Fans grew to love (or hate) Gabrielle Dennis as Janay in CW and later BET’s version of The Game. Since then, she’s starred in a myriad string of television and film projects, including Rosewood alongside Morris Chestnut, A Black Lady Sketch Show, The Upshaws, Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming, Luke Cage, and Every Little Step: The Bobby Brown Story.
Now, Dennis making her Apple TV+ debut in a series titled The Big Door Prize.
The show is based on M.O Walsh’s novel of the same title. The series is about a small town that is changed when a mysterious machine appears in the neighborhood general store with promises to reveal each resident’s true potential in life.
Dennis recently spoke with Shadow and Act about what drew her to the project. She also spoke about The Game’s return for a third iteration on Paramount +, as well as and her thoughts on the first authorized Whitney Houston biopic.
The Big Door Prize premiered last month on Apple TV+ and one new episode will airs every week on Wednesdays through May 17.
What attracted you to this specific project? Because this is something that fans haven't seen you in before.
GD: Well, that would be one reason. And any time someone wants to hire me, I’m really game for it. But I think I just thought that it was this universal concept of the human experience. These huge major questions were being asked about potential about happiness. We’re all faced with that at some point, right? So I feel like everyone that watches this, I want them to ask those questions of themselves. So for me, it was just a very intriguing story. It was this big life concept in this small town. And I think that dichotomy is really interesting. So it’s just fun to play anything where you get to play a little comedy, a little drama, that levity I’ve always been a fan of. I’m just blessed and fortunate.
How have you been adjusting to all of the projects that are now available on streaming platforms like Apple TV+, and all of the others that are available now versus when you first started out?
GD: I love seeing people eat. So I feel like for me, because my social community is full of entertainers and artists, it’s great to be from the stage. When I first started my career, I felt like there were just a few kernels on the plate for everybody to scrap over. And now everyone I know is working – either in front of the camera or behind the camera. So to me, it’s kind of this renaissance and it’s beautiful that there’s so much to do now. There are so many things, and everyone’s able to get their hands on something. So it’s a joy that I love celebrating and seeing people win. And for me, this moment in time with all these platforms are excellent. And now, as a viewer, it’s challenging because there’s a lot to watch. And I need a part-time job just to catch up on supporting all my friends. But I really like it.
Now, speaking of streaming, obviously, ‘The Game’ is back, and everyone’s always questioning whether we’ll see the OG cast. Are there any plans for you to return to the Paramount+ iteration?
GD: None that I’ve heard of. I’ve not gotten any calls or emails or DMs. I just feel like for my character, she kind of moved on in a way from that whole world. She created a new life in New York. She took her child and her new man and kind of started over. I don’t know. It’s easier for the writers to kind of push that to the side and have to deal with that again. But I would love to see it, even if it’s just a movie or like a little mini-series, little special to kind of see all the characters from The CW version all the way to the BET version come together, and see where they all landed in their lives in this new space and time.
Also, there was the Whitney Houston biopic that came out, the first authorized project. And we know that you played her in the Bobby Brown BET film. What was your take on Naomi Ackie’s rendition of Whitney Houston in the ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ biopic?
GD: I haven’t seen it yet. There’s so much I haven’t seen because I’ve been in production. So I have not been in the movie theater since the beginning of the pandemic. I actually just went to see Black Panther: Wakanda Forever two weeks ago because it was still playing at the Universal CityWalk, and it was like my last night. I was like, ‘Let me go watch this,’ because I insisted on seeing that in the movie theater. But I will say I enjoyed the trailer, the quality of the film, the content. I’m excited for her that she got to really dive into the Whitney that we all know and love as far as the cast, the hair, the makeup, the dresses, the gowns, and the moments that we as audiences got to experience with Whitney because I only got to really play the behind-the-scenes version of her. I think there was one moment from the reality show we recreated, but outside of that, nothing. I’m excited to see it. I just haven’t seen it yet. And shout out to my girl Nafeesa Williams who plays Robyn Crawford. But unfortunately, it’s one on a long list of things that I need to catch up on because of all of the streaming and all of the content that’s out there to watch.