INTERVIEW

Meet GH’s Tabyana Ali

Tabyana Ali, who assumed the role of Trina last month, describes getting cast on GH as “a full-circle moment”.

She explains, “The audition process for Trina was really exciting for me, because it was the second time GENERAL HOSPITAL called me. The first time was about three years ago, and I actually went out for Trina. It came down to me, Sydney [Mikayla, ex-Trina] and I believe one or two other girls, so when I got the call three years later, I was ecstatic, thinking this would be another chance to be on GENERAL HOSPITAL and hoping I would make it to the producer session. So when I did make it to the producer session, I was like, ‘Yay! So exciting!’ And then I went to the screen-testing [stage]. Throughout all of this, I actually didn’t know I was going out for the role of Trina. I thought it was for a character named Natalie. It wasn’t until the very end that I realized I was going to be playing Trina. It was blowing my mind. I was just speechless. I remember meeting Sydney three years ago and telling her congratulations when we saw each other at a party. So, for this to come back [around], it feels like we’re getting to share Trina, and it’s just so cool.”

At her screen test, Ali auditioned opposite Donnell Turner (Curtis). “I am so glad I did,” she beams. “He encouraged me so much. I remember Donnell telling me that I sounded great, that I looked great. He just really pumped me up and gave me some great tips beforehand. The other actor I saw was Réal [Andrews, Taggert]. He saw me coming out of the dressing room [on my way to the set to do the test] and he was like, ‘Get out there, have fun, ask me if you have any questions.’ They were both so extremely supportive.”
Ali got the good news that the job was hers “one morning, when my mom and I were laying in her Sleep Number bed. She’d just got it, so I was trying to figure out how to use it, lifting myself up and taking it back down and finding a comfortable position. My agent called and said, ‘Hey, I just got some news, let me plug in Karen,’ who is my manager. When they call together, you don’t know if it’s going to be really good news or really bad news. Then she said, ‘Okay, now that everyone’s here — you got the part!’ I was so happy, so thankful. And I think my mom screamed louder than me!”

Ali’s mom is one of many members of her family who exposed her to soaps when she was growing up. “My aunts and my mom and my grandmothers, they just passed it down to me,” the actress smiles. “I have a lot of memories of them talking about GENERAL HOSPITAL, about Luke and Laura. So, my family, they’re literally going insane [laughs]. This show has been around since they were kids, so they’re like, ‘One of our own is going to be on GENERAL HOSPITAL? That’s amazing!’ ”

Ali stepped into Trina’s shoes at a critical storyline moment, as the character has been framed by Esme for disseminating the Cam/Joss sex tape. To prepare, “I did watch a lot of GH and Trina scenes, watched how she interacted with everybody, to get a good feel of the presence she had on screen. My family also helped me, filling me in on the storyline.” Her first day, she recalls, “was really nerve-racking. I think I put a lot of pressure and a lot of stress on myself. It was such a new environment for me.’ Walking in, I was like, ‘Oh, goodness, what have I gotten myself into?’ Everyone was telling me, ‘This is going to be very fast-paced,’ and I was just praying, ‘I hope I can keep up!’ ”

Her fellow actors helped her get through the challenges of her initiation. “The cast made it really easy for me to get comfortable and pick up everything. They were very supportive and encouraging. Eden [McCoy, Josslyn] and Brook [Kerr, Portia] and Réal and Donnell were also very helpful. I asked them questions before we went on set and they were very insightful about what to do, how to carry everything out, what to do on the weekends [to prepare for the work week]. It got easier to pick up after they explained everything. I’ve spoken a lot with Mr. Frank Valentini [executive producer] and the directors, too. I’m still learning, but they’ve definitely helped me out.”
Ali also hit it off quickly with her new love interest, Nicholas Chavez (Spencer). “Nicholas is amazing,” she raves. “I was just telling my mom that he reminds me of a young Leonardo DiCaprio. His work ethic is crazy, his preparation, how he gets into character. He is so fun to watch and so dedicated to his work. He’s really inspiring. I love working with him.”

The actress was touched by how warmly viewers reacted to the announcement of the recast. “I didn’t know when it was going to be made public, but I was in the middle of doing a scene and my phone started going off. I had all these notifications on Twitter, and I was like, ‘What is going on?’ On a break, I checked it out and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s out!’ Sydney shouted me out and I felt like she was passing the torch to me, like [giving me] her approval. Sydney is a really amazing actress and she made Trina come to life and made her very lovable, so when her fans were reaching out to me and being supportive, I just felt so grateful.”

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