When P-Valley returned in June for season 2, it welcomed a new dancer at The Pynk: straight-shooter, no-game-playing Roulette. As the Starz series approaches its season finale on Aug. 14, LA Confidential spoke with Gail Bean, who plays Roulette, about her intense dance training, the fun of playing the rebel and how she balanced filming P-Valley at the same time as FX’s Snowfall.
Let’s start with P-Valley. Tell me about Roulette. What’s fun about playing a rebel?
It was nice going in knowing my intentions are to be the antagonist in this. With any other project that was never what I intended. That was never what was discussed with me. So with this, I already knew that she was a rule breaker. That was one thing that they made sure that they communicated from jump.
I was like, “OK, I can go a lot of places with this one. This will be fun. This is me in my teenage years. So I'm about to have a good time.” But just really stepping into a character with no judgment who is from the South— I'm from the South, Stone Mountain Georgia— but this character is from Jackson, Mississippi, and being able to have no fears, love, light in her own way, it was just an honor.
Was there anything about the dance training that surprised you?
It was hard. That surprised me. It surprised me how exhausting and tiring and how much hard work it is to be a dancer. They're exerting so much energy, so hats off to anybody who is dancing and acting because that is no joke. It's definitely a skill for trained artists. It was extremely hard, I'm not gonna lie. I trained for four months prior to even shooting my first shot.
There was so much that I had to do and I was up for it. But there were also moments and pole tricks that I felt defeated sometimes. I'm not gonna lie, I'm not perfect. I'm human. There were areas where I felt like, “This role is bigger than me. I can't do this.” There were moments when I cried, when I felt like I was in over my head and I am so sorry…. I'm gonna give the role back. But I did persevere. I was surprised by how hard and difficult it was. I worked in a strip club so I've always respected dancers, but I've never poled before P-Valley, so now I have a whole new level of admiration for them.
The club that I used to work at, I was a shooter girl and I interviewed and spoke with some of the strippers that I'm still cool with and they told me straight up: The key to being one of the best dancers is all about confidence. It's not about seduction with the body. It's about seduction with the eyes. It's about seduction with the mind. So understanding and dropping into my sensuality, my sexuality through my mental first was key.
You filmed P-Valley and Snowfall at the same time in two different cities. What was key to balancing such a busy schedule?
Both shows have very strict COVID restrictions and took a lot of safety measures when it came to our health and safety. I’m very grateful that when I first got into town, for Snowfall, if you're coming from out of town, you have to quarantine for five days. I needed all of those five days not as a precaution for my safety, but just so my mental could switch from Roulette to Wanda because at first my lines weren't sticking in my head. I could not remember my script for Wanda once I I got in town. But by day four, I was there. I completely shed myself of Roulette and was able to center myself back to Gail to step into Wanda.
You do have to have that discipline and that perseverance and I feel as a woman, you have to even take it a step further. They're already expecting us to fail… There’s so many layers to being a woman, there’s so many layers to being a Black woman, so I knew I had a lot to prove to bring it for both of these roles. Even with Snowfall, they were questionable about me even doing P-Valley. So I had to show them, “Look I’ve always come to you guys again and gave y’all 110%. I’m not gonna change. I'm not gonna drop the ball.” I had to give both shows 120%, and these characters that I'm playing, they deserve it. They deserve to be humanized. They deserve to have a voice. So for them, I knew I couldn't half step. I had to put in the work, focus, give it 100% of my attention, go dark with my electronics and really just cut myself off from the world.
What have you enjoyed about Roulette’s story arc over the course of the season?
When you first see Roulette, she stands out because, aesthetically, she looks different. You can’t put her into a box. She's tatted up: sleeves, legs, throat, chest, back. She stands out visually at first. Then when you start to get to know her, you see she stands out emotionally, mentally, even physically. Her definition of grace and womanhood and sexuality is not the same as the other dancers. She owns who she is and is fearless. I think that's the most important thing with Roulette. So many of the dancers, you see their fear. We haven't haven't seen Roulette’s fear just yet.
She has the freedom that the other dancers are trying to attain. They’re dancing so they can be free. Roulette is already free. If she didn't dance, she would still be free.
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You start filming again for Snowfall very soon. Can you tell us anything about the upcoming season 6?
I have a weird, eerie feeling and I'm really scared for Wanda because things are good. Things are good in her life. She's finally sober. Leon is confessing his love to her. She's working and bringing in money that is not drug related. I’m scared for her because things are good. And it says something about America and being a Black woman and you’re afraid when things are good.
I am very excited about returning to work because I’m working alongside a cast that's so dynamic and a crew that's so phenomenal and everybody has the same purpose of making this great and putting a stamp on John Singleton's legacy. We all have one common goal, so I’m very excited to get back to them. But I'm nervous. I have no idea what's going to happen. I do know somebody is going to die.
I'm a hopeless romantic. I have hope. I do love Wanda and Leon. I want things to end well for them. But you just never know. And Snowfall is a show just like P-Valley that gives you the real. I know they're not going to do the fairytale ending of what we want to happen. It’s going to be very realistic. And Wanda has had a hard life, so people who have a hard life, yes, they do deserve a happy ending, but that’s not always the way it plays out in real life.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Courtesy of Starz