Betty Gabriel relishes 'wonderful tension, complications' of 'Jack Ryan'

Betty Gabriel and Wendell Pierce star in "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan." Season 3 premieres Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Prime Video
1 of 5 | Betty Gabriel and Wendell Pierce star in "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan." Season 3 premieres Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Prime Video

NEW YORK, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Get Out, Clickbait and Defending Jacob star Betty Gabriel says she joined Season 3 of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan because it gave her the chance to play a powerful woman who is under pressure to make the right decisions in high-stakes situations.

The new season of the action-thriller premieres Wednesday on Prime Video. Gabriel plays Elizabeth Wright, CIA chief of station in Rome and the boss of the titular agent played by John Krasinski.


"I was really drawn to the world of the CIA -- this covert, secretive, intelligence-gathering, hush-hush, sleight-of-hand world. It really triggered the imagination for me," Gabriel, 41, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

The actress, who played an FBI agent on Counterpart, acknowledged she was initially "a little reserved" about playing another fed on Jack Ryan.


"It felt somewhat familiar to me. I wasn't sure I wanted to take on that kind of role again, but I found that within the journey and within the interaction with other actors, there is so much to her and it's really complicated," Gabriel said.

"She's got this very powerful position, but she's also got power being thrown down on her. This pressure that she's having to do things and she's forced into spaces where her job is at risk," the actress said about her character.

"She's also having to bend the rules, which puts her job even more at risk, so there are just wonderful tension and complications that are great for an actor."

Does channeling all that mental and emotional strain ever get exhausting?

"No!" the actress laughed. "I love it! The more complex, the better. I just think it is so rewarding to see on screen and for me to embody. The more morally ambiguous the better."

Gabriel also is celebrating the addition to the cast of Nina Hoss as fictional Czech President Alena Kovac, another commanding female presence.

"Our paths don't cross within the show, but, on the page, I saw her journey. I know her to be a phenomenal actress," Gabriel said. "I was really into sharing this story, this journey with her and with all the actors. They are so strong. The performances are so rooted and really complicated."


Season 3 finds hero Jack on the wrong side of the law while working as a CIA case officer in Rome, investigating a secret plan to restore the Soviet empire and trying to prevent a global catastrophe.

Gabriel was cautious as she described Elizabeth's relationship with Jack.

"There is an evolution," she said without giving too much away. "There is a way in which they come to collaborate. She recognizes that he is doing what is right."

Gabriel didn't read the books that sparked the screen franchise, but loved Harrison Ford and Jack Ryan in the films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and Krasinski's interpretation of the character in the TV version.

"He brings such a modern flair to it. He's a modern, everyday man who is really funny and kind of goofy. You're not sure if he's going to win," the actress said.

"There's a way in which everyone [on the show] is integral to the story and plays a very important role and I feel like [Krasinski] shares the stage well. He's very generous and the story is multi-faceted."


Exploring a fictional story loosely tied to current geopolitical events gave Gabriel some insight into how difficult these jobs must be for actual leaders and intelligence agents.

"Nuclear warfare is as dangerous as it can get, a world catastrophe. It makes me feel for the people who are actually in these roles in real life," she said, adding that being part of exciting entertainment that reflects current events is always her goal.

"There are some really unfortunate coincidences that we see in the real world now. Hopefully, at the end of the day, people are entertained and find some sort of catharsis in seeing that we can come together to save the world."

Gabriel's resume lists a variety of projects, ranging from drama to sci-fi to thriller to period pieces.

"I do like to shake things up a bit, but I'm also just drawn to the story and to the other storytellers," she said.

"What's most important to me is telling a really good story -- something that is complex and layered. I think that's what most actors want -- fancy shoes to wear, metaphorically."

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