Imani Hakim, best known for her role as Tonya on Everybody Hates Chris, has been cast to share the role of inspiring gymnast Gabby Douglas in an upcoming Lifetime Original Movie: The Gabby Douglas Story which will premier February 1st to kick off Black History Month. The story will follow the true story of Gabby’s amazing endurance to overcome all odds to become the world’s first African-American gymnast to claim the Individual All-round Champion at the Olympics. Imani recently sat down with Celebrity Teen Scoop to discuss what it was like to play such an iconic member of the “Fierce Five”.
CTS: You star as Olympian Gabby Douglas in her teen and young adult years in the Lifetime Original Movie, The Gabby Douglas Story. Those are some big shoes to fill. How did you get into character?
IH: I studied, As soon as I found out about them casting for the role I began to research. I didn’t even have the audition yet, but I knew it was coming. I spent all of my free time looking up Gabby Douglas videos. After finally booking the role, I CONTINUED to study haha, but shortly after I was given Gabrielle’s phone number along with her mother’s so any questions I had they were a text and phone call away.
CTS: What kind of training and research did you have to do to prepare for the role? Did you have to have extensive gymnastics training?
IH: I did a lot of online research. Thank goodness for the internet right? Everything you need to know is right at your fingertips. I went out and got Gabrielle’s book “Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith”. Also communicating with Gabrielle and her mom helped A LOT with getting more into character. As far as the training, I only trained for about a week and a half maybe two weeks and I applaud all gymnasts out there because what we we’re doing is NOTHING compared to what the real thing is. At times it got a little frustrating for me to not only learn choreography, but to DO that choreography and LOOK like a gymnast, I would have to say that was one of the harder parts about training. Being able to MOVE and LOOK like a gymnast. The things they can do with their body is amazing.
CTS: Did you discover anything interesting or surprising about Gabby Douglas when you filmed the movie? Did you get to know her very well? How did she support you in your role?
IH: Gabrielle was very supportive; she was there if I had any questions. She didn’t get to set until the last week of filming. So when she arrived, there was this one scene I was filming and she was on the side watching. We were filming one of her floor routines, and in between shots she gave me some pointers on the routine which I was thankful for. The little notes she gave me made such a huge difference in the way the movements felt and looked. I learned that Gabrielle is just like any normal teenage girl, she’s a total sweet heart.
CTS: You also starred as Tonya in Everybody Hates Chris for four seasons. Can you share any highlights of being on the show? What was it like to work
with Chris Rock?
IH: Yes, how about? BEST SHOW EVER! Haha Kidding, no but I really do miss that show. The casting was perfection, the writing was superb. The highlight of working on E.H.C were the people! That was my first job, my first T.V family. The boys and I would find ourselves getting in trouble on that set all the time. Running away from set teachers, avoiding school, pulling pranks. Haha it was awesome. But of course working with Mr, rock was a great experience as well. I’m so glad I was given such an amazing opportunity.
CTS: How did you get your start in acting?
IH: This is such LONG story, I never know how to tell it. I will tell the short version for you guys haha. My dad noticed I had in interest in acting at about 7 years old, which led to plays at the neighborhood theater. At age of 11 in November 2004 my dad and I flew out to L.A for the weekend to do this talent search. I performed a skit with my dad everyone loved me, told me come back for pilot season. So February 2005 my dad and I packed everything up and drove across the country in his van that kept breaking down on us haha. We hooked up with my manager Carla Alexander which is still my current manager, we eventually ran out of money we were living in our van, but this was my dream so I WAS NOT LEAVING no matter what. After about 2 months and some days, after a few auditions I booked Everybody Hates Chris. Hahaha, I really tried to make this the short version. But, yes, that is how I got started.
CTS: Do you have any advice for young people looking to get into show business?
IH: This is very tough industry, you have to have tough skin if you want to be a part of it. You have to realize you are going to get way more No’s than Yes’s. That doesn’t mean you aren’t talented, just means you have to work harder! Stay driven, stay passionate, stay FOCUSED. STUDY STUDY STUDY, take classes, research, Stay POSITIVE, have faith. Don’t let someone ever tell you, you CAN’T do something. You CAN, remember that. There is always going to be someone trying to knock you down. Don’t let them, it’s yours. You got it.
CTS: Which TV shows and movies do you like to watch in your free time?
IH: Okay everyone who knows me, KNOWS I AM OBSESSED with “Scandal” such an amazing show would loveee to be on that show! Also loving the show “Nashville,” and “Once upon a Time.” As far as movies, I was just telling my friend that my GO-TO movie to watch when I’m alone is “He’s just not that into you” why? I don’t know, but for some reason I pull that movie up, haha. But it depends on my mood for all the other movies, I may wanna take it back and watch “Charlie’s Angels” or “Save the last dance” or keep it current and watch movies that were out in theaters that I’ve never got to see. I just rent them on Amazon if they’re available.
CTS: What other upcoming projects do you have?
IH: The Gabby Douglas story is it at the moment; but stay tuned I’m sure I will have plenty to share shortly