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Exclusive: Gail Bean Talks Career, New Move, And Friendship With Malcolm Mays

When I was a child, one of my favorite pastimes was theater. There was something so fulfilling about being on stage and connecting with the talented individuals breathing life into characters and stories. So naturally, I entered college as a theater major, hopeful of creating more of these moments; I ended up switching later on. However, the love for the craft never left, and my respect for actors only grew. And every now and then, I watch a movie or television show, come across a new actor, and think to myself, ‘Ooh, you can tell they’re for real about this.’ This background brings me to the present and our conversation with NAACP award-winning actress Gail Bean.


I was first introduced to her during the FX series Snowfall, where she played the flawed yet beloved character Wanda. Since that time, she’s been in other culture favorites like Atlanta,Insecure, P-Valley, and more. And now she’s gearing up for a new one: Amazon’s Harlem, which is personally one of my favorite shows to watch and discuss with girlfriends..because whew, the relatable dating stories. Anyway, during this chat, we spoke about her acting journey, what we can expect from her character in Harlem, and her viral friendship with the talented and handsome actor Malcolm Mays.

Gail Bean

Gail Bean

Photo by Detavio Samuels

Like many performers, Gail’s road into the entertainment industry wasn’t a clear one. Although she’s acted for years, she originally planned on being a lawyer. “I was going to be the female Johnny Cockran,” she says with a smile. But after finding more of a connection with acting, she made the bold decision to change her plan. The unique journey only makes her appreciate where she is currently even more. By the way, I’m saying ‘where she is’ literally and figuratively since she recently moved to New York, a dream she’s had for years.

“I think I was always supposed to be here. When I first moved to LA, I wanted to be in New York. I trained out of Susan Batson Studio, and we used to go every other month. But when I moved from Georgia, it was out of my budget. Steven Speilberg even flew me to New York once and asked me why I was living there” (slight flex).

She continues, “I officially moved in October, but I was gone for the holidays and traveling for months. I came back in February, and all the blessings started to flow. I booked Harlem, P-Valley returned, and another project I auditioned for circled back. And I know what they say about New York, but I think the people are genuine and kind for the sake of humanity.”

Living in New York is also the perfect backdrop for filming Harlem. She shared a bit of what we can expect from her character, saying, “She’s really different from me and anyone I’ve ever played. I’m soft. She’s a business venture capitalist. And she has a love interest on the show. People are really going to see themselves in my character; she blurs a lot of lines between business and pleasure.”

Gail Bean

Gail Bean and Malcolm Mays

Photo by Giles Williams

When she said that, I couldn’t help but jump into her friendship with Malcolm Mays. I mean, she walked into it, right? And have you seen the videos? They look great together - almost like more than friends. So I just blatantly asked, ‘I mean, how do you feel about all of us being so captivated by your relationship with fellow actor Malcolm Mays?” Shocked, she laughs and says, “It’s nice to have someone in the industry. We go to the movies, watch indie films, work on projects, and talk about real life. It’s great having someone you can play tennis with about everything. There’s times when I want to post pictures, but I already know people are gonna say we're in a relationship. At no point have we said we’re together. But he knows I love him down, and he loves me. That’s going to be my best friend until the end of eternity.”

Her openness made me reflect on friendships and relationships. There have been many conversations around this topic: do friendships change when people get into serious relationships? Can having an attractive best friend affect your dating life, and what about intimidation? Can men and women really be friends? But Gail isn’t worried about these convos at all. “Whoever my dating life consists of, they need to know I wouldn't cheat on my mate. I’m a loyal person. All of the friendships in my life are never a threat to the significant other in my life.”

She went on to explain how his kindness and connection to the industry feel like a safe place for her. Also, his masculine perspective provides a different way of looking at things, which helps her in various ways. “Malcolm is very well-rounded, and he’s like a man’s man. He tells me the truth. But also, he talks to me about my career and myself as a woman," she explains. "I remember sitting in his car crying about the industry; at the time, I kept getting callbacks but never booking the roles. I was sick of people “liking” me; I wanted them to book me. He said, ‘Gail you're a talent, and your time is going to come. This time next year you’re going to book a show,’ and I did."

Gail Bean

Gail Bean

Photo by Giles Williams

She continues, “As women, we naturally pour into others like that, but you don’t always get that from men. Because they don’t typically get that. So it’s nice to have a man there like that. There’s one other time where I cried about my career, and it was actually to my brother.”

Hearing that background gave the videos from the 55th NAACP Image Awards of him admiringly gazing at her more context. They manifested that moment. And we all know there’s nothing like praying and affirming something, then watching it come to life. Gail won a NAACP Image award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Snowfall. “That moment at the NAACP (Image) Awards was so euphoric, unbelievable, Godly, and rich. I really felt like I could die tomorrow, and I’d be okay. I didn’t know what else to say but thank you, God..”

She continues, “John (Singleton) has always been in my corner, and I feel like he had a hand in it. I was truly grateful that people watched it and voted. It was for all of Snowfall - from cast, writers, people who put together lights and everything - I felt like all of us won. I was grateful it was my first award from such a powerful show and network.”

Gail came from the theater. She always enjoyed acting but didn’t really take it as seriously until somewhat recently. In fact, she compared it to dating, “You know how you’re just hanging out and one day then something happens and it’s like okay, I need to know where this is going? That’s how acting was. One day, I just decided to take it seriously.” I think it’s safe to say, they go together - real bad.

But seriously, I think her journey is a reminder that when you trust yourself and your path, God will bless you. Oh, and she did close the interview with a little nugget. She and Malcolm Mays plan on creating a romcom together; that way, we can all get in our feels, even if they’re really just friends.

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Feature image by Nailah Howze

 

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