Five years ago, Gail Bean hit our screens with her bright beaming smile and girl next door attitude starring as Wanda on FX’s Snowfall. From season one, we follow her journey through young adulthood where she finds love, works to make ends meet, temporarily falls on hard times, and then beautifully rebuilds her life despite all odds with the help of a loving and loyal support system. The Wanda we see in season 5 is a transformed woman looking to be her best self and uplift others in the process. Gail Bean does an excellent job of bringing this role to life by reflecting on the stories of those around her.
We spoke with Gail about her masterful portrayal of Wanda, what we can expect in the season 5 finale, as well as exciting upcoming projects!
Gail’s start on Snowfall was an exciting and multi-faceted role for her. She tells us how she stepped into the severity of the role.
“What I love about Wanda is she is so multidimensional and that’s an actor’s dream. People die without ever booking a gig that allows you to play so many facets in one lifetime. We get to see her in love, we get to see her struggle with addiction, we get to see her try to rebuild her image and herself, we get to see her against America. I just think Wanda is such a rich character – that’s what I love about her. I’m so grateful to have such a rich person because she’s real; Wanda is a real character in many of our families, in many of our lives throughout the black community so I love that they still keep the truth in it and allow that to resonate and shine. It’s so often black characters are watered down to make them more digestible instead of just giving the truth of who this person is, what they’ve struggled with, and what they’ve overcome.”
Wanda’s story resonates with so many Black women. Gail allowed that feeling of familiarity, her sense of humor, and empathy to depict the life of a drug addict in a humanizing manner.
“I just came from a very truthful place and the reality of what I go through as a Black woman in America, what my mother has gone through, my grandmother, what the women in my family have battled whether it be addiction, racism, patriarchy.
I’ve never used drugs but I, Gail Bean, I have vices so I know what it’s like to have a vice, what’s it like to experience something that has a hold on me.
I volunteer on Skid Row so I’ve seen up close and personal, not just from the family aspect but I’ve also seen people in L.A. who currently are struggling and having addiction battles. I pull from a little bit of everywhere and digest that myself and try to make it the best and as authentic as I possibly could.
The best way we could humanize and allow the audience to be accepting and understanding, and open and receptive was just by not judging it. I feel like if we didn’t put judgment on it then the audience would not put judgment on it and they would simply experience and go through the journey with the characters, with the cast, be heartbroken, be shattered because you don’t see it coming.
For me, I try to always operate from a positive space, even through the bad. You know how the saying goes, laugh to keep from crying. That’s true on so many levels that as black women, we always have to be strong. A lot of times, we try to find the funny. We have to be our own cheerleader to get us into a better space.”
Gail takes her roles very seriously – researching, preparing, and studying for months on end before filming even begins. In preparing for the role of Wanda, she worked to channel a Cali-girl round-the-way vibe.
“I was so very excited because when you think about old 80’s California, I think the long nails, the round the way girl, the skating, summertime in LA, just a good time.
I know some people from LA. There’s a guy, Malcolm Mays (who used to play Kevin on Snowfall, now he plays Lulu on Raising Kanan). He is from LA, like real LA, the most LA person I ever met in my life. Just talking to him, his family, watching old flicks from the 80s but also looking at documentaries and watching the news. Whenever I have to play a specific part, and it’s realistic and I’m not just pulling from out of thin air, I look at the local news and listen to local artists from that time period to try to drop into the energy and the cadence and the tone and the rhythm so that I could really do honor and justice to the people who are really from there. Then once I booked it, I checked in – our makeup department head is from LA, our hair department head is from LA, our story consultant producer is from LA from that time period. All they know is LA. So just running things by them like wardrobe, dialect (Dub C is the dialect coach on Snowfall). And I always ask questions to make sure I’m checking all the boxes.
Even with Deray (Davis), his mom used to be on drugs so I would talk to him about certain things when it came to Wanda’s mannerisms. I’m not afraid to ask questions and learn from other people. Because I take my own experiences but I know other people also have their set of experiences. They’re older so they’ve actually physically seen addicts in the 80s.”
As the Snowfall season finale approaches, we’re left wondering what’s next for the crew? We watched a beautiful love story blossom between Wanda and Leon.
“They’re each other’s first love and it’s a real true love. There may be toxic influences but what they have for each other is real – their care, their attention, their consideration, their love is true.”
With the reignited spark we saw at Louis and Jerome’s wedding, we can’t help but imagine a happily ever after for Wanda and Leon. But decisions must be made.
“You’ll definitely see more Leon and Wanda scenes. What was discussed at the wedding will come up again. Wanda is going to make a decision and Leon is going to make a decision. Now that he’s of sober mind, he’ll speak to Wanda and it’ll be from a truthful, sober place but I can’t say whether or not it’s going to be the same. But Wanda has some decisions to make and she makes them.”
With season 5 coming to a close and the series finale coming close behind it, we can’t help but wonder what’s next for Gail. We can’t wait to see her on our screens again and hear there’s been some intense training for her role in P-Valley.
“Phew, P-Valley! It’s intense. I work really hard for every role; for every project that I’ve ever done, I give my all to. When I say, P-Valley had me giving about 10 of my ‘alls’. That prep work was something serious. Every positive comment that I’m going to receive from this, I’ve worked extremely hard for it.
You can definitely expect to see ME on the pole. Yes – we have stunt doubles but I do a lot of my own stunts. I learned how to do floater pole and I’ve never poled before this show ever. I trained for months before we even began shooting, before I even got the role. I’d already watched the show. I did not want to get the role and be on set like I got two left feet. I’ve seen this show and I knew I had to show up and show out. That’s what my character Roulette does, she is young, feisty, she don’t take no crap, she all about the money. So you can definitely expect a whole shift in energy any time she’s on the screen. She is young, she is free, and she is wild – no holding back. Nothing like any of the other dancers.”
If that doesn’t make you excited for what’s to come, I don’t know what will. Catch Gail in the Snowfall season finale on April 20 and in her debut as Roulette on P-Valley on June 3.