AR: Welcome to Action Reloaded, Gillian. It’s an honour to have you feature
on the site. You’re here to discuss your first leading role in the action –
thriller Take Back. What attracted you to the script?
GW: Thanks so much! I’m all for women’s empowerment and I was first attracted to the very strong female character of Zara. She’s tough physically and mentally and so many layers. Quite a lot of this character
is very similar to myself. She’s loving and intelligent; a wife, mother, career woman, martial artist and certified badass just like me! I may not have the dark secrets of her past but I understand her desire to start
over, recreate the life she deserves and fight for all she has built in her life.
AR: Being the lead of an action movie must quite an unreal feeling?
GW: Absolutely! I have been acting for over 20 years, in film and television, and this is the first time I am the lead! It was an awesome feeling just to see my name in the #1 spot on the daily call sheet! I’ve gone through so many ups and downs and dry periods in my career, as most actors experience, so it’s a blessing to finally be given the opportunity to be able to showcase not only my acting ability but also my action skills as well on screen in a great role.
AR: Was acting always something you wanted to pursue?
GW: I always had a passion for acting. As a child, I would act in school plays and put on shows at home with the neighborhood kids. I took drama classes in high school as well as choosing Dramatic Arts as my minor in college but I never thought I would make a career out of it. I actually wanted to be a marine biologist or an FBI agent!
AR: It must have been great working opposite screen legend Mickey Rourke
on Take Back?
GW: Yes it was! Mickey Rourke is a Hollywood icon. He has a long career
and has been in numerous major films acting alongside some of the greatest actors. I thought he was brilliant in The Wrestler. It was a bit surreal for me the first day we shot together for Take Back.
AR: The movie also featured some heavier scenes where your character
starts suffering from flashbacks and it’s almost like a whole PTSD/ anxiety/ fear/anger all taken place in one scene, how do you prepare yourself to deliver a scene that intense?
GW: You’re correct. Zara definitely suffers from a form of PTSD. I’ve always considered myself an empath, and I am very sensitive to feeling others emotions, from pain to happiness. I have family members who suffer from PTSD and just being around them… seeing and feeling what they go through really gave me a lot of emotional insight on how to deliver Zara’s scenes dealing with her trauma in a very believable way.
AR: Did you have to go through much preparation for the many fight/gun
GW: Yes! We started working on the fight choreography well before we actually started filming. I already train in martial arts with my husband daily, so we just incorporated the training for the Take Back fight scenes into our daily regiment.
AR: The pizza cutter finisher was a personal favourite of mine! Do you have
a favourite action piece from Take Back?
GW: Everyone loves the pizza cutter moment! It’s completely unexpected and has never been seen before in an action scene! I’m right with you…I loved the home invasion scene. It was intense. Plus everyone has the fear of being attacked in your own home, especially in a vulnerable position like Zara was, alone and still in the stages of getting dressed for the day.
AR: This was shot during the pandemic, right? what was it like filming a movie during this time?
GW: We started filming Take Back in the early stages of the industry slowly starting back up again during the pandemic. It was definitely more difficult, of course. Getting Covid tests done during filming, wearing masks, maintaining distance from others on set, limited craft service and no normal catered buffet style meals, having to cut scenes and characters out of the script because only a certain amount of people were allowed on set…it was a very different experience but we did it!
AR:Just while the pandemic has been mentioned, how have you kept
yourself busy through it?
GW: I’ve been very blessed to have continued my work throughout the
pandemic. I filmed Take Back, shot season 2 of a Tyler Perry White House drama I am on called The Oval, filmed a Wayfarer Studios movie drama called Love You Anyway about mental illness and a new pilot for Warner Bros and Fox that I’m not allowed to talk about yet. I’ve also been able to spend a lot more time with my kids when I’m not working, watching our favorite anime, working on 2000 piece puzzles, taking long hikes in the woods and bike rides.
AR: Circling back to Take Back, how long did the movie take to shoot?
GW: Take Back was about a 2 week shoot, that had to broken up because I had to leave in the middle of filming Take Back in Palm Springs to filming the Tyler Perry show I am on in Atlanta, Georgia for 3
weeks because I was already under contract with the TV show. When I
returned, we finished filming Take Back.
AR: Movies like this are made in a short period of time, was it a case of 12
hour days to make the most of the time?
GW: Yes, we worked long days to get everything we needed filmed.
The movie has come together amazingly and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
AR: Can we expect another action vehicle from you soon?
GW: Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I have a Universal film out on Netflix called Welcome To Sudden Death where I play an ass-kicking terrorist. The Warner Bros/Fox pilot I just finished shooting in February
is going to also showcase me in an action role. I have the ACTION bug now! I can’t wait to do much more action on screen!
AR: Your martial arts skill set is awesome, what forms have you or do you
GW: Thanks so much! My husband has trained me in a combination of American Karate, Muy Thai, Shotokan and Kickboxing.
AR: I couldn’t help but think while watching Take Back that you and Michael
should remake Mr and Mrs Smith, how badass would that be!?
GW: You and so many others think that! I can’t tell you how many of our fans
constantly ask us to do a remake of Mr and Mrs Smith! It’s a great idea and I would love to remake that film with my husband!
AR: Congratulations on your first leading role, Gillian. The genre really needed a kickass female lead and you have answered that calling, I really cannot wait to see what’s next and follow your career in the industry! Stay safe and keep kicking!!
GW: Thanks so much again! I feel honored to be the first African American female lead in a martial arts action film role! Can’t wait to bring to life more kick ass female characters on screen!