Gabby won the very first skills test on Scream Queens 2. And that win saved her from becoming the first elimination, according to the judges. Those ups and downs would repeat for several episodes, until she actually started to believe she could win. Below Gabby talks about her Scream Queens victory, filming her part for Saw 3D, and her relationships to the other actresses and her mentor on the show, John Homa. Acting and self-confidence in her skills are still works in progress for her. In fact, after all the praise, she still worries that her final scene on the show doesn’t look as good as she hoped. “I’m so nervous to see it, I have no idea!” she says. If only there were some sort of title or award to show her how good she was.
Congratulations on your win! What have you been up to since you won Scream Queens?
I have been working on a few things. I did a pilot for CBS, but it didn’t get picked up. I have a manager now, and an entertainment lawyer and a commercial agent. So I’m just doing business stuff, really. It’s going to be easier once next week is over.
Once everyone knows, and you can tell casting agents that you won the show and booked that role in Saw.
I mean, it’s definitely been kind of agonizing but also exciting. It’s a big secret.
I don’t want to spoil anything about your role in Saw. But how was preparing for that?
It was pretty hard. I actually had to get a body cast made. It was pretty freaky doing it. They molded my entire face, and basically my entire upper body after my belly button. They put layers and layers of different materials on you and you have two straws in your nose so you can breathe. It was so scary! They put so much of it on, you can’t see and they put it in your ears so you can barely hear anything. That was part of the prep for the film, which was really cool, to have a dummy made of yourself. But scary.
Do you think Scream Queens got you ready for working on a genuine film set?
Everybody that I worked with was really amazing and welcoming and totally made me feel so comfortable. It was really enlightening to be a part of something like that. It was certainly different than anything I did on the show, because we’re on real movie time now. There is no room for mistakes. You really have to be on your game, and it’s part of a huge, huge franchise. So I just feel honored to have been a part of it and to have had such an amazing experience with people on the movie. It was definitely a little intimidating at first, but I was made to feel at home with them. They made me feel so comfortable.
Let’s talk about your time on Scream Queens. You seemed to have a really tough time in the house.
To be completely honest, it was really difficult living in a house with a bunch of girls. Everybody’s vying for this big prize. The vibe is competitive 24 hours a day. For me, some of the time I really took on too much of what it is the other girls thought, and I think I absorbed too much of everyone else’s opinion. It was hard! We didn’t have TV, we didn’t have Internet, we weren’t allowed to talk on the phone. And I’m really close to my family — they’re very supportive of me. It was really, really difficult being completely shut out from the outside world.
It seemed like a lot of the other women had a lot more acting experience, and sort of felt like you didn’t deserve the praise or wins.
I think at the end of the day, like you said, I had my struggles, but I know that I’m talented and the bottom line is that I was competition for the other girls just as much as Jessica was competition for the other girls.
The judges had a word for when you would struggle with a scene. They called it “Gabbyland.” What was that, to you?
To be honest with you, it’s not really something I want to talk about. I guess that’s what their name was for me, not being focused and being in my own world. Gabbyland is me being in my own world and not being a part of the present moment. I felt like I needed to protect myself all the time and I spent too much time trying to shield myself, and I think it just kind of took its toll.
Well, withdrawing was self-protection for you. But it took you out of your work.
Yeah, that’s a really good way of putting it. That’s very true.
At some point, about halfway through the competition, you really changed your focus and stopped making mistakes. What changed for you?
I just know that I’m born to be an actress, and I just decided that I cannot let these outside influences bring me down. In the real world these things exist anyway. Not in such a concentrated environment, but it exists. There’s always going to be competition. And there’s always going to be people that don’t want you to do your best. I think that, for me, I just needed to remember that it’s not something I just wanted to do. It’s something that I’m going to do, that I’m going to continue to do. I think at that point something snapped in me, that I just felt ready to show how much talent I have and that I’m really willing to do all the work and that I’m really willing to step up and shine, instead of just being so closed off. I feel like there were times that I was just so afraid to perform.
Maybe it was just seeing the other girls getting eliminated that made you realize you had a shot at winning.
For sure. The fewer girls that were there the more real it became, and I was just like, okay, it’s on. Let’s go!
One thing that really fascinated me was your relationship with John Homa. Before the last Director’s Cut, you told the camera that you were most scared of disappointing him, which was so interesting to me, that you didn’t say that you were worried about losing. It showed how much you respected him.
He definitely was an amazing mentor. The thing about John is that he can get the best out of you. To an extent it was like looking in the mirror. When you’re in class with him, you can’t hide from it. The expectation that he had for me was also what I had for myself. It was almost like he made me raise my own bar. That’s by far the most influential thing that he did for me, was recognizing the level of talent and the level of acting that I needed to commit to.
One very memorable moment to me was when you told Homa that you couldn’t make yourself cry, and he told you that he was the one man who would never hurt you.
The thing about John is that he intuitively knows things about each actor. On our show, he knew things about each of us that really struck chords. Obviously, by saying that, he found what it is that has affected me so deeply in my past. He calls that “where you live,” where my emotional life is. He just honestly, intuitively knew what it was. There wasn’t a lot of time for discussion, for me to be like, “This is what’s happened in my life.” I think that’s his gift as a teacher: Somehow knowing where it is that you live, emotionally, and then demanding you to let everyone see it. Because that’s what an actor does. It’s very exposing.
After seeing that, and how he worked with all the actresses, I can’t imagine you not working with him again.
I have, actually. I’ve taken classes with him. It’s a bigger collective of people. The dynamic is a little more universal. Scream Queens is about horror, so it’s very specific emotions. There’s TV that’s worked on in the class, there’s film scenes. There’s also the full range of different genres of film and television, so there’s comedy and drama.
So it’s a very different experience.
It’s tough love. That’s what I am talking about when I say the expectation and the riches that an actor has that the world wants to see, and that some people are naturally given or just have. He just demands it out of you, and when it doesn’t come out, he’s like, “No. Why are you hiding it and where are you hiding it? I know it exists in you.” He really means it. He just cuts right through whatever it is that you’re hiding and it just exposes everything.
When it came down to the final episodes, and especially to the finale, I realized that you and Jessica have opposite ways of approaching a scene. Jessica made very deliberate choices going into a scene, with motives behind each choice. But you seemed to like to get into a scene before you made your choices. You went on instinct.
I totally know what you mean. Sometimes there were actions that I would plan, but I really feel like I have to put myself in that situation, because I think a good part of acting is placing yourself in these situations and asking what it is that you would do. I think that’s what sets people apart from other people.
Do you think that sums up your approach to acting?
I guess, for me, right now, it’s a process. And Jessica and I are different because she had two years of training at a really great acting studio. Jessica is naturally talented. She’s an amazing actress. She’s really f***ing good. Bottom line, she’s really good, really solid, and she’s gorgeous. She’s extremely talented. For me, I feel like I’m definitely really talented, I follow my instincts, but right now where I am in my life, I’m trying to develop a process. That’s what I’m trying to do right now. I think Scream Queens helped me to understand that that’s what I need to do, is find my process. And I’m still developing my process.