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Gabriella Pession's Journey into Acting and Beyond

Updated: Jul 15

Embarking on a journey that has traversed continents and cultures, Gabriella Pession's life story reads like an odyssey of its own. Born in Daytona, Florida, her upbringing as a competitive ice skater whisked her across the globe, from the bustling streets of LA and NY to the historic cities of London, Dublin, and even Russia. When a broken ankle redirected her path towards acting, she has since propelled herself to the forefront of the international stage. Recently, Gabriella wrapped filming on Peacock's epic drama "Those About to Die," alongside luminaries like Anthony Hopkins, while simultaneously delving into the ambitious international co-production tv series “The Count of Montecristo." Beyond the screen, she's carving her own narrative as a screenwriter, crafting the compelling TV series "Mamma, non mamma." With a career spanning over two decades and spanning genres from television to theatre, Gabriella's dynamic presence has captivated audiences worldwide. Join us as we explore the tapestry of her multifaceted career and vibrant life journey.

Miami Living (ML): Gabriella, it’s such a pleasure to have you with us at Miami Living Magazine! You’ve had an amazing career journey so far. Can you tell us what first ignited your love for acting and how your passion has grown and changed over the years?

Gabriella: Thank you!  I’m very happy to be able do this interview with Miami Living.  I started my career kind of by accident.  Really the cinema pulled me from the shirt, that’s how we say in Italian.  Because I was an ice skater and I wasn’t really thinking about acting at all.  My parents were both working in the fashion industry in Milan in the 80’s, when fashion had the top top models and amazing Italian stylists like Versace, Armani, Valentino, Dolce Gabbana, so it was really the hot moment for Italian fashion.  But I was never particularly interested in modeling.  And then Lina Wertmuller, who was the director of Swept Away, she was the first woman ever nominated to an Academy Award ever, and she was looking for her lead for 3 years.  And for a movie called “Ferdinando and Carolina”, she cast me as a lead after an audition I did, but I really had never acted before.  So that really happened by chance, I guess it was kind of meant to be.  So I started acting from the main door with my maestro, Lina, whom I consider my biggest teacher and maestro, and then over time I fell in love with acting and cinema.   But in my heart I was an athlete.  So it was a slow kind of love, starting from being on the set out of the blue, and really questioning if that was really what I wanted to do.  Lina told me I had a great talent and apparently I was very good, but I really had no idea what I was doing even though I was playing the lead directed by her and really guided by her, so I’ve learned everything through Lina.  So that’s how I started, the main role in a very goo movie, and that was my first experience on the set.  And after this, obviously other things came along, and slowly I understood I really wanted to continue this career, I fell in love with acting, theater, the set, and here I am.

ML: You're starring as Antonia in Peacock’s new “series Those About to Die," an epic “sword-and-scandal” series that draws parallels between ancient gladiators and modern entertainment. What attracted you to this role?

Gabriella: Antonia is the role I’ve been waiting for over 20 years of career.  She’s the role that I think every actress would love to play. Wild, fun, clever, a bit thorough but also vulnerable, very very political in a way.  She has diplomatic intelligence, very manipulative intelligence, she can use femininity and cruelty with a mixture of sensuality and sexuality when she needs to.  So above everything this role is a lot of fun.  She is a Patrician, she’s noble and she lives in a man’s world.  When she needs to impose herself through her cleverness.  Not only the presence and the beauty that she has, but it’s really the intelligence that she has that pulls her forward in the society that is really driven by men at that time.  So she is like a woman with courage that lives in a man’s world, but she is playing everything behind the scenes, but really moving things forward with her feminine power.

ML: You've worked alongside some incredible talents, such as Anthony Hopkins. Is there a particular moment or piece of advice from a co-star or director that has profoundly impacted your career or approach to acting?

Gabriella: I think the best advice that i’ve ever had was from Lina Wertmuller again, when in the first movie I did with her, I was around 18, she told me “remember, the cinema thinks and the theater speaks”, which means you have to basically do nothing in cinema, because the camera can really get into you, you don’t have to do that much to actually do the work.  But the theater speaks, so the theater is much bigger and it’s not about thinking.  So I think this concept of the cinema thinking and the theater speaking is amazing advice that always stayed with me.

ML: You’ve had the chance to film in some of the world’s most beautiful cities. Do you have a favorite filming location, and what made it so special?

Gabriella:  My favorite location ever is also the city I chose to live in too, and that’s Rome.  Shooting in Rome is something completely epic.  I’ve shot a lot of scenes here in 20 years, and it always surprises me, I never get used to it, it’s always breathtaking the beauty of this place, it’s so epic.  So I would say for sure Rome, but I also had the luck to shoot a tv series called “Capri”, and we actually shot in Capri for two years.  So I had the luck to really live on the island for two years and shoot in the Amalfi coast.  It was very fortunate to wake up there and see the sunshine and jump in the water during our work breaks with the crew on set. It's a memory that I will always have with me.

ML: Directed by Bille August, “The Count of Montecristo" promises to be an ambitious project. What was it like collaborating with Bille, and how did his vision influence your portrayal of your character?

Gabriella: Billie August was one of my favorite directors of all-time.  I love “Pelle the Conquereor” that won the Academy Awards many years ago, and the “House of Spirits”, so not only this, but he grew up in the world of Ingmar Bergman, who is one of my favorite directors ever, along with Federico Fellini.  So when I got the chance to work with Billie, I was very honored.  He is very gentle, refined, elegant, a kind of quiet director.  He has an elegance and a light touch, he can catch the moment in just one take.  And I remember asking him, “Can I do another take?”, and he would say, “no no no, this is perfect”.  Because he knows exactly what he needs, and if he sees it, he’s happy with one take.  So it was amazing to work with him because he has a clarity of what he wants, so it makes it easier for an actor to work with him.  And he allows an actor to be really creative, in terms of working with the character.  He really allowed me to work on my character on my own and really make some proposals, and he accepted the proposals and allows you to have creative space to make the role your own, even though it comes from a novel that is very famous.  So I think this clash of having the base of an amazing role written by an amazing author like Dumas, but also having a maestro like Billie allows you to be creative and contain you in what he needs and what he thinks works for the role, gives an actor a lot of security and a lot of safety, to really expand your creativity and not be afraid also to improvise or push yourself into areas that are kind of unknown.  Because you know you have someone who knows exactly what he’s doing and what is needed to make the project amazing.

ML: Your work with WeWorld is truly admirable. Can you tell us more about your involvement with the organization and why supporting women and children in vulnerable communities is so important to you?

Gabriella: I’ve been working with WeWorld for many years.  I’ve always been very conscious and very attracted to everything that has to do with women’s rights, and so it’s something that really spoke to me very strongly since a very young age.  I also met them when I was shooting a tv series called "Rossella".  It was a period tv series and was about the first women in the 1900’s that was able to denounce and go to court to denounce her husband of domestic violence.  At that time, if you were suffering abuse from your husband, it was not recognized as a crime in Italy or worldwide.  So when I played this role, I met WeWorld and we did a campaign to really promote the courage for women to speak out loud if they are victim of any kind of violence - physical, psychological.  We worked together to bring sensibility to femicide in Italy.  We have a very high number of women getting killed in our country each year, which is frightening and absolutely appalling.   So WeWorld has been amazing in this, and through me and my public work, we work together to make this reality more known in the bigger scales, and basically just talk about the issue. So that is something that I really want to continue to do more consistently.  We are still in a world where women do not have the same rights as men yet.  So there is still a lot to be done and we need to continue talking with grace and not fighting against men and making a gender war.  Because I have a lot of amazing male friends, and I have a son, and I have an amazing husband, so I think that’s the point,  But it’s really to continue to talk in order that women can get a voice and can be heard the same, because in many places in the world this is not a reality yet.  So this is what I really want to continue to do in the future.

ML: Amidst your diverse career and rich experiences, what’s one thing about you that fans might be surprised to learn?

Gabriella: I think one thing that my fans would maybe be curious to know is that I am absolutely obsessed with tennis.  My little boy who is nearly ten plays tennis nearly every day, and through him I fell in love with this amazing sport, in the best time of Italian tennis since we have Jannik Sinner playing #1 in the ranking, and so for the first time there is an Italian tennis player at the top of the ranking. So basically what I do in my free time is play tennis, I watch tennis, I go to some tennis matches, or I dream about tennis.  That’s really the biggest hobby I have.  And I’m off to Wimbledon next week, which I cannot wait, hoping to see Alcaraz and Sinner in a big big match.

ML: Given your impressive accomplishments as an actress, writer, and producer, what legacy do you hope to leave in the entertainment industry, and what are your dreams for the future of your career?

Gabriella: For my future I’m really looking forward to starring in “Hedda Gabler” directed by Patrick Marber, we are finalizing the production and I will go on stage around the end of 2025, beginning of 2026.  And that’s really an amazing achievement for me theater-wise.  And I’m really really hoping to continue with the second season of “Those About To Die”.  I’m also finishing the script for the show that I’m co-writing with another three female authors - "Mamma, non mamma." It’s the first show that comes out from one of my ideas, and I’m so excited, it has been an amazing journey. And I will be shooting next year as well between Tuscany and Milan.  So these three things are my future goals at the moment.  And most of all just continuing being really happy with what I have.  I’m in a really good place, so if that stays the same it would be a gift.

By ML Staff. Images courtesy of Gabriella Pession


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