found the humanity in him and started to drop her defenses.

The audience knows all of the things Joe does to ingratiate himself or make him attractive to the women he is stalking, so how did you and Penn play with how much he felt he had to win her over in that moment?

I think later that happened and we had more conversations about that. I don’t think that in that moment it was used as a tactic but more as him not wanting to be viewed incorrectly, with his own doubts about being in Madre Linda. But later on, both Penn and I, as well as Sera [Gamble, showrunner] and Silver [Tree, director], had conversations about adjusting certain moments. Something I really appreciated of Sera was as far as Marienne being a Black woman, not wanting to make her — and this is something I felt very strongly to protect — so oblivious of certain things. She shouldn’t be able to just be taken by storm with Joe.

She is very different from the other women in his life, but did you go back and watch any of their performances in Seasons 1 and 2 to thread in a mannerism or behavior to Marienne, as a way of drawing a through line to a similarity he is attracted to in all of them?

No. Of course I watched the first two seasons — I was a big fan of the show before I got on it — but I didn’t necessarily watch them to try to make some sort of through line. I understood that of course Sera needed to move the story in a certain way and of course Marienne had to miss things in order for Sera to move the story in the way that she needed to, but we just put more focus on Marienne [being] oblivious to Joe because she’s just so focused on her own stuff that she’s got going on. She is more susceptible to receiving Joe due to the chaos going on with Ryan and the kid. She was able to be swooned in the way of wanting to have a sense of peace and fall into the fantasy in that way.

A lot of what Marienne is going through is off-screen. We hear about more than we get to watch you play out. What did you do to more fully sketch out those pieces of her life?

I definitely needed to sketch it out for myself. I had the opportunity of being able to speak to a mother who had Marienne’s situation happen, where she had her child taken away due to her own issues. And so, I wanted to know what the ins and outs of that really looked like so I could inform Marienne with the depth and the baggage that does come with that. While she was meant to be well put-together when she presented herself, I wanted to make sure that I had, in the back of my mind, what could have been happening off screen and really laid that out for myself so it could inform any ticks that Marienne had in certain moments. She is a bad-ass woman, she is a bad-ass mom fighting for her kid, but she is also trying to heal, and in order for those things to bleed through, I needed to have a really clear picture of who she was when she wasn’t in the library.

How suspicious do you think she was of Ryan?

I think incredibly suspicious, but I almost think that comes from Stockholm Syndrome. I am very familiar with people who have been in abusive relationships, and it does present this constant paranoia and anxiety of just the trauma of all that has happened. You’re put in a constant state of fight or flight. So I do think that Marienne was suspicious of Ryan, and had a right to be due to the things he had already done, but I do think there was a certain level of pure traumatic paranoia from their past together.

How did that sense of paranoia come into play when she was then confronted with Love?

Coming into that scene, again with not wanting Marienne to be too oblivious and go, “What’s going on?,” the energy feels weird right now. She never sees the knife behind her back, and so it was easy in that way to not necessarily play this hyper-fear or “Oh I’m going to die” thing. She doesn’t know these people are murderers; all she knows is that when she walks into this house, something doesn’t feel right. Marienne is seeing Love as a scorned woman: She has found out that her husband has found another woman. So, in a way taking this stance of, “Sorry girl, I don’t want this to be your reality, but I am very happy this is my reality” because in Marienne’s mind, she and Joe are in love and they’re going to go be happy. Joe has painted Love to Marienne as not being a great woman. It was just playing in the truth of what Marienne thought reality was and not playing into what Love knew reality to be.

Did you shoot anything that gave you an idea of where Marienne ended up?

No, I’m still curious and wondering as well. I do think that Marienne would go to Paris and live her life with her kid as she always dreamed, but all I know is she gets the hell out of Madre Linda. [Laughs.]

Have you had conversations yet about doing another season?

I think that there is a big possibility of it. I haven’t had conversations yet about what that looks like, but I’m excited to see where it goes. I feel like, on one hand, it could send her into a traumatic whirlwind to find out that she has fallen for yet another toxic man. But I don’t think that she would be so susceptible to his tactics and games, and I don’t see Marienne ending up in the same way as his previous victims. I would really love to see her be the one to gain her strength and to be able to conquer Joe in some way and to end the cycle.

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